let's talk farm animals

We can all make a difference – one farming story at a time

Stacy and Troy Hadrick

 By Patricia Grotenhuis (with tips from Lilian Schaer)

Everyone has a story to tell, and for Troy and Stacy Hadrick, sharing their story through social media has taken them around the world.

The ranching couple from South Dakota found out the hard way that relying on someone else to tell your story can have unintended consequences.  Since an early media experience in 2002, where an interview with food activist Michael Pollan saw Troy – and the conventional beef industry -  vilified in a feature article, they have vowed to do a better job telling their own story so misunderstandings do not happen again.

“Every single one of us involved in agriculture is a spokesperson,” says Stacy.

Over the years, the couple has found themselves sharing their story with people in the agriculture industry and also with consumers, businesses, activist groups and more.  They are examples of how much one person can do, especially with social media’s ability to allow people to reach so many.
The Hadricks encourage all farmers and ranchers to tell their story.  They stress the importance of bringing your connection to agriculture up when you introduce yourself to someone, opening the gate for conversations.

“Take a couple of minutes to answer questions.  If you’re not excited about the stories you’re telling, they won’t be,” says Troy.

The couple gave both a workshop and a keynote address at the Farm & Food Care Ontario AGM in Waterloo during the month of April.  Speaking to the conference topic, “Building Better Bridges”, they shared a number of stories about how they began advocating for agriculture on a large scale, and the experiences they have had since they began.

Troy and Stacy are daily examples of what they advocate – talking about how important it is to speak up when you hear information being shared which is not factual.  One of the examples of how they have made a difference includes Yellowtail Wine and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

Upon hearing that Yellowtail donated $100,000 to the HSUS, an animal activist organization (which fronts as a humane society but spends less than half of one per cent of its total budget to help animals, according to Humane Watch) Troy took action.  He began by posting on Yellowtail’s facebook page, simply stating he was an American farmer and the donation would impact his family negatively, as HSUS strives to end animal agriculture.  Troy encouraged family and friends to do the same.

Further reflection reminded Troy that he had a bottle of Yellowtail wine in his cupboard.  He proceeded to create a 54 second video of him dumping the wine on the frozen ground while some of his beef cattle look on, explaining why he is dumping the wine and what impact the Yellowtail donation will have on many American families. You can see the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCR_J2fWsKA

The video was uploaded to YouTube and the number of views began accumulating. Troy also started receiving attention from both  Australian media and the Australian government.  Unknown to Troy until this point, Yellowtail’s initial donation was part of a larger commitment to donate $300 000 over a three-year period.  Through his short video and the use of social media, Troy prevented an additional $200 000 from being donated and resulted in an apology to the industry from the company. A response from Yellowtail to the negative publicity said that the feedback “was very helpful to us — in fact, it prompted us to specifically choose the areas where we’d most like to celebrate animals. …We hope that you will understand that this allocation of money is a direct result of hearing your concerns.”

“We changed the future course of donations from a multinational company with social media.  That’s the power of social media,” says Troy.

Food and farming story telling tips- written by Lilian Schaer

Prepare a 30-second elevator speech – a quick description of who you are and what you do. Keep it simple by using words and concepts people will understand. Avoid using industry jargon and lingo, be prepared for the questions people will ask once they hear what you do and be aware of the criticism people have of your industry.

“For most people, meeting a farmer is like meeting Big Foot – they’ve heard it exists but have never met one,” says Stacy. “You only get one chance to make a first impression so make sure you adapt your elevator speech to your audience.”

Build a message map. If you’re asked to do an interview or answer questions about what you do, take a few minutes to gather your thoughts. Pick your topic or key point and support it with three key messages and supporting arguments. This technique also works for writing a letter to the editor, talking to your school board or meeting with politicians. Be careful not to overwhelm your audience with complicated messages or too many numbers, but if you don’t have any statistics handy, don’t make them up

“Always take a few minutes to compose yourself and get some points together,” advises Troy. “You can do this anywhere, in the dust on the dash of your pickup, on a napkin, anywhere – and don’t be afraid to have it sitting right in front of you.”

Stay informed. Know what consumers are seeing and hearing and what some of the common myths are about agriculture. To consumers, a farmer is a farmer regardless of what commodity you produce so you’re likely to be asked questions about all sorts of things people hear or see in the news. Be enthusiastic about what you do – if you’re not excited about what you do, no one else will be either.

“Talk with emotion, not fact and science,” says Stacy. “As farmers we’re not used to being emotional but activists and those who are against agriculture use emotion all the time.”

Become involved. Join the groups in your area. This can be a local chamber of commerce, business association or other organization so you can meet people who aren’t part of your regular agricultural world. These venues provide opportunities for you to speak up about who you are and what you do to produce food. The Hadricks also advise farmers to be active in the farm organizations they belong to.

“Take part in setting policy and be there when they need people to do things,” says Stacy. “We’re all busy but think about what you can do to squeeze a little bit more time to do your advocacy.”

 

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on June 7th, 2012 :: Filed under Activism,Agricultural Advocates,Agriculture Education,Beef cattle,Education and public awareness,Family vs factory farming,Farm life
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Talk ethics

By Leslie Ballentine, Farming and Food Commentator

The question of ethics in agriculture has been an issue that has bothered me for many, many years.   Not the lack of it, but rather why it is something that we in commercial agriculture do not talk about.  Unlike hunters or the medical research community—who make eloquent arguments about the ethics behind killing animals, agriculture’s ethical reasons for raising animals destined to die is somewhat lacking in the public discussion.

In fact I had started writing this blog when a commentary on this very subject landed in my in-box today.

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Posted by FFC on June 5th, 2012 :: Filed under Consumers,Education and public awareness,Speaking out
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Are grass-fed cows better for the earth?

By Leslie Ballentine, Farming and food commentator

It’s no wonder there’s a growing perception that farms which feed cattle on grass for their entire lives, are better for the environment than farms that finish their pasture-raised cattle in feedlots with grain. The image is that the grass is always lush and plentiful and the cattle self feed themselves with little dependence on machinery or other energy consuming equipment. Whether or not science has confirmed this perception is another story.

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Posted by FFC on March 13th, 2012 :: Filed under Beef cattle,Environment,Food,Misconceptions,Retailers,Sustainability
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A lifelong passion for farming educates thousands

 By Patricia Grotenhuis

What happens when you mix a farmer and former school teacher with an urban area?  You get a Learning Barn which provides thousands of people the opportunity each year to learn about where their food comes from.

Mary Ann Found and spokesrobot Owen talk to a young fan about farming

Mary Ann Found always loved teaching children about agriculture.  While her children were young, she would invite their classes to come visit the farm for a tour.  While teaching at a nearby school, she would often bring farming into her lesson plans, and even brought live animals to school from time to time.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on March 1st, 2012 :: Filed under Agriculture Education,Consumers,Education and public awareness,Farm life,Speaking out
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Meet farming’s face of February – Cathy McKay

by Patricia Grotenhuis

A summer job for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food during university led to a life-long love and a diverse business for Cathy McKay. McKay is featured in the 2012 Faces of Farming calendar published by the Farm Care Foundation.

Cathy McKay

McKay’s page is sponsored by the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association. She’s the first apple grower to ever appear in the annual calendar that features the faces and stories of some of Ontario’s farmers.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on February 22nd, 2012 :: Filed under Canada,Consumers,Education and public awareness,Faces of Farming,Farm life,Innovation and technology,Uncategorized
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The Power of Words

Guest Blog by: Sarah Hubbart, Communications Director, Animal Agriculture Alliance

Last week, I came across interesting new research on effective communication strategy that was conducted on behalf of the Humane Research Council (HRC), VegFund, and the Farm Animal Rights Movement, three organizations that work to promote a vegan diet.

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Posted by FFC on February 20th, 2012 :: Filed under Activism,Education and public awareness,Research,Speaking out,Vegan
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Agriculture is the Future

by Kristen Kelderman, Farm Animal Care Coordinator, Farm & Food Care Ontario

Deciding on your career path fresh out of high school at the ripe young age of 18 is a difficult decision for many young adults. The options are endless and the stakes are high. Four years ago, my heart was set on becoming a physiotherapist; I was fascinated with anatomy and wanted to help people through the recovery process. But on my first visit to the University of Guelph campus I felt an instant connection and came to the realization that my true calling was agriculture. I have never looked back since and have no regrets.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on February 16th, 2012 :: Filed under Agriculture Education,careers,Education and public awareness,Future of Farming,Speaking out
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Harvest 4 Hunger

by Patricia Grotenhuis, lifelong farmer and agricultural advocate

Hunger relief efforts by the Canadian Foodgrains Bank have been given a big boost by a group of farmers, who set a world record in the process.

Although there were several date changes due to the weather forecast, on October 5, 115 farmers combined a 160 acre soybean field simultaneously in Perth County, Ontario in an event called “Harvest 4 Hunger”.  The crop was harvested in 11 minutes and 43.9 seconds, according to the release sent by the organizers.  Although it was not fast enough to beat a Manitoba wheat harvest record as the fastest harvest ever, it was a great effort.

More importantly, though, it raised approximately $250,000 for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank to use towards fighting hunger around the world, exceeding the $200,000 goal set by event organizers.

Following the harvest, an auction was held to sell the soybeans.  The release also states the first bushel sold to the public brought $1000, and the first two lots of 1,600 bushels sold for $36 per bushel to the grain trade, which is well above market value.  It is estimated the yield was 8,000 bushels.

In addition to the crowd of approximately 3,000 people who watched the event, there were also two fixed wing aircraft, three helicopters and many video cameras documenting the harvest. 

Once the final weights of grain are known, organizers will have a more accurate total for the amount of money raised.  On the day of the event, lunch was available by donation to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, and the public can “donate a bushel” for $20 on the Canadian Foodgrains Bank website. 

The link for the website is: https://secure.peaceworks.ca/cfgb/donate/donation_make_form?notes=Donate%20a%20Bushel to donate a bushel.

Canadian Foodgrains Bank is a partnership of Christian churches and Christian-based agencies.  It is active in hunger relief efforts in developing countries.

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Posted by FFC on October 12th, 2011 :: Filed under Canada,Consumers,Education and public awareness,Farm life,Feeding the world,Food,Media,Sustainability of the family farm
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In praise of the Fall Fair

By Leslie Ballentine, Farm and food commentator

The local fair means more than just Ferris Wheels and Beaver Tails- they are also the chance for neighbour to meet neighbour and city to meet country.  They are a part of our national heritage and culture. Fairs have been organized in Canada by local Agricultural Societies for more than a century. Though fairs (and farms) do look different than they did 100 years ago, they continue to serve many of the same purposes.

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Posted by FFC on September 26th, 2011 :: Filed under Consumers,Education and public awareness,Food,Rodeos
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Educating yourself on calorie intake

by Patricia Grotenhuis, Lifelong farmer and agricultural advocate

When talking about global food production and global food requirements, calories are often used as the unit of measurement.  You may hear statements such as “there are enough calories produced to feed the entire world”.
How are those calories distributed, though?  On average, North Americans eat more calories than they require…a lot more.  In other countries, people eat a lot less than their body requires, which leads to hunger problems.  Even if they were distributed equally across all countries, simply looking at calories is not enough to gauge whether or not people will be getting what they need from food.

Malnourished used to be used strictly to refer to people who were going hungry, but now, it can also be applied to people who always have enough to eat.  Why?  It is all in the calories we consume.  If a person eats prepared foods or fast food on a regular basis, they may obtain an entire day’s worth of calories in one meal!  If just calories are considered, it looks as if they are doing quite well.  If you start looking at the rest of the Nutrition Facts labels for the food they ate, you will see a very different story.  None of the other nutrients are being consumed in the proper ratios.  Fat, sodium, carbohydrates and sugars are often high, while fibre, vitamins and minerals are low.

As consumers, we have to start educating ourselves on how to read the nutrition information on our food labels and learn how to make healthier choices.  Talk to a registered dietician or your doctor about making simple changes in your eating habits to stay healthy.

It is a hard adjustment to make.  I have been trying for years, especially since becoming a mom.  Even though I know how my family should be eating, I find myself longing for those chocolates or, the odd time, picking up prepared foods because they seem so fast.  Our society is so dependent on these prepared foods that it can seem impossible to cut them out completely.

If we are going to improve our health and combat malnutrition, we have to find ways to make the necessary dietary changes, though.  It could be as simple as not walking down the junk food aisle at the grocery store so you will not be tempted to buy any, or replacing your regular afternoon snack with some fruit and yogurt, but we have to start somewhere.

While looking for good, wholesome foods, reach out to the farmers in your area.  No one can tell you better about what is in the food you are buying than the person who raised the crops and animals.  Take advantage of local food maps, farmers’ markets, and on-farm stores to begin fighting malnutrition.  You might just find a new favourite food or learn about agricultural practices in the process!

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Posted by FFC on August 19th, 2011 :: Filed under Feeding the world
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