Country music superstar Luke Bryan long ago reached a point in his career where he could pack houses at arenas and stadiums. If you want to know why he is going to perform in a field in Norman next month, the answer is peanuts.
Bryan, during a teleconference with media, told a story about being the son of a Georgia peanut farmer.
“I have so many memories of growing up in ag,” he said. “One of the most magical memories of growing up in the agricultural business is, right now, it’s prime to do boiled peanuts, green peanuts.”
Boiling peanuts is an art form, according to Bryan. He said he used to go to the peanut field with his father. They dug peanuts by hand, filled the back of a truck and returned home to taste the reward.
“I remember my dad out there (in the backyard) drinking a beer and I’m out there drinking a cold cola, and we are picking peanuts and putting them in a big 5-gallon bucket,” Bryan said.
“Then we would go in the house and spend 15 minutes washing them and cleaning them and then we would boil them and, an hour later, we are eating our boiled peanuts. That’s just one of the neatest memories you can have with your dad.”
For the 11th consecutive year, Bryan will embrace his roots by staging a Farm Tour at select family farms.
“Just to have that ag background was one of the main reasons why we started the Farm Tour,” he said. “And obviously, I remember being a kid from a rural area and never having big concerts come to my area, so it’s pretty fun to be able to bring out concerts into these areas.”
In 2019, Bryan is taking the Farm Tour to six places it has never been. One of those places is Adkins Farm in Norman. That’s where the six-date Farm Tour will end Oct. 5. Tickets can be purchased at lukebryan.com/farmtour. Because the Farm Tour is coming to Oklahoma, Bayer (which became a tour partner five years ago) will make a $2,000 donation to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.
Asked how Farm Tour locations are selected, Bryan said, “We have a team” that hits the road in a tour bus early in the spring to search for potential sites.
“We will send our team out to meet the farmers and really educate the community on what we are trying to do,” he said. “A lot of times, people don’t necessarily understand what we are trying to do. I think half the time they think my team is not telling them the truth. It’s a pretty funny process.”
Farm Tour locations were initially in the southeast, but the tour expanded westward. This year’s locales include Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Kansas.
Said Bryan: “As we learned we can really, really travel with this thing and try new areas out, my team will call me and say, ‘We are thinking about Oklahoma.’ This year, we are kind of more Midwest. We’ve got Kansas and Oklahoma. We have never been to Kansas and Oklahoma. It’s just an opportunity for us to spread it around a little bit.”
According to Bryan, Farm Tour locations need to check these boxes: Is this a site where it will be easy to set up a concert? Is there an excited land owner who wants to have fun with a tour stop and support it? Can fans get in and out of the site as efficiently as possible?
Bryan said a farm outside of Norman “just felt right.” So here he comes.
“We have always tried to leave these communities better than we found them,” he said. “I can’t say we knocked it out of the park every time. Sometimes, we will go bog a tour bus up in a farmer’s field and we have to go back and make the field better, but it has been an amazing experience and we’ve got so many memories and we’re looking forward to even more memories through the years.”
Bryan shared a memory from the 2018 Farm Tour. He said one of the host families endured tragedy prior to the concert. The daughter in the family was widowed because her husband was killed in a farming accident. Bryan said the Farm Tour concert “was her first night kind of getting out and enjoying herself since losing her husband. I will never forget that. ... I just remember spending time with her. She was just thankful that we were there and she could get out of the house and have some fun. It was somewhat healing for her.”
Continuing, Bryan said he has got so many stories from meeting farmers at past tours. Some were characters with big personalities. Some were shy and wanted to avoid attention. “But at the end of it, we feel like we have always been a positive and fun experience for them.”
The big positive is people are getting fed and educated.
Bryan gives back to farmers by awarding college scholarships to students from farming families who attend a local college or university near tour stops.
Also, Bayer partners with Bryan for a #HeresToTheFarmer campaign. For every hashtag share on social media, Bayer donates a meal to a hungry American through the Feeding America program. Nearly 3 million meals have been donated in recent years, according to a news release.
When the idea of teaming up with Bryan was pitched to Ray Kerins, Bayer’s senior vice president of corporate affairs said he wanted to meet the country star before committing because the company doesn’t do a lot of celebrity engagements.
“The moment I met him I knew here’s a genuine person who truly believes in what he’s doing,” Kerins said, later adding this: “I have not been disappointed from day one. He is a great partner and he is giving me a big hug as we speak.”
When Bryan was asked a how-do-you-juggle-your-career question by the Oklahoman’s Brandy McDonnell, he credited his work ethic to his farm background. As Bryan’s career has grown, so has the Farm Tour. He said between 1,700 and 1,800 people showed up at a friend’s farm in Georgia the first time he did a Farm Tour show. Now the average attendance at Farm Tour concerts is somewhere in the neighborhood of 17,000 or 18,000.
“We have had to get really, really knowledgeable on how to move and build a city,” Bryan said of the Farm Tour logistics. “We are basically a traveling circus three nights in a row and we want to make the best fan experience that we can and we want to leave them with something that they can look back on and say ‘remember when the Farm Tour came to that hayfield right there? We sat out there and listened to music and had a blast.’”
Bryan said it never gets old when he looks out from the stage and sees thousands of people in a field “and it’s pretty mind-boggling to know where we came from.”
Where he came from, really, was a peanut field.