July 2, 2022

PORTRAIT. Thierry Bailliet, the man of the earth who became an “agricultural influencer”

Loos-en-Gohelle, in Pas-de-Calais, is known for its two twin slag heaps, the highest in Europe, but also for the ecological transition driven by its mayor, Jean-François Caron. The city of the former mining basin now has another reason to be proud: among its 6,500 citizens is Thierry Bailliet, a small celebrity beyond the borders of Hauts-de-France. “In August, I was on vacation in Etretat (Seine-Maritime) with my wife, laughs the talkative man. I watched a farmer harvest flax. As he approached me, he stared at me and said: “But I know you, you are Thierry, a farmer today! “. “

If the Norman recognized this forty-something, almost fifty, of Pas-de-Calais, it is because Thierry Bailliet has dug his media groove on the Internet. His YouTube channel, Thierry today farmer, has 90,000 subscribers and his more than 860 videos have accumulated 22 million views.

Thierry Bailliet, still at his farm in Loos-en-Gohelle, on September 21. © NICOLAS MONTARD / WEST-FRANCE

He also published a book, In the boots of those who feed us (editions France Agricole), in November 2020. Already sold more than 5,000 copies, the book gives pride of place to meetings with other farmers in the country. The farmer promotes it with a “Tour de France” in a tractor, in stages. At the end of winter he was in Brittany; in early summer in Hauts-de-France; these last days, in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes; at the end of the year, he will travel to Occitanie. What to establish its small notoriety, with the reports carried out regularly by the regional and agricultural newspapers.

A harassed son, the father’s reaction

But how did this farmer become a prominent agricultural influencer? We have to go back to 2013, when the one who represents the eleventh generation of Bailliet living in Loos-en-Gohelle discovers that his son is being harassed in college. “Because of my job. It was quite violent, and we learned it late, at the end of the school year. “ Already sensitized to the web by the animation of a small professional blog for the local Cooperative of the use of agricultural equipment (CUMA), the farmer decides to create a YouTube channel in order to explain to the general public what it is. agriculture today. “I wanted to destroy the image of the peasant with his beret and his pitchfork, like that of the farmer who rides in a 4X4 between his fields. There is a middle ground and agriculture deserves to be explained. “

To decipher it, the farmer gives himself the means. He trains himself in editing tools, referencing, communication. “For me, marketing is not a bad word. “ Once his first video was posted online, after two months of editing, the Northerner forced himself to publish one per day for a month to make himself known. Mission successful, believes the one who returned to a weekly publication rate. Fifty views for the first videos, but some now exceed 200,000 and multiply the comments of Internet users… The subjects are varied, in “This vast domain that is agriculture” : potato harvest, harvest, agricultural techniques… And nothing is forbidden. “Not everyone is showing off thermal gas weed control. But we have nothing to hide. Informing consumers helps fight agri-bashing. “

Ransom of glory, his videos for the general public, like his technical advice or decryption of materials, quickly aroused the interest of agricultural institutions or brands that understood the interest of going through a Youtubeur. Thierry Bailliet thus becomes an influencer paid for it. “I earn around one minimum wage per month, apart from my purely agricultural work, between YouTube ads, on-demand videos from brands and the resulting activities. But I only mention techniques or tools if they are of interest to the farmer. And I can talk about material without financial compensation, simply because I want to. “

At the same time, Thierry’s small business, which we feel commercial at heart, has grown: he has created two other YouTube channels, one specializing in organic (agriculteurbio), the other in equipment ( agricultural techniques). It also produces podcasts broadcast on iTunes or Spotify and sells e-learning training, videos, quizzes and webinars on agricultural machinery to colleagues.

Still a farmer?

Can we still qualify him as a farmer? Yes, he assures loud and clear. This activity is even a form of diversification since most of the time, the videos are made in his own fields where he cultivates 150 hectares of wheat, rapeseed, potatoes, beets in conventional, leeks and salads in organic. “I still work the land half the time, at least 35 hours a week! “ His farm, which also includes an equestrian center-boarding house for horses, also supports his wife, his son, and four employees. He estimates that it brings him, on a personal basis, the equivalent of another monthly minimum wage.

What do his colleagues think of his exhibition? “At first there were some kind of sarcastic people who said I’d better take care of my farm. Today, much less, even if it still exists, I am not fooled! But I have farmers or agriculture enthusiasts who really follow what I do on a daily basis. “

Initial bet succeeded then? Half. By dint of analyzing his audience through surveys, Thierry Bailliet realized that it was three quarters oriented towards farmers or close to the agricultural sector and less towards the general public, the objective at the time of the creation of chain. “Few people search for ‘beet harvester’ on Google, so the mainstream potential remains limited. But I still have a quarter of the 90,000 subscribers who are not from the agricultural sector. “ In the meantime, success has given this agri-youtuber ideas. He now plans to transform his YouTube channel into a real agricultural media by increasing the number of media. Insatiable, the influencer of Loos-en-Gohelle?