By Kim Buddington
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably inadvertently found yourself up here. Wide awake, 3 hours past your bedtime, thanks to watching video after video on YouTube. It’s just so easy to do, right? One can search up and watch videos about anything on the planet. You can go from episodes of old TV shows from 30 years ago, to people filming themselves trying weird food combinations, and on to documentaries about the most pressing issues of today. It’s impressive when you really stop to think about it—the influence and potential to influence borders on infinite.
Let me ask you this. With all the options out there, do you have any agricultural channels on your subscription list? If not, you should. Today I’m excited to say that I have the great honor of introducing you to my favorite agricultural YouTube creator, Jan Kielstra, AKA SaskDutch Kid!
The Kielstra family has been dairy farming in Saskatchewan, Canada, since 1996. Kielstra Holsteins had humble beginnings, with Jan’s parents starting by milking just 42 cows. Over the years and as Jan grew up, their operation has enjoyed steady expansion. Most recently, in 2018, the family began a major overhaul of the whole farm, which included a brand new free-stall barn with 256 stalls and a bedded-pack barn. Not only that, but they also installed a luxurious double 12 milking parlor (Allows for 24 cows to be milked at a time), and a calf barn fit for royalty.
This prime example of how advanced dairy farming has become today provides a stellar backdrop for Jan’s videos. In the same way that the farm has evolved with time, so has his SaskDutch Kid channel.
“I had started the YouTube channel back in 2015 when I saw a local guy’s Youtube called SaskDairy, “Jan explains. “The videos I made back then didn’t have any narration, only cool drone shots, and music.”
But Jan always wanted to make vlog-style (where the person filming is also talking to the camera) videos about his farm. More and more folks in the agricultural world have been delving into making these types of online videos recently, many of which Jan speaks highly of, and credits with helping drive him to open up his farm to the world.
“MN Millennial Farmer, 10 Generation Dairyman, and Welker Farms are some of the channels that I was watching before I started the vlogs,” he says. “I always loved watching their videos and always wanted to make them as well.”
Late last summer, August 31, 2019, to be exact, was the day he finally took the plunge- his first narrated video was uploaded and live! He walked and talked viewers through the process of feeding the cows, complete with visual enhancements using the drone, go-pro footage, and even cinematography.
There was no turning back for Jan after this point. He has added numerous high-quality educational vlogs since then, with his top video now at 1.4 million views, and his audience growing to 50,000 + subscribers!
It can be time-consuming to make videos, but Jan finds it worth the commitment. Since he already works fulltime on the farm, filming will typically add on an extra hour and a half of work to his day. It doesn’t end there though, the raw footage then needs to be edited. The timing of the process varies from video to video, but editing will usually keep him occupied for up to 3 hours.
“I really enjoy everything, hitting the upload button on a finished video,” Jan says. “I am always reading the first comments that come in. Seeing the positive reactions people have to our farm always makes it worthwhile.”
Like it or not, web-based platforms such as YouTube and a myriad of social media apps are here. Their use is widespread and has much influence on how people think and make choices in life. All of us who are involved in farming and the world of food production ought to be putting ourselves out there and sharing the truth, along with our processes, passion, triumphs, and tragedies. If you have a farm story to share, please consider doing it!
“We as farmers have an incredible opportunity with social media to now be able to directly educate the consumer on how their food is made,” Jan states. “That’s the main reason I started with social media. If we don’t show how we do things on a farm, someone will.”
Jan is exactly right, and that “someone” isn’t necessarily going to portray things accurately. Whether it be out of pure ignorance and misunderstanding, or by blatantly twisting and falsifying information to promote an agenda- the public image of modern agriculture often gets tainted thanks to those trying to tell someone else’s story without a complete understanding.
If you want to get online and advocate for agriculture, but feel overwhelmed, start small and simple! If you ask Jan, he’ll tell you, “…just pick up your phone and start taking pictures and videos of what you do around the farm!”
You don’t need to go out and spend a fortune on fancy equipment or software to get going. If making videos is what you’re aiming for, there are many free and easy to use programs out there for editing. So whether you raise beef cattle or dairy goats, grow field crops or apples, …or anything else on a large scale or the micro side- consumers want to see it. Many are even willing to learn and understand the whys of what we do too, if just given a chance.
Since Jan has started making videos, he has received negative comments from viewers who either don’t agree with or don’t understand dairy farming and animal agriculture in general. But at the end of the day, he doesn’t let it ruffle his feathers too much.
“It’s most likely just some bored person sitting around in their apartment with literally nothing better to do with their time,” he states.
Jan’s time and energy are of course valuable, so he must pick and choose which comments to reply to, and which ones to just disregard. If someone is asking an honest question, he’ll do his best to answer them. But then there are some angry “keyboard warriors” who just can’t be reasoned and are not willing to be educated- these are the comments that he simply ignores so he can carry on with the day.
This type of thing goes with the territory of putting your life online. It’s important to realize this and be prepared for some degree of less than positive reactions to the content you post on social media. Not everyone is going to agree, and that is their rightful choice. All we can do is show what we do and why- and not respond to hate comments with more hate.
As for Jan, he plans on keeping on doing exactly what he’s been doing…and more. He’d love to reach 100,000 YouTube subscribers this year. If you’d like to help him hit and surpass that goal, I think you know what to do 😉 On the farm, he is working towards increasing milk production once again in their new facilities. The first and foremost priority, though? Making sure the cows remain healthy and content, of course. Well, from what I can tell, I’d say Jan and family are doing a spectacular job. Go and visit SaskDutch Kid today on YouTube and Instagram and see for yourself.