Trevor Claiborn is a farm technician and interim extension assistant at Kentucky State University’s College of Agriculture. But when he’s out educating kids about food and farming, he becomes Farmer Brown Tha MC.
“Farmer Brown is a culmination of a bunch of different experiences I’ve had during my time at the College of Agriculture at KSU as well as personal experiences,” says Claiborn. He shares a story about his young niece that describes why he’s so inspired to get kids interested in agriculture.
“I asked her where does she think the hamburger she’s eating came from, and without thinking, she said it came from a tree,” Claiborn remembers. “It was one of those epiphany type moments where I realized, this isn’t cool. When I explained to her how meat is processed and how we get it from animals she thought it was a crazy thing. So just thinking back to how we got so detached from farming, just within the context of my family, a lot of it boils down to how people see farming, how it’s introduced to them.”
Claiborn combines his knowledge of and experience in agriculture with his passion for music to further his mission of educating kids. He’s been writing and producing music since he was a teenager. The character of Farmer Brown might not have been how he imagined himself back then, but he’s found that it works for what he wants to do now.
“My coolness ain’t on the line,” he says. “The concept of putting the shades and the overalls on, it really wasn’t anything. I will say the first day I filmed one of my Farmer Brown videos, my niece was there, and she said, ‘Uncle Trevor, you look crazy.’ So for a brief moment I thought to myself, okay, what have I gotten myself into?”
But his doubts faded when the young actors involved in the video started to get excited about the subject matter.
“In a sense it kind of proved my point early,” he says. “Just presenting this subject, in a fun light, will make a difference in how they perceive it and how they engage.”
Claiborn travels around Kentucky and throughout the country where he performs for classrooms. He found that he had to take a different approach in districts where the kids may not have had any previous exposure to agriculture at all. He’s incorporated ideas about urban farming and sustainability into his presentation.
“In the spring of 2017, there was a partnership between the Lyric Theater and KSU to do a Fresh-OP urban gardening series,” says Claiborn. “It amazed me how many of the kids didn’t feel the need to pick up their phones when we were outside getting our hands dirty. I observed some of the kids, they’re amazed with worms and grubs and just small things in the ground, so that definitely made me optimistic.”