EVANSVILLE, Minn. — It was a peaceful afternoon at the Douglas County Fair Aug. 18 as people milled about the cattle barns and exhibits.
At least it was peaceful until the music started.
Evansville farmer Randy Satterlie started to dance followed by 40 others who moved in synch to "I’m Farming and I Grow It."
It was a Douglas County Corn and Soybean Growers’ "flash mob."
What’s a flash mob? Wikipedia calls it, "a group of people who assemble suddenly in a place, perform an unusual and seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then disperse..."
The Douglas County flash mob was different because it had a purpose. The tune’s lyrics and the signs carried by the volunteer dancers, the group promoted agriculture. Farm facts were written on the signs. One said one acre of soybeans makes 82,000 crayons. Another noted that 93 percent of farms in Douglas County are family owned.
Although the performance lasted less than three minutes, its essence is long lasting. Someone captured it on video and it can now be viewed on YouTube or on the website, www.douglascountycornandsoybean.org.
Katie Satterlie, Randy’s daughter, spearheaded it all.
Katie has handled the county corn and soybean growers’ website since January. Her sister had the job before her. Katie has worked in social media development and her inclusion of facebook and the website has been key in delivering the farming message to others.
Katie got the idea for the flash mob after taking part in a similar event for a Twin Cities non-profit several weeks ago. It seemed like a good idea for Douglas County growers to have their own flash mob, she said.
She told them about her plan.
"They had no idea what I was talking about," she said.
Randy, a Douglas County Corn and Soybean Growers board member, admitted the board was reluctant at first.
"We thought she was crazy," he said.
However, Katie was persistent. She described a flash mob and how she planned to promote agriculture.
Next, she needed permission from the Douglas County fair board.
"People hear the word ‘mob’ and they think it’s bad," she said.
After more explanations by Katie, the board also approved the plan.
Katie knew she didn’t need permission to use "I’m Farming and I Know It." The song’s lyrics were developed by The Peterson Brothers of Kansas. The Petersons' own farm-related video and song went viral this summer. She contacted them, Katie said, and they told to go for it and wished her luck.
Now, she needed people to be part of the flash mob. Members of the county corn and soybean growers were reluctant to take part, most, that is, except for Randy.
"I got roped into it," he said with a chuckle.
Actually, Katie said, he was more than willing to help.
She got the word out through friends and social media that people were needed for the flash mob. Around 70 were interested, but only 40 were able to commit to the practices.
The important part of doing a flash mob, is making sure no one knows about it, Katie said. So she e-mailed the volunteers with the practice information. They had eight practices s over three weeks at the Garfield park.
About 25 percent of the volunteers were from a farm or had parents involved in agriculture. Others were interested in being part of a flash mob but had no farm experience. Katie explained the reason behind the flash and the importance of agriculture to the county.
Katie didn’t want the flash mob to focus solely on the music or the dancers. She wanted to deliver multiple messages. Every "mob" volunteer got a "I’m Farming and I Grow It" T-shirt. The daughter of one dancer rode a pedal tractor, one of several the county’s corn and soybean growers award at area pedal tractor pulls.
Next came the performance. The weather was great, a crowd gathered and the performance was flawless.
She’s pleased with the results and the reaction the event has received. The Peterson Brothers said they saw the video and loved it.
Farmers are enthused by the public’s response.
"They trusted me," she said. "I don’t think they were expecting this kind of reaction. We’ve talked about doing something else in the future, but people might expect a flash mob. It just wouldn’t be the same to do that again."
Makes you wonder what the group might be planning for next year.