Farming & Influence


Hilary Swift for The New York Times

Ellen Barry, somehow, has not shown up in our pages before today. Strange, because she was based in India during our years there. Her audio adaptation of a dream-like experience, The Jungle Prince of Delhi, ranks with the best serialized podcasts out there. After her time in India she became New England Bureau Chief of the New York Times, a transition I will presume to understand: India can be so transformative and so profound an experience that landing back in familiar territory is a great next step. And today she shows up on my screen with a topic so different from that, and so related to my recent interests and activities that I finally must add her work to our recommendations:

In a Wistful Age, Farmers Find a New Angle: Chore TV

It’s hard for small farmers to earn a living selling their products. Enter the “farmer-influencer,” who can earn more by streaming farm life, in all its comforting monotony, to a growing online audience.


Hilary Swift for The New York Times

PEACHAM, Vt. — The sweet smell of hay rose off the earth on a recent evening, as Morgan Gold strode across his farmyard in heavy boots. He crossed the paddock, scanning for new eggs, water levels, infected peck wounds, rips in the fence line.

But mainly — let’s be honest — he was looking for content.

Though Mr. Gold sells poultry and eggs from his duck farm in Vermont’s northeast corner, most of what he produces as a farmer is, well, entertainment.

Mr. Gold, who is short and stocky, with the good-natured ease of a standup comedian, does his chores while carrying a digital camera in one hand and murmuring into a microphone.

Then, twice a week, like clockwork, he posts a short video on YouTube about his exploits as a neophyte farmer, often highlighting failures or pratfalls. Keeping a close eye on analytics, he has boosted his YouTube audiences high enough to provide a steady advertising revenue of around $2,500 to $4,000 a month, about eight times what he earns from selling farm products.

This part of New England is rocky, hilly and isolated, and generations of small farmers have cast about for new ways to scrape out a living: the sleigh rides, the alpacas, the therapy ponies, the pick-your-own hemp. It is a new thing, though, to make farm life into reality TV.

Mr. Gold, 40, has learned the hard way — he tried to take a month off last winter — that any gap in his YouTube publication schedule results in a steep drop-off in audience. So he keeps a running list of themes that could be fodder for future videos. It reads, in part:

Should I Feed My Dog Eggs?

Don’t Trust This Duck

My Homestead Is a Dumpster Fire

What Does My Guard Dog Do All Day?

He has learned, through trial and error, what works with an audience. The sheepdog-mounted GoPro didn’t work. (“People were like, 10 seconds and I was puking,” said his wife, Allison Ebrahimi Gold.) Slow, sumptuous drone footage of his sun-dappled 150 acres, land porn for wistful cubicle dwellers — that definitely works.

Character development works, as demonstrated by Mr. Gold’s most popular video, “Our Freakishly Huge Duck (This Is Not NORMAL),” which, as he would put it, blew the doors off. Slow-motion footage of waggling goose butts, set to a bouncy, whimsical orchestral soundtrack, works…

Read the whole article here.

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