South Dakotan brings farm life to its thousands of YouTube viewers
MOUNT VERNON, SD — Cole Sonne has a busy life working on the farm.
He feeds the cattle. He mows the hay. And as autumn approaches, he prepares man and machine for the harvest. There is a lot to do and only a certain number of hours in a day to do it.
But Sonne devotes at least part of his week to recording his and his family’s efforts on their farm near Mount Vernon as part of YouTube’s USA, a showcase of workers and artists from about 50 states featured on the popular video website. As one of 50 featured workers, Sonne has amassed more than 90,000 subscribers and nearly 12 million views with his videos of farm life in South Dakota.
It’s a routine that started on a whim.
“It all started with buying a drone and I was taking pictures of us cultivating,” Sonne said recently. “It takes up a lot of space on your memory devices, and I thought I should edit it a bit and post it on YouTube, then I can make more videos.”
It was 2017 when Sonne used his new drone to film an 18-inch snowfall that came to the farm. He was an agronomy student at South Dakota State University and worked at home with his father and uncle. He enjoyed editing short videos that highlighted the drudgery that comes with raising cattle, corn, and soybeans.
The first videos were simple but garnered a positive response both live and online.
“My dad pushed me to try it, and it went from there. The first videos weren’t great by any means,” Sonne said.
Sonne knew farming could be a popular topic on YouTube. He learned this in college, where he would occasionally browse such videos when he was a little homesick for the farm. So he applied some of the video editing skills he learned in a high school class and decided to create a series of videos that he uploaded three times a week.
To date, he has 172 videos posted on his Sonne Farms channel, and he has more planned for the start of the 2020 harvest season. He tries to keep his videos relatively short at around 10 minutes, although his videos have gained momentum since they started featuring other family members and took on a more conversational tone.
Sonne has reached a wide audience with his videos, which combine farming basics, tips and examples of life on a working South Dakota farm. He said he estimates around 60% of his viewers come from some farming background, but the remaining 40% seem to be relative newcomers who are interested in the process of farming and viewing life. everyday in rural America.
He said his viewership is relatively small compared to some established YouTubers, but he has had some success. His most-viewed video is a sequence of trenching work to fix drainage issues on the farm, which has garnered over a million views.
The success of his content brought him to the attention of YouTube itself, which was establishing the United States of YouTube. The campaign spotlights people who are making an impact on YouTube and those who have learned skills on YouTube in order to impact their communities, according to a company statement.
Through an interactive map, people can explore small business creators and owners in all 50 states.
As the only star YouTuber from South Dakota, Sonne joined others from across the country to show off their craftsmanship and skills. Other members of the showcase include a teacher/artist from North Dakota, a fashion designer from Texas, and a seamstress from Pennsylvania.
The campaign nurtured more viewers and subscribers to Sonne and made his audience bloom more than they could have expected.
“I never really wanted to have a big YouTube channel. It really happened by accident. A few videos started playing and I just went for it,” Sonne said.
Sonne said his channel is monetized, which means he makes money from people watching the videos. He said he made about $1,000 a month from videos when he was in college, and that got better as he increased his video quality and output.
That’s fine, Sonne said, but the video diary of his family’s days and nights on the farm provides information and entertainment to millions around the world. It also means a lot to him, and he’s curious what the future holds if he continues to dedicate time to opening his farm to a wider audience.
“I wonder where it’s going if I continue like this. If I go on like this for 20 years, what would it be like,” Sonne asked. “At the end of the day, I’m a farmer and I like to farm without having to worry about the camera and the conversations. The days off (from filming) are nice, but there are also thoughts that make you think that maybe you should have this camera I usually don’t stray too far from the camera.
The Sonne Farms channel and the channels of 49 other US YouTube creators can be accessed by clicking on the states on the map available at www.youtube.com/howyoutubeworks/usofyoutube.