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From YouTube to Corn and Beans

If you didn’t grow up on a farm and didn’t inherit one, would you own a farm…or several…before your first quarter century on earth? Grant Hilbert does. And his path to get there may make you rethink all the times that you chuckled at people who make videos on YouTube.

Hilbert had a dream to become a farmer. So, he became one as a gamer first and later financed his dream with the success that he had. “That was always the goal as a kid to start your own farm somehow. Whether it’s at 50 years old, 30 years old. Work towards it,” Hilbert said.

Hilbert lives in Ankeny, a suburb of Des Moines, Iowa. When he was 15 years old, he and a friend started playing games on YouTube for others to watch. (If that sounds like a crazy thing to do, talk to anyone under the age of 30 and have them explain it to you.)

“It just started taking off,” he said, almost incredulously about the channel’s rapid growth in followers. “I’ll call it agriculture, teens, adults…just started watching these stupid farm videos.”

Apparently, they weren’t so stupid after all. Of all the games Hilbert played for his YouTube audience, farming ones were the most popular. So, he focused on what was working. Those games where players experience life on the farm also foreshadowed what was ahead for him.

His commitment to post one video a day paid off after several years. By the time that Hilbert was old enough to legally drink alcohol, he had amassed about 1.3 million YouTube followers. As the month of May began, Hilbert’s farm gaming channel had 1.52 million subscribers. That’s a bountiful harvest.

YouTubers with that number of followers don’t have to make videos for fun. They can make real money. Hilbert did. And that’s how it financed that boyhood dream to become a farmer, not just the gaming kind.

Hilbert formed a company, Squad Built, and set out to design his own farm gaming software, instead of playing someone else’s game. That game, American Farming, launched in November 2023.

Hilbert used his YouTube revenues to make some investments. And the combination of the two helped him finance his dream: He became a farmland owner. But he wasn’t finished.

The next venture for the young entrepreneur may not surprise you. He created another YouTube channel. The original channel, aided by his American Farming game, still flourishes with the gaming community.  

The new channel follows his life as a new farmer. He already has 166,000 subscribers to the channel. It’s real. It’s not glamorous. It’s the day-to-day toll of starting a farming operation with all the ups and downs that come with that.

Video: Here is Hilbert discussing how he bought his first farms, sold them, bought new farms and now farms side by side with his brother. He also discusses the benefits of 1031 exchanges.  

Video: Hilbert made this video to show how he got ready for spring planting and bought his first planter. Watch that here. 

“Literally just document the journey of a kid starting from scratch and I show all the failures…everything,” Hilbert said, “I try to keep it as real as possible.”

RELATED: Grant Hilbert’s brother, Spencer, also posts videos on YouTube about his farm operations. Here is one where he begins his expansion to oats and alfalfa. 

It’s an unusual path to the farm. But Hilbert has created a financially sustainable plan to do it with multiple income streams, a brother by his side, and a nationwide following that provides support and feedback along the way.


American Farmland Owner Hayfields mountains


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