Tennyson a viral sensation?

Associate Editor

(Aug. 16, 2016) Last week in a conference room on the bottom floor of the Maryland Department of Agriculture in Annapolis, the department’s top advisory commission briefly chatted, as it often does, over better ways to educate an increasingly curious public about farming.
There was mention, for instance, about the astonishing growth of social media and its power to connect an industry with its audience.
One commission member said the state had to “make agriculture sexy.”
Here’s an option: Donnie Tennyson.
You want social media? The St. Mary’s County grain farmer loves making YouTube videos about the day-to-day spadework of agriculture.
Sexy? As far as Tennyson’s concerned, there’s no argument. Look no further than his shirtless five-second declaration to the greater YouTube community, “Sexy farmer!” posted Oct. 15.
While steering a tractor on his grain farm, Tennyson points at a camera fixed to the front windshield, and, to the strains of LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It,” mouths the 2011 hit single’s key lyric.
“Really Donnie Put on a shirt,” wrote Steve Tennyson (presumably a concerned relative) in the video’s comments section.
Tennyson’s not flinching.
“It’s just who I am,” he said in an interview with The Delmarva Farmer. “I have always been one that, when I get in front of a new person or a new crowd, I want to walk away and they remember who I am. So you have to do something a little bit out of the ordinary so people remember that mark and who you are.”
Over the last nine months, Tennyson’s edited and posted more than 90 YouTube videos on his Farmer MD channel with more than 1,500 subscribers. (“MD” in this instance is short for Maryland, not medical doctor.)
It’s not exactly riveting theater, but more than 6,000 users watched him shovel and haul wheat in a 14-minute video from last month’s aptly titled, “Shoveling & Hauling Wheat 2016 — SOMD Style.” There’s another video called, “Time to make straw — Baling before the Storms ‘16” that boasts more than 27,000 views and includes the slow-motion capture of a hay baler launching a bale directly into a farm worker’s groin with text saying, “That’s gotta hurt! Let’s watch in Slow-Mo,” appearing in freeze-frame.
And it’s not just Americans watching, Tennyson said. He tracks views from Estonia, Macedonia, Chile, Latvia, Ukraine, Bulgaria. (Eastern Europe seems particularly compelled.)
“What I think I do is not that exciting, but there are others out there that enjoy it and like watching it. I think that’s the biggest surprise,” he said.
He said he began posting the videos on the advice of a friend, and while they don’t attract the hundreds of millions of views and fans that well-known YouTube stars make careers out of these days, he said his videos earn him between $3 and $4 a day — almost $100 per month.
YouTube cuts him a portion of the ads it sells in front of his videos.
He imagines that might grow. He knows another farmer who recently paid for he and his wife to vacation in Vietnam with YouTube video revenue. But he said agricultural education remains his primary goal.
“I’ve always been about education. I go to the schools. I take tractors,” he said. “But it’s all about us getting our message out there. That’s what I have found with YouTube.”