Farmers Union invites YouTube sensation to speak during Jr. REAL

Farm Forum

When they made their first YouTube parody video to teach friends about life on their family’s Kansas farm, Greg Peterson says he and his siblings never thought it would go viral – receiving more than 5 million hits. The video launched him and his family into agriculture activism.

This September, Peterson will travel to several South Dakota rural high schools, invited by South Dakota Farmers Union as part of the family farming organization’s Jr. REAL program (Junior Rural Economic and Leadership).

“Many rural schools don’t have access or funding to bring leadership development programs to their students, so Farmers Union developed Jr. REAL to do just that. Jr. REAL provides leadership and personal development opportunities to many South Dakota rural schools ­ at no cost to the school,” says Erin Wilcox, S.D. Farmers Union Rural Development Coordinator.

Peterson’s message will encourage youth to take advantage of the opportunities life gives you. “My brothers and I had the idea to do a music video in 2012. Because we followed through with it, we have been able to impact millions of people around the globe,” Peterson, 24, says of the video he made with siblings, Nathan, 21, Kendal, 18, and honorary “bro” Laura, 14.

He goes on to say that he believes one reason the opportunity came to him and his siblings is so they can share what they’ve learned with others – like South Dakota high school students. “Our story can entertain, inform and motivate others. I think it is why I enjoy telling it so much,” Peterson says.

Greg Peterson will be part of the Jr. REAL programs held for the following high schools Sept. 21-24, 2015: Lake Preston, De Smet, Wolsey-Wessington, Hitchcock-Tulare, Woonsocket, Wessington Springs, Sanborn Central and Faulkton.

Other Jr. REAL speakers include: Malcom Chapman, who covers dynamic leadership through his personal experiences as a Marine and Rapid City Councilman; entrepreneur and musician, Toby Kane, will bring a pay-it-forward/community service message; Survivor cast member, Holly Hoffman, will be the Keynote speaker at Highmore-Harrold, Harding County and Miller schools, where she will present her message to never give up.

Educating the next generation

From the beginning, S.D. Farmers Union has invested in educational programming. Now a century-strong, the organization is excited about the leadership and cooperative educational opportunities it provides to more than 3,000 South Dakota youth each year.

“These are our state’s future leaders. It’s essential to South Dakota’s number one industry of agriculture, that we have young people who are informed and have the leadership skills necessary to lead us into the future,” says Doug Sombke, S.D. Farmers Union President.

Peterson echoes Sombke’s statement, adding that without the support of organizations like Farmers Union, agriculture advocacy would be difficult. “Lack of education, misinformation and a smaller percentage of the population involved in farming will need to be addressed in the future,” Peterson says. “No matter what group or industry you are dealing with, youth are our future! If you don’t invest in the next generation, you won’t see as much return. Leadership and communication are important as they address these issues.”

To learn more about Jr. REAL and S.D. Farmers Union other educational programming, visit