Editor’s Note: Please read the story below with the situation currently facing the Tennessee Walking Horse in mind.  The tremendous amount of negative publicity currently being spread about this horse is unprecedented and neither the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association nor the Walking Horse Owners Association has offered one word of rebuttal.  This story is a vivid example of what can be done by us as individuals.  Please take it to heart!

It’s very important and all the buzz these days – tell your story.  If you are in the Walking Horse business, you need to tell your story!

I was recently sent an article by Deborah Williams that was printed in the Farm and Ranch Guide and it tells the story of a battered industry (agriculture) and what two people did about it.

Troy and Stacy Hadrick raise cattle and their troubles began with an article in the New York Times.  A New York food writer named Michael Pollan wanted to write a story about a steer from birth to dinner plate at Stacy’s parents’ ranch.

“Pollan came out and ate dinner with us and lied to us.  The story that ran said the Hadricks abused their livestock, polluted the air and grew food that made people sick” Troy said.   This misleading and critical article of their profession made them mad enough that they decided to get their story out to counteract all the lies, distortions and misrepresentations.

Obviously they were motivated to protect their livelihood but realized that only 2% of the population is involved in agriculture and the rest believed what they heard and read.  They began by learning how to communicate outside their peer group and prepared what they termed a “30 second elevator speech “to tell the public what they do , whether they are asked questions at a church buffet, on an airplane, at a grocery store or after a meeting.

They stressed the need to go into schools and talk about their profession to youth.   Stacy said “You will be a rock star to those kids.  Why aren’t you taking the time to shape future generations.”  Fellow ranchers bought in to the plan and the true story began to spread across the country. 

Next they turned to Facebook and started Advocates for Agriculture.  When something positive about agriculture was put on someone’s wall, they can hit share and it would go out to all their friends – and it doesn’t cost anything.

They started a website (www.advocatesforag.com)  that told their story and enabled others in agriculture to tell their story. Troy says “one person in ten tells the other people how to vote, where to eat and what to buy and those in agriculture need to tell their side.”

They utilized YouTube in a unique way.  A certain Australian wine company had donated $100,000 to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), a group that spends only a small fraction of its money on the care of animals.  Troy was upset that this wine company depended on farmers to grow their grapes and HSUS was trying to put ranchers out of business.

So he and Stacy put a little video on YouTube.  They took a bottle of that wine and went out in their bull pen and poured it out and explained why they were doing it.  Troy linked their video to the company’s web page and there were 800 views the first day and between 2,000 and 5,000 the following days.

Next thing an Australian television network called them for an interview and the 15 minute interview was played in Australia.  Troy relates that “Fifteen days after this thing started, the wine company emailed them that they would no longer donate to HSUS.  They were going to donate $100,000 annually for three years and they cancelled the following two years.”

“We changed the future of donations and we didn’t have to leave home to do it,” Troy said.  “You can broadcast your story anywhere. Never forget you have influence on what others think of agriculture.  Let’s tell our own story.”