A love of music and a passion for filmmaking prompted farmer Derek Klingenberg of Peabody, Kan., to begin producing YouTube videos several years ago. As a father to three young daughters, he wants to spotlight the importance of family.
"That’s the most important crop I’ll ever grow," says Klingenberg, who grows corn, soybeans and wheat with his dad and two brothers. They also run a backgrounding operation for cattle on their 80-year-old farm founded by Klingenberg’s grandfather, an immigrant from West Prussia.
Since joining YouTube in late 2008, Klingenberg (who shares videos under the name klingpossum) has posted more than 20 clips. The latest, "Daddy D," is a self-composed rap that pays homage to family and farm life.
His first post, "Bumble Bees in the Hay," features another self-written song and has been viewed more than 18,000 times. To film, Klingenberg first had to convince brother Grant to stop operating machinery, dress up in a bee suit and run around in 100-degree weather. He eventually participated in exchange for ice cream bars, says Klingenberg. He then uploaded the video to YouTube at Grant’s house because he didn’t have Internet at the time:
Music has been a part of Klingenberg’s life for some time. For three years, he and his brothers sang in a bluegrass band called The Possum Boys. The group stopped performing after brother Brett left for Mennonite seminary and two other members also left to fulfill personal commitments elsewhere.
In the years since, his music has found a home on YouTube and in commercials for several local organizations and businesses. One song called "White Pickup Truck" – a parody of Toby Keith’s "Red Solo Cup" – played in a commercial highlighting the Mid Kansas Cooperative.
The Kansas State University graduate also turned walls in his machine shop and a new heated shed into green screens. Actors stand in front of the screens during filming. That allows him to substitute the green background with any image he wants during the production process.
Klingenberg primarily seeks to entertain viewers with his videos. But he also thinks it’s important to focus on the need for good parenting. That’s particularly true given the emphasis on guns, not parenting, in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Newtown, Conn., he says.
"I think our country is completely missing out that parenting is No. 1," Klingenberg says.
The public should know that farmers value sustainable agriculture and want to feed the world, Klingenberg says. He encourages farmers -- whom he says are often secretive about their business practices -- to get involved in social media.
"Don’t be scared of it, just start clicking on things," he says.