On the frontlines Hadricks encourage producers to advocateWritten by Natasha Wheeler
Deadwood, S.D. – In March 2002, an article in the New York Times provoked Troy and Stacy Hadrick to take action as advocates for agriculture. On Jan. 16, they spoke at the Young Farmers and Ranchers Conference in Deadwood, S.D. to encourage other producers to do the same.
“In his article ‘Power Steer,’ Michael Pollan tracked a steer from birth to dinner plate. When the article came out on that Sunday, it sent shock waves through the entire beef industry,” stated Troy.
The Hadrick family spoke to Pollan over the course of a year, sharing their ranch and their lifestyle.
“When he wrote that article, he told people that we were abusing our cattle, polluting the air and water and the product that we grow was going to make people sick,” Troy said.
The Hadricks’ herd health program, rotational grazing for improved grass and devotion to their lifestyle had not been portrayed the way the family had shared it with the author.
“We are not going to let anyone else tell our story for us ever again,” noted Troy.
Troy and Stacy now work together to motivate producers to tell their own stories so a positive message about agriculture can be shared with the world.
“How do we get started?” Stacy asked. “We just strike up a conversation.”
The first step, she said, is to develop a 30-second “elevator speech” that includes the producer’s name, where they are from and how they are related to agriculture.
“Hello, my name is Stacy Hadrick. My family farms and ranches in north central South Dakota and raises the beef that your family eats,” she said, as an example.
The 30-second speech opens up a window to talk about agriculture, and many people will take the opportunity to ask a lot of questions.
“One of the things we did several years ago is start a blog,” commented Troy.
Whenever they found an article or headline online that wasn’t true, the Hadricks would post it on the blog and explain why it was incorrect.
“It is a good place for farmers and ranchers to spend a few minutes everyday, learning what was being said about them, so hopefully they could be better advocates,” he explained.
The other advantage was that it gave consumers an opportunity to talk directly to a real rancher and to ask questions about their operation.
“We also started an Advocates for Ag Facebook page, and it’s a great place to share stories,” he continued.
Twitter also held a surprising number of conversations related to farming and ranching.
“We better be a part of those conversations,” Troy added.
The Hadricks advised producers to keep their story simple when they share it with others.
“We don’t want to talk down to consumers, but we want to get on the same page so we can start having meaningful conversations,” explained Stacy.
It was surprising to the Hadricks how simple many consumer questions were.
“They don’t know where to go for accurate sources,” she said.
Close to home
Stacy also pointed out that producers don’t have to go very far to begin the conversation. Many people who live near agriculture are not actually involved in it.
“Talk to people at church or when dropping the kids off at school. We all have that family member who doesn’t understand what we’re doing,” she noted.
She suggested that all producers carry business cards with their phone numbers and email addresses.
“Tell people that they can ask questions,” instructed Troy.
He explained that the people working on farms and ranches every day are the experts, and consumers should be talking to them.
“Do not ask Google where our food comes from. Google has never shown up on our place in the spring to help calve out cows,” he said.
Getting involved at schools was another suggestion from the Hadricks.
“We know that PETA and the Human Society of the United States (HSUS) are targeting our kids heavily. They are sending free materials for our schools to use,” noted Stacy.
She added that it is important to educate young people because it is critical to building their foundations.
“Students love everything we have to say and want to be a part of it,” she added.
Stacy and Troy recognized the amount of work that goes into the everyday lives of farmers and ranchers everywhere but emphasized the necessity of speaking out.
“We still have to get the cows fed and the crops in. The other thing on that chore list is what we are going to do to advocate for agriculture,” Stacy said.
When he heard that Yellow Tail Wine was planning on donating a large sum of money to the Humane Society of the United States, Troy Hadrick developed a home video and posted it on YouTube.
“When we get involved and we use our passion, we can change things from right where we are,” noted Stacy, Troy’s wife.
The 54-second video showed Troy dumping a bottle of Yellow Tail wine on the ground, stating that he did not support a company that did not support agriculture, especially when it was one that relied upon ag.
“All of the sudden, we changed the course of donations from a multi-national company. We never even left home to do anything about it,” explained Troy.
Yellow Tail apologized for their mistake and withdrew the donation.
When PETA came to town, the Hadricks called their friends and neighbors.
“Because of the lack of dairymen in western South Dakota, we knew that they wouldn’t be there to talk about how they do take care of their animals. As livestock producers, we needed to be there,” stated Stacy.
They pledged to donate one gallon of milk to the local food pantry for every gallon that PETA dumped out.
“We wanted to show that not only do we care about our livestock as farmers and ranchers, but we care about our community,” she said.
When they visited the state fair in Syracuse, N.Y., they took a photo album with them full of real photos and shared them with as many fair-goers as they could, including an Italian woman who asked all kinds of questions.
“I took the time to answer her questions, because she went home and told people about how she met a real cowboy who lives in real South Dakota on a real ranch, and owns real cows.”
Even without toting around a photo album, any producer can whip out their phone to share their agriculture story.
“There are things like that we can do that are really simple,” Stacy commented.