Feel free to call him “Mr. Farm Hats.” Everyone else does.
He’ll also answer to the name Kent Blunier, which is, of course, the name he grew up with. The Mr. Farm Hats nickname caught on a year and a half ago, when Blunier created the Facebook community Farm Hats. On the page, the Illinois farmer says, “A while ago I read an article about the many hats, both literally and figuratively, farmers wear. This group is for farmers to share ‘felfies’ and comments about their daily hats and activities.”
With about 6,500 people to date joining the community, Blunier has captured the essence of what it means to be a farmer today, where the various aspects of business, family, and faith all find a place, and where there’s something collective for men and women in the industry to connect over.
It’s no surprise then that Blunier is an exhibitor at the AgChat Foundation’s Cultivate & Connect Conference on Dec. 8 and 9 in Kansas City. Blunier spoke exclusively with AGDAILY.
AGDAILY: What led you to putting the Farm Hats community together?
Blunier: It’s been a couple of years ago that I saw an article about the hats that farmers wear literally and figuratively. Every company you deal with gives you a hat, from seed companies to whenever you buy a pickup truck. And then farmers wear a ton of different hats throughout the day: You can be a mechanic in the morning and an accountant when you’re doing your books in the afternoon. The article talked about all of that. I looked through my own Facebook, and I had a lot of people who I went to high school with who didn’t even know what a farmer did. I thought, after a while, that they’re going to get bored of me putting up photos of me in my hog house all winter long and doing the exact same thing over and over. So I was hoping for a community of maybe 200 or 250 people that could show something different every day that farmers do.
AGDAILY: And that has now grown to more than 6,000 people. Give me an idea of how people have responded to your group, especially assuming you didn’t expect it to grow into what it is today.
Blunier: I certainly did not. We had 200 people in less than 24 hours. We are a year and a half into it, and we’re pushing 6,500 people. I certainly didn’t expect it to be that big. But that’s social media; stuff like this can grow really fast.
AGDAILY: As the community has grown, have you found that you have a lot of non-farmers being a part of the group so that they can get a better understanding of what a farmer does?
Blunier: Yes, absolutely. Up until the one-year mark, I was trying to track it, and it seemed to be that about 25 percent of the people in the group didn’t seem to have anything to do specifically with farming.
AGDAILY: You said that there were people in your past who didn’t know much about farming. What do you see as the biggest gap between the public perception of farming and what farmers are actually doing?
Blunier: I joke around about this sometimes with people, but I’ve also seriously asked some friends, “What do farmers do?” They’ll say, “‘Well, you plant corn, and then you sit around and wait for the time to combine it. And then a lot of you go to Florida for the winter.'” And I’ll tell them, “That’s kind of the goal when we retire, that’s what we’d like to do. But on a more regular basis, I’ve got pigs that need to be checked twice a day. And I have this that needs to be done, and that that needs to be done. Or sometimes you need to walk your beans or spray your beans. I think a lot of it is just what you see on mainstream media — there’s a combine, there’s a planter, and that’s all many people feel they need to know.
AGDAILY: For someone who wants to get into farming, whether they grew up with some exposure to it or someone who’s gotten interested in it later on, what’s your advice for someone like that?
Blunier: Have a lot of money. (laughing) All joking aside, you need to find somebody who has done it, who can show you the ins and outs of it. I know a lot of younger farmers around here, they grew up with their parents involved in it. I know some guys who have come out of college and they want to farm. From everything I’ve seen, they’d love to go out and buy 80 acres and a planter and start that, but it just isn’t feasible. So they’ll tag along with someone else as a hired man for a while. Most farmers, if they see you put in hard work, they’ll reward that and help you get started.
Blunier has a variety of hats, shirts, stickers, and other items available for sale through his Facebook page. Profits from the sales of those items go to the Ag in the Classroom program, a couple of FFAs, and other programs for young people. To date, almost $5,000 has been given to different ag organizations.