The 15 million views man
PASSION Cootehill farmer brings an authentic look to dairy farming
If someone followed your every move for a typical, run of the mill day at work, edited the footage into a half hour package and plonked it up on YouTube, how many views would it generate? Well, that’s precisely what Adrian Morris did for one of his videos last October and it amassed over half a million views.
It’s just one of the weekly instalments that over the last four years has made IFarm WeFarm a huge online hit. Over 38,000 people have subscribed to the channel to watch Adrian do everything from milk his herd, to explain his no-fail technique getting a contrary tractor purring, or replace rotten fence poles, or lop off overhanging branches, or try out his new-to-him slurry tanker. It’s not exactly the plot of an Oscar contender, so what’s the success down to? Authenticity - it’s real life farming.
“It is just what I do every day, that’s the key,” says Adrian, as his British Friesians graze, poo and loll in the sundrenched field beside us. “If you set something up, that it’s happening for a video, it’s a failure instantly.”
While the footage that ends up on-screen covers the chores already on Adrian’s to-do list, shooting and editing eats up a lot of time.
“If I went to do a basic shot of getting on a tractor, where someone could get on that tractor in 10 seconds, it may take me five minutes,” he says, explaining he might take eight different camera angles and eight different approaches to the tractor.
“People see it from every angle. So they imagine they’re there, a fly on the wall. You’re not missing anything you feel like you’re with us, and that’s the name of the channel: IFarm WeFarm. The more immersed an audience is, the more they enjoy it.”
Editing could “easily” take up to six hours for a 15-20 minute video, with hours and hours of footage discarded. This attention to detail puts pressure on Adrian hitting his traditional Sunday slot.
“If we miss a Sunday or even give an inkling we are going to miss a Sunday, and sometimes it’s tough, especially this time of year - people go crazy - we could get three or four thousand messages: where’s the video? It’s not up!”
Adrian’s skill in handling cameras has been honed over many years. As a youngster he would nab his older brother’s camcorder and shoot short movies.
“They were the little clips any 13 year old fella would do around the farm,” he says with a smile at the recollection, “putting the dog in different positions as if the dog was managing the farm, driving the tractor!”
Hooked on filmmaking, Adrian’s been amassing his own camera equipment since purchasing his first drone at 15. However, it was all just a hobby, farming was always on the horizon. He progressed to take over running the home farm when his father PJ retired over 20 years ago (“He’s 87 years young and still going strong”). Adrian later scratched his filmmaking itch by shooting videos for a contractor, showcasing his machinery, which drew huge audiences in 2014. But over the course of a year the commitment began to weigh.
“There was no return for me, doing it,” he recalls of the day-long shoots, “and the fun factor was leaving.”
Fun is a recurring theme when talking to Adrian. He projects a joie de vivre as he passionately discusses his family, farm and filmmaking. It seems that work-life balance are key to retaining that passion. His first job after qualifying from Ballyhaise, was on a large farm, and he took the lessons of that experience to heart.
“I seen the amount of work that was attached to it, especially for a one-guy operation: it was a cruel amount of work. So I said to myself 50, possibly 60 cows down the line would be enough for one man to sustain, comfortably without bringing in extra help.”
True to his word, his own herd number 50 on the picturesque drumlin farm.
“I don’t believe in this new era where the smaller farmer is a thing of the past. You get a guy who’s milking a hundred cows, he can’t give the attention to his animals that I can give to mine,” says Adrian, while acknowledging he still works long hours.
“I do believe it’s something that people are encouraged to go for: more cows, more land, more cows. I think that’s a recipe for long-term disaster,” he says.
He assures “we’re happy with what we have”.
Of course that’s not to say the Morris farm is immune to the vagaries of the milk markets. The first day he and his then pregnant wife Sinead moved into the homefarm was Patrick’s Day 2009. Milk price slumped to 18 cents a litre.
“That was an eye-opener,” he says, “but we battled through it and we come out the sunnyside.”
When the Celt pays a visit, milk prices are averaging around 35 cent/litre.
“Milk at the moment looks good,” agrees Adrian. “But it’s a volatile industry to be in, you just don’t know between one month to the next what can happen.”
It was when building a slatted shed in September of 2019 on his farm that Adrian’s wife Sinead suggested he dust off the camera to document its construction from start to finish on his own channel: IFarmWeFarm was born.
“The views were incredible for just starting off, and it grew ever since. I made a bet with my oldest daughter that we would get 5,000 subscribers in one year. We got 22,000!”
That was just to start.
“We’re getting over 3,000, more subscribers a month,” he says having checked the latest stats that morning. “Since the channel started we’ve had 15 million views, YouTube has shown it to an audience of 57 million people,” says Adrian.
With such heady figures come opportunities.
“We have had loads of great sponsors since we started, especially in the last six months - it’s been unbelievably incredible the sponsorship that’s came. We never imagined anything like that could happen - only for YouTube,” says Adrian, sporting a bodywarmer complete with an IFarmWeFarm logo.
“This brand at the beginning, it was just a bit of fun. It still is, it has to be fun. If it turns into anything but fun, it’s not worth doing,” he says.
The merchandise end has been outsourced, and it too has proved a hit - the first shipment sold out in a matter of hours.
“We’ve been sold out three times already since that,” he enthuses. “We’re getting pictures from Pakistan and India, China all over the world people wearing our merchandise. I cannot get my head around that.”
Amongst their vast audience are many non-farmers. Adrian hopes IFarmWeFarm can counter some of the negative criticism he feels farming unjustly receives.
“You don’t understand farming unless you are a farmer. So I’m not trying to tell people the goods and the bads about farming, I’m just going to let them watch and choose themselves.”
He suspects the negativity swirling around could deter potential young farmers.
“When we do our videos, people see there’s more to it. It’s a lifestyle. There’s an enjoyment, something you’ll never get in an office. You can go out and you are your own boss, do as you please, make changes as you need to make them, and when everything’s going good, there’s no better lifestyle.”
Of course, his relatively small herd permits him to prioritise that ‘lifestyle’ outlook.
“I can walk in amongst my cows, and I can go to any cow, and I could sit down beside them and they will never move. The trust is there between myself - and the kids - and the cattle.”
He has an affection for his livestock you would not expect for a commercial farmer. Adrian insists that on the “very rare” occasion he loses an animal, he makes sure to not be around when the animal collection lorry arrives.
“I wouldn’t be there, my father would. I wouldn’t want to see an animal leave the farm. It’s always been like that,” he says of his affection for his herd. “That’s the sentimental thing that’s there.”
Have you ever cried over it?
“No, I’m not going to say that!” a burst of laughter piercing the moment of reflection. “No man ever says that!”
It’s all good fun.