As an avid fan of technology, 33-year-old Dai, whose TikTok nickname is “Dai Bac Kan,” began making videos documenting his life on the farm and his travels to the forest to harvest nature’s varied bounty wild in late 2021. He figured out how to film and edit videos on his own, as well as how to add music and voiceovers.
Luu Quang Dai, 33, on a wild forest harvesting trip in 2022. Photo courtesy of Dai
Dai, a member of the Tay ethnic community who lives in the remote northern province of Duong Phong town in Bac Kan (Bach Thong district), said that at first he only had a cheap smartphone use.
Since there was no one to help him, he placed his phone on a bamboo stick and spoke to the camera. Several times he had to reshoot his shots because the camera was out of sync.
“My first videos were filmed in the forest because I didn’t want other people around me to think I’m weird,” Dai said.
Dai’s wife, Ly Thi Xuan, 28, from the minority ethnic Dao community, said that at first her husband’s strange hobby irritated her because she didn’t understand why he did it. It seemed like an unnecessary waste of time.
While walking in the forest, she wanted to finish her work quickly in case of rain, but he stopped to make videos. At home, while tending to their livestock and children, her eyes were glued to her phone.
“I can’t count the number of times I got angry with him,” she said.
But then Dai’s videos started showing up on the trending page and his view count started skyrocketing. When Xuan saw his face light up reading the comments, she realized there was good in what he was doing. She then started appearing in videos with him and he no longer needed to talk.
Videos of the couple harvesting bamboo shoots and catching crabs, or clips of the happy couple sharing a modest meal at their home have become popular with social media users. Many of their videos have reached 5 to 7 million views, and his TikTok account and Facebook page have tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of followers.
Comments praising the couple’s difficult but happy life have become commonplace:
“Your videos have given me strength in my most difficult moments in life.”
“I cried and felt sad and happy watching your life.”
“You’re so sweet and down-to-earth. If you keep this up, you’ll be sure to sell a lot of product.”
Luu Quang Dai (middle) in a still from a livestream selling products in Yen Bai province, September 23, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/ Phan Duong
In late 2022, after posting a video showing the family’s tangerine garden, people began asking if they could buy the fruit. So Dai started selling through Facebook. Under each of his posts, hundreds of people began submitting their orders.
He contacted the post office to determine the best way to transport his produce, then began carefully selecting each fruit to ensure he shipped the best.
Mandarins arriving in Hanoi, Thanh Hoa and Nghe An provinces quickly gained a reputation for remaining fresh for three days or more after arrival. After running out of tangerines, he turned to selling produce on behalf of his neighbors.
In April 2023, Dai was invited to join a program organized by TikTok and local authorities that offered courses on how to sell agricultural products on social media. They set up a booth for him, and Dai made new friends across the country when he joined an online community dedicated to selling online. He also learned how to create his channel and, most importantly, how to broadcast live.
He enthusiastically began participating in similar programs throughout the country, as far north as mountainous provinces like Bac Giang and Yen Bai, and as far south as Dong Thap province.
Enjoying the advantage of a moderately popular account, Dai’s early live streams attracted hundreds of viewers. Traditional products made by his family, such as glass noodles, dried bamboo shoots, jiaogulan tea and papaya flower tea, have become favorites among viewers.
Even with their initial success, Dai and Xuan were still farmers unfamiliar with the online camera. Some livestreams generated no sales. Nevertheless, they motivated each other to continue.
In May, they only sold 60 orders for a total of 14 million VND. The situation improved in June, when they received 408 orders and earned 95 million VND. In July, they received 560 orders and made 132 million VND. In August, 1,300 orders worth VND365 million.
Then one of their scheduled feeds ended up on the trending page before they even went live. When Dai started broadcasting, more than a thousand people were already tuning in.
The stream ended up selling 700 orders of jiaogulan tea in just over half an hour.
“I had to turn it off after 40 minutes because we had nothing left to sell,” he says.
“Before all this, my wife and I earned at most 200 million per year, despite all our hard work. Today, thanks to online sales, we can earn between 150 and 200 million per month,” he said. he declares.
Late last year, the couple formed a cooperative group to help other farmers sell their produce. They wanted to popularize the lesser-known specialties of Bac Kan, a province rarely visited by travelers, throughout the country. Currently, their group has created three full-time jobs and ten part-time jobs.
According to Hoang Thi Ha, vice secretary of the Bach Thong district union, Dai and Xuan have been regional pioneers in integrating digital platforms in the rural agricultural sector. Recently, Dai was among 10 people from Bac Kan province to be officially recognized by local authorities for their contributions to popularizing digital transformation in less tech-savvy regions.
Looking back on how far they have come, the couple said that in the past, they simply relied on each season’s harvest of oranges and tangerines. However, every year the prices of these fruits would inevitably fall, leading to the deterioration of unsaleable fruits. With this new way of selling online, they no longer worry.
Dai and Xuan are now working together to advise other farmers to seize the opportunity to make videos about their daily lives, from planting to harvesting. It’s a matter of “if you build it, they will come.” Once a farmer’s channel is effectively designed, customers will come on their own, according to Dai.
For this TikToker, no matter how famous or successful he becomes, he will never give up farming.
“I can make my farming more sustainable and use more technology, but deep down I will always be a humble farmer,” he said with his usual modesty.