YouTube farmers next to grain bins

(Photo: Joclyn Bushman/Iowa Soybean Association)

Mann family bonded by farming and YouTube channel

January 18, 2022 | Bethany Baratta

Play videos from Mann Family Farms on YouTube and you’ll see planting, harvesting and the everyday workings on a near Century farm.

Whether it’s changing tires on tractors, hauling corn to the local processor, planting cover crops or reimagining a grain bin site after a devastating derecho, the fourth generation of Mann farmers explain how they run their central Iowa farm.

The YouTube channel, Mann Family Farms, started from a chance meeting at a gym in Ames between then-Iowa State University students Decker Mann, the “Mann behind the camera,” and Grant Hilbert, a popular YouTube personality-turned first-generation farmer. Decker was familiar with Grant’s YouTube channel and aspired to create one of his own.

By luck, the two continued to run into each other at the gym, where they shared farming stories and filming tips in between workouts.

“Grant was just starting to farm, so he would ask me real questions about farming stuff,” Decker recalls.

Conversations then turned into advice for creating Decker’s own YouTube presence.

Decker expressed his hesitations. He wasn’t comfortable in front of the camera, had limited experience editing videos, and wasn’t even sure who the audience would be. “Grant told me, ‘Just start.’” Decker hit upload on the family’s first video on March 14, 2021. Since then, they’ve garnered new subscribers and viewers from around the globe.

Brothers Devan and Derek are also featured in the family’s videos with their father Duane. Uncle Glen, his son Bennett and their employee Helio have also made a cameo appearance on the channel.

Since March 2021, Decker’s graduated from Iowa State with a degree in agricultural business. He’s returned to his roots, farming full time with his family and hitting record on his cell phone and his Canon Power Shot camera more often to share the ins and outs of life on the Mann farm.

Farm with grain bins

Video diary

The videos are a diary of sorts for the multi-generation farm.

YouTube uploads have replaced the 8x11-inch sheets of paper Duane once used to record the latest happenings on the farm and other notable neighborhood events.

“Educating the public about what’s going on in agriculture isn’t something I was thinking about when I started,” Decker says. “I started because I thought it was fun to do.”

But it’s progressed into a conversation piece as viewers comment on the videos and strike up a connection and dialogue with the Mann family.

“People are eager to learn more,” says Derek, a fulltime employee at Van Wall in Marshalltown. He graduated from the John Deere Tech program in Calmar and is the mechanic of the bunch. You’ll also see him hauling corn and washing semis in the videos. At Mann Family Farms, it’s all hands on deck to get the jobs done.

Devan, sometimes referred to as “Mustard” in the videos, also returned to the farm after graduating from Iowa State. He’s putting his agronomy degree to use on the farm managing the new grain loading/unloading site the family put up following the 2020 derecho. He also stars in videos explaining how seed corn and seed soybeans are raised and harvested.

Duane says the family has always embraced technology, so hitting “record” while they’re all completing their day-to-day tasks doesn’t faze him. It’s a trait likely inherited from his late father Donald, who, at 74 years old, embraced GPS and auto steer.

“Everybody says Grandpa was progressive,” Decker says.

Don bought a brand new International straight truck in 1977, the first diesel straight truck he bought.

Duane, or “Honey Badger,” as he’s sometimes referred to in the videos, thinks his dad would have gotten a kick out of seeing the men work together farming and YouTubing.

“He would have loved this,” he says.

Learn more about the family and their farm by searching “Mann Family Farms” on YouTube.

A sit-down with the Mann family

Cast: Decker, Derek, Devan, Duane

About Mann Family Farms

Established in 1924; grow soybeans, corn, seed soybeans, seed corn and hay near Marshalltown.

What are your most popular posts?

“50,000 people have watched the video that showed the carnage which resulted from the Aug. 10, 2020, derecho. I explain the old bin site and our plans to build new bins the new site, named Area 21, because we broke ground in a new area in 2021, and it has a nice tone to it,” Decker says. “Cutting beans with old technology,” viewed by more than 30,000, shows the family using a row crop bean head to harvest soybeans. “It’s mesmerizing watching the beans flow right into the header,” Decker says.

Who is watching?

• 9,300 YouTube subscribers
• 95% of viewers are male, 5% female
• 77% of views come from the U.S., but views are logged worldwide.

Why does the checkoff matter to your farm?

“Finding new markets ultimately leads to more competition within the markets we already have; more competition drives prices and better margins,” Decker says. “On-farm research trials help figure out how to manage pests and diseases, leading to greater yield potential. With more yield comes more bushels to sell and with that comes more money and more profit per acre.”

What is your advice for farmers wanting to start their own YouTube channel?

“My cousin Blake’s advice quotes Zig Ziglar, ‘You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.’ Simply, just start.”