1. Success Story

Meet these 'Farm Influencers' whose YouTube Videos are Assisting Millions of Farmers With Everyday Farm-Related Issues

Ayushi Raina
Ayushi Raina
'Farm Influencers' whose YouTube Videos are Assisting Millions of Farmers

They are young, enthusiastic, outspoken, and enthralled with the internet, smartphones, drones, agricultural farming and 'jugaad.' They are the latest YouTube sensation, with 182 lakh (18.2 million) subscribers for their channel Indian Farmer in three years since June 2018.

The duo, both in their twenties, are from Vita, a small town in Maharashtra's Sangli district, where getting a Wifi connection was a major issue until a few years ago. 

"We have 7 lakh followers on Facebook and close to 100,000 followers on Instagram," says Akash Jadhav, 26. 

Santhosh Jadhav, 27-year-old and his friend enthusiastically says, "So far we have 1,000 plus videos ranging from four to 30-minutes long, as well as numerous 20second TikTok videos in our library." 

When they state these numbers, they are neither boastful nor arrogant. "We still have a long way to go.  India has 70-80 crore farmers, and we have barely reached less than two crores," Akash adds. 

So, what are their videos, you may wonder? 

They influence farmers on innovative farming practices, irrigation, weed control, pesticide usage, the appropriate way to use fertilizers, the acquisition of high-quality seeds, crop rotation, the proper approach to sell, and other issues that are important to farmers. 

There is no age bar for their subscribers.  Farmers from all around India, age group ranging from 18 to 50, log on to Indian Farmer every Tuesday and Friday at 6 p.m. for new feed. The reason for their success is Santosh's easy method of talking in simple Hindi with that wide grin, which makes every viewer feel as if he is speaking directly to them. There are no preaching, no patronizing voices, just ordinary farming chat. 

Another advantage is that they are neither studio speakers nor armchair talkers. They shoot on genuine farms, often on Santosh's 11-acre ancestral farmland, where they cultivate sugarcane, mango, pomegranate, and veggies like capsicum, tomato etc. They have firsthand knowledge of the problems that plague the farming community. As a result, it is easier for them to display and discuss challenges, making the show more engaging for their audience to grasp and learn from. 

Akash does extensive web research. He refers to himself as a Google prodigy and playfully says, "If I ever write a book, the dedication page will read, 'Dedicated to Google!" He's the one who discovers farmers who are experimenting with new or alternative farming practices, contacts them, and after getting an appointment, travels to the farm to shoot. 

The duo travels across the country. They have recently returned from Himachal Pradesh and Punjab. 

"We recently returned from Himachal Pradesh, near Shimla, to discover how distinct Sangharsh Sankta's apple farming methods are.  He practices high-density farming. Other farmers plant 200 to 300 trees per acre of land, but he plants 700-800 trees, prunes the trees on a regular basis to keep them from reaching their normal size and provides bamboo support to the branches so the trees can handle the weight of fruits. The yield of fruit is very high without compromising taste or quality," explains Akash. 

After filming at the apple orchard, they travelled to Bhatinda, Punjab, to meet Pargat Singh, rice and cotton farmer.  "Stubble burning is a significant problem in Punjab, and unfortunately after harvesting both rice and cottonwhat remains is a large quantity of waste which most farmers resort to burning, which creates widespread pollution." It's especially difficult in the north during the winter. However, Pargat implements sustainable farming techniques and reuses the stubble rather than burning it," Santosh recalls. 

The Jadhavs discovered a very strong group of farmers in Punjab. "They are powerful because they are well-informed, united, and many in number. If farmers in every state unite together like them, their plight will undoubtedly improve. The majority of agricultural communities in India lack technological skills and hence are ignorant of the supply chain or product management. They are expanding on what their family has done for generations. They have no idea how to experiment with novel crops. As a result, they end up investing a lot of money and struggling to make a living. Through our channel we hope to address this loophole and make farmers successful businessmen,” says Akash. 

"We appreciate our channel's 'jugaad' section." We Indians are well-known for jugaad. Every farmer, rich or poor, devises some strategy to maximize the advantage of whatever resources are available on their farm. We get maximum viewers for that section where we show what a farmer can do without having to spend a lot,” explains Santosh. 

Establishing 'Farming Influencers' 

The best thing about these boys is that, despite being from the interiors of Maharashtra, where Marathi is the primary language, Santosh spent a couple of years in Prayag Raj and speaks flawless Hindi, which allows them to reach out to more people. 

Their story began in elementary school, when Akash resided in Vita and Santosh lived in Karve, a community around nine kilometres distant. Akash cycled his bike to school, while Santosh boarded the bus. 

"We always looked down upon children who took the bus to school," Akash says. 

Santosh recalls that he was always a back bencher, whereas Akash was always ready with answers to all of their teacher's questions. But somehow they became friends and that friendship continues till today even though after Class 12, Akash went to Kolhapur to complete his Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering and Santosh dropped out. Because Akash was aware of the country's farmer precarious situation, he decided to establish something to assist the farming community. 

He had learned how to make short videos, post them, and try to get them to the Google search engine through YouTube. All he had to do was to convince Santosh and their parents. It took some time because the notion required considerable investment. However, once they gained parental backing, there was no turning back. 

Initially, they simply had a smartphone, but Akash, the channel's tech brain, says they now have the latest iPhone, an old Canon 200D camera, a DJI mini drone, good microphones, two MacBooks for everyday work, two PCs for editing, and a crew of four. 

"If we have a bigger project to shoot, we rent a camera for around Rs.3000-Rs 5000 per day," Akash adds. 

Their monthly earnings, they claim, fluctuate between Rs.50000 - Rs.1 lakh. They have put a lot of money into their cause and re-invested a large portion of their YouTube earnings. They are interested in getting profits, but for the time being, they are having fun. They get to travel, meet new people, and even confer with agricultural experts and marketing wizards. 

The icing on the cake was being featured in YouTube Originals' Creator Spotlight, which is the global video giants' mini-documentary section. The section contains short tales on YouTube creators who are pushing the boundaries. 

"We hope to include other farming communities, such as poultry, fisheries, goat rearing, etc. in the near future. Today, the whole digital space is evolving and growing. There is also a promising future for new farming influencers in this space. It’s time to improve the state of our farmers,” says Akash. 

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