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Meet Grey Parks

New Co-op equine specialist provides valuable resource for customers, employees
Story and photos by Hannah Lewis 6/26/2020


Lincoln County native and horse enthusiast Grey Parks joined the Co-op team in February 2020 as the new Tennessee Farmers Cooperative equine specialist. She will be working with horse owners and Co-op employees throughout the system to provide valuable expertise and training.
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"I just got the gene,” says Tennessee Farmers Cooperative Equine Specialist Grey Parks. “You know, the little girl horse gene, and, much to my parents’ chagrin, I never outgrew it.”

Lincoln County native and horse enthusiast Grey Parks joined the Co-op team in February 2020. She attended Tennessee Tech University and earned a Bachelor of Science in agriculture before pursuing a graduate degree at the University of Kentucky, where she received her Master of Science in Animal Science. She returned to Tennessee to teach animal and horse science at TTU and UT Knoxville. Because of her time in teaching and educating at UT Knoxville and Auburn, Grey feels prepared for the task at hand.

“For teaching horse and animal science you have to know your stuff and be ready to answer questions,” says Grey. “I have gotten a lot of silly questions and a lot of hard questions, but that has made me prepared for this role. There isn’t much I haven’t been asked.”

Grey now shows and raises Arabian/half Arabian working western horses but harbors a love for all types of equine and especially enjoys showing them. She looks forward to helping horse lovers in Tennessee because each individual is so unique.

“Our equine industry in Tennessee is incredibly diverse,” says Grey. “We have a lot of people who have a horse or two in the backyard and are trail or weekend riders. We obviously have the walking horses, and we have a lot of quarter horses. We have a growing sport horse segment made up of the hunter/jumper/dressage/eventing enthusiasts. We have people raising race horses. We have almost every [type of horses] you could think of — minis, drafts, and the whole nine yards.” 

With the variety comes challenges in meeting the needs of horse-owning Co-op members and store employees. Grey says she is up for the task. 

“To work with people in the industry you have to appreciate everything about horses,” says Grey. “I love horses, obviously, but I also love people. I love helping them and solving problems, and as a nutritionist, especially, that’s my work. It’s kind of like solving a giant jigsaw puzzle.”

As part of her responsibilities, Grey serves as a resource to help horse owners and educate Co-op employees and staff. 

“The big push for me is continuing to grow TFC as an equine product and service provider, especially promoting the Pinnacle line of feeds,” she says. “I think there are a whole lot of horse people in this state that don’t come from an ag background. They may have grown up in Nashville or in Memphis or somewhere else, and they don’t necessarily think of Co-op first because it’s not a system they’re familiar with since they don’t see themselves necessarily as farmers. A priority for me, especially in this first year or two, is to let them know they are farmers, and they are our customers. We are here to serve them and to help them develop closer connections to those segments of the industry.”

Grey will also focus on educating horse owners about their animal’s health and nutrition needs. Providing proper care for a horse requires a total approach.

“It’s about putting together all the pieces,” says Grey. “It’s a lot of moving parts — the horse, the person, what kind of hay that owner has access to, what they’re doing with their animal, a feed that’s going to meet the horse’s needs, the owner’s needs, and any preferences. It’s really fun for me. It’s never the same, which I appreciate. Every day is different.”

To make this puzzle easier for everyone, Grey pioneered the Pinnacle Feed Finder. A series of questions to help every horse owner or Co-op store employee find the perfect Pinnacle formula for any situation.

“It can be really confusing to walk into a feed store and see seven million different products,” says Grey. “On top of that, everyone claims [their product] is the best, and every one of them looks really similar. I wanted a tool that our customers and our store staff could very easily, within just three steps, figure out where to go with a horse.”

Grey was only on the job for one month before the COVID-19 quarantine began. However, she found a way to remain productive during the stay-at-home order. She began to get her message out through social media. She has used Facebook and Facebook Live to interact with horse enthusiasts and answer questions. 

“The idea of doing the Equine Essentials Facebook Live was Joe Huffine’s [TFC Feed, Farm, Home, and Fleet Division manager],” she says. “I like it because it’s allowing me to connect not only with our customers, but some of our employees who I haven’t even met but are watching these videos and getting training.”

Grey is enthusiastically looking to the future and getting to work on her new assignments. She says she is most comfortable on the road, visiting stores and meeting with customers.

“Everybody in the Co-op system has been so wonderful and supportive during this weird transition for the last few months,” she says. “I think, hopefully, that comes through to our customers as well. We talk about being your hometown store, and we are.”

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