Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
WASHINGTON — By every conventional measure, This’ll Do Farm bears close resemblance to most swine operations in Southeast Iowa. The business north of Washington has four 2,400-head wean-to-finish facilities, and raises thousands more every year under contracts. The land also includes about 400 acres of corn and soy crops as a supplemental revenue stream. Father and son Tork and Sawyer Whisler run the farm, now on its sixth generation in the hog industry.
A cursory Google search, however, reveals an unusual detail: This’ll Do Farm is a social media giant, boasting over 170,000 followers between Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok and YouTube. That’s not to mention roughly 30,000 monthly downloads of their podcast, Farm Talk, or the 283,000 viewers of their most popular YouTube upload.
“Social media always interested me, it’s been something I always wanted to do, I just didn’t know what niche I wanted to go down,” said Sawyer Whisler, the son of Tork Whisler, who owns This’ll Do. “I finally came across some YouTubers doing farm content, and there was no one out there doing modern day hog content.”
The mass communication effort boasts professional quality, although Whisler said he had no formal training when it began in 2019, and continues to use self-taught methods.
“I didn’t fully grasp it right away, it’s something that came to me as I was doing it,” he said. “No classes, it’s all YouTube and trial and error and Google. There’s no management team, it’s me and dad, and we’ve hired three employees that edit for us.”
Tork Whisler said he was neutral about the content at first, more excited that his son had decided to stay with the farm into adulthood.
“There was no guarantee that he was going to stay here and farm with me, and as a father … what he didn’t know was, I needed him a lot worse than he needed me, because now I had somebody I could depend on,” he said. “Getting that next generation started is very important to me. So when he started down the social media rabbit hole, I probably was in the state of, ‘I’ll just tolerate it, and then maybe it will go away.’”
Since then, Tork Whisler has grown more involved, eventually taking a role in the videos himself, a duty he considers proof that “old people can learn new things.”
“I don’t really know what the point in time was when I got on the camera, but I did and it worked,” he said. “I think it’s really easy for people as they get older to just dismiss things and think, ‘I don’t want anything to do with that.’ I could very easily have been like, ‘That’s crazy, that’ll never work,’ but I feel like that’s a hindrance … I just was like, ‘OK, let’s see what happens.’ And I’m thankful that I did and I’m thankful that he took pity on me and said, ‘Here dad, this is how you run a camera.’”
Getting the content on film comes more or less naturally, and is now part of the family routine. Editing, however, is much harder work.
“When you’re doing it on this scale, trying to be on all platforms, trying to do all this, it can be really challenging,” Sawyer said. “As far as the farm stuff, it takes a little bit of time to set up a GoPro angle or whatever, but it really doesn’t eat up that much … editing is the hardest part of it all, because that takes time and when we’ve got to get work done and you’ve got to get this video out, you’ve got to choose one.”
The online presence comes with a paycheck, thanks to ad revenue and occasional endorsements. The Whislers said their influencer status brought in revenue equal to about a quarter of their ag production business.
The endeavor isn’t just about the money, however. The two said they wanted to counter a negative light on agriculture and pork production specifically, aiming to educate people with their own farm.
“Our goal is to show people where their food comes from because I feel like there’s so many misconceptions,” Tork Whisler said. “We’ve moved past a time where we could all just tell our story. Now, people want to see it, and if you’re not showing that, then the assumption is that you have something to hide.”
The agenda is emphasized by the nature of their operation: internet activity aside, This’ll Do Farm is a representative snapshot of countless Southeast Iowa swine operations.
“The majority of pork that’s produced in the United States is produced the way we do it, through either contract finishers or people that finish their own pigs that have sows, but that’s not shown,” Tork Whisler said. “We want to show how those pigs are cared for, because we think it’s important.”
Based on feedback, the farmers said that goal was generally being met, as their stories reach families around the world.
“I can’t tell you how many times we get a (direct message) from people who legitimately put it on the TV and watch it with their kids,” Sawyer Whisler said. “It’s just like reality TV, I guess.”
The audience demographic for their content is all over the board. Analytics vary from one platform to the next, but interactions pour in from people in all walks of life.
“We’ve had comments from people that live in the city, we have had people that previously lived on farms or their grandpa was a farmer … and then there’s people in the hog business, or farmers that don’t do any swine,” Sawyer Whisler said. “I really think it’s a big mix.”
While the Whislers hope to expand their online presence, Sawyer said the main objective remained the same as any other operation.
“Our biggest dream and goal and aspiration right now with everything we’re doing is to make this farm viable for the seventh generation,” he said. “That is the thing at the top of our mind. Because we want to keep this going.”