Haryana-based farmer Darshan Singh earns a monthly income of approximately two lakh per month. No, not through farming.
How then? You may ask.
Yes, you heard that right.
Darshan’s channel Farming Leader is one of the most influential farming channels on YouTube. Within a year of its launch, it has managed to garner more than two million subscribers, and lakhs of viewers watch videos on the channel every single day!
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From innovative desi farming jugaad, to the science of growing crops organically, setting up dairy farms and reviewing agricultural products, Darshan’s channel is a one-stop platform for farmers to find all the answers that they need!
The beginnings of the journey
Growing up in an agricultural family, Darshan knew he wanted to pursue farming as a profession.
And until 2015, he did precisely that, dabbling between higher studies and practising agriculture on his family’s 12-acre farm.
At a time when most farmers around him were practising chemical farming, Darshan decided to make a shift to organic farming starting with a two-acre patch.
“The entire shift takes three years, so I decided to start small by attempting to meet the needs of my own family,” he says.
When asked how the idea of starting a YouTube channel occurred to him, he says, “From a necessity.”
“In 2017, I decided to begin dairy farming to boost my income, and there were several issues I faced—from training my cattle to preparing the right kind of feed, seeking treatment, etc. When I looked online, most of the content that I came across was clickbait in nature. The titles of articles and thumbnails of videos caught my attention, but when I read and watched the content, nothing was detailed out. As a farmer, I realised, the only way to learn something was to watch it happen practically and replicate it. And so I started travelling across Punjab and Haryana meeting successful farmers.”
During his travels, Darshan started thinking about the dearth of regional farming content that could be accessible and benefit the farming community. “So, I thought—why don’t I start recording videos of the successful farmers I meet and post them on YouTube?”
Thus, Farming Leader was born in September 2017.
“I used to shoot most of the videos on my phone. Seeing the phenomenal response, I purchased a lapel mic and started posting three to four videos a week while juggling work at my farm. Within six months of the launch, my videos were raking lakhs of views, and the channel was monetised by March 2018. When the income from YouTube started becoming more than what I had ever earned from farming, I decided to make it my full-time profession. Today there are more than 500 videos on the channel,” he says.
Darshan no longer uses his phone to shoot videos; he has invested in a professional camera.
Travelling and Shooting Inspiring Stories
Whether it is Mahila Kisan, Santosh Devi, who beat poverty to earn Rs 25 lakh from a 1.25-acre plot of land through pomegranate farming or Ambala’s Harvilas Singh, who innovated an automatic drinking bowl to ensure the cattle get water 24×7, even when the farmer is not around—Darshan’s focus is informative content and techniques that can benefit farmers.
To understand the impact that these videos have created on the lives of the farmers that Darshan has covered in the past, The Better India got in touch with two such farmers who have now turned into mini YouTube-celebrities in their own villages.
Sandeep Singh, the owner of SR Commercial Goat farm in Sirsa Haryana, whose video ‘How to Start a Goat Farm’ has acquired 1.4 million views, says:
“Darshanji shot our video 1.5 years ago, and the kind of response that we got was mind-blowing. Our customer demands have increased to the extent that we are finding it difficult to meet them. Today, if you search for goat farming, it is one of the top results on YouTube, and we train farmers from more than seven states. Darshanji’s USP is that he does create clickbaity content. He visits the farmers, does a complete study, inspects their work is clean and only then decides to feature them on his channel. Not just that, he also helped us create our own YouTube channel that now has 40,000 subscribers. Even though it’s been a year since the video was released, we still get calls from farmers across India every day, asking for tips on treatment, building sheds, training their goats, caring for goat kids, etc.”
Similarly, Harvilas Singh, whose video raked in 5 million views, highlights how the video impacted his business.
“We have been working in the dairy farm sector for years and adopting techniques that would keep cattle healthy because we are animal lovers. However, nobody knew about us. After our video was released on YouTube by Darshanji, farmers from across India and even across borders have been trying to get in touch with us. It has boosted our business thrice. We get approximately 200 calls every day, and I have a dedicated time slot between 8 pm to 11 pm to connect with these farmers every night.”
How does Darshan zero in upon the farmers he wants to cover?
“I travel extensively to understand the kind of topics farmers want to know more about. Often, I come across stories on new channels or Facebook. Once I am convinced that a farmer is doing something unique and different, and the method is successful and ethical, I get in touch with them and fix schedules for shoots. Sometimes the process takes weeks based on availability, but most videos are shot, edited and uploaded within a day.”
Recalling one of the craziest shooting experiences, Darshan says,
“Wherever I go, it is always humbling to see people recognise me and welcome me with open arms. Once when I travelled to Jaipur for a farmers’ event, I had the fortune of meeting some of the most successful and inspirational farmers from across Rajasthan. The techniques and innovations that they had managed to incorporate in their fields proved how farmer are literally agri-scientists! Within a day, I interviewed more than 30 farmers! Each of those videos has close to one million views each!”
Darshan, who began his journey now has a three-member team and hopes to increase the number to five by next month. Similarly, as the team expands, he will boost the production of videos to post ten videos per week.
What about his own farm and dairy farm?
He has transferred it to a friend, with who he shares the profits as business partners. Having witnessed lack of medicinal farms, the duo is now working on growing medicinal herbs commercially.
What are some of the learnings and perils of being a YouTube farmer?
“I wouldn’t call them perils, but there are certainly learnings. There have been times when we had to pull down videos because we were sometimes notified the information could be misleading. But, I learn from my mistakes, too, and my focus is always on providing authentic information and techniques that can benefit the farmer.”
Emphasising the need for Indian farmers to up their marketing game, Darshan signs off says, “Farmers fulfil all our basic needs. They grow our food and raw material for our clothing too. And while there is no doubt that Indian farmers can grow anything under the sun, if they put their hearts to it, they lack entrepreneurial spirit. They have to learn to market their produce. Every time I meet farmers, I tell them, ‘If you cannot start your own channel, take up on-ground marketing, send your children to the cities, meet your customers firsthand and build your own network. It is only then that we will be able to get the right market prices for our crops and value-added products.’”
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)