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Canale Farms Flourishes Despite Difficult Economy and Fire


2011/11/06




By Pam Gamble

Drew Canale of Canale Farms proudly announced their 25th year in business in Fayette County, TN.  It’s true that the farm is not what it originally was.  It has evolved and changed, allowing it to be successful even in this down economy.
Canale Farms has always been a family farm.  Drew stated that he and his wife Allison have been equal partners throughout the years.  Drew’s Mom, Helen is the booking manager for Canale Farms Corporate Events.  Drew’s two daughters, Valarie and Leslie, both have worked at the farm since they were old enough to walk.  Drew reminisces, “Leslie’s first grade teacher asked all the students to stand and state their name.  When it was Leslie’s turn, she stood up proudly in front of the class and said, ‘My name is Leslie Canale Farms’. “   Both Leslie and Valarie are currently attending Mississippi State University.

How it began:
Drew’s love of horses began as a youngster when Walking Horse Trainer Neil Robison let him ride the smooth riding, high stepping horses in his barn. The Hickory Whithe native became friends with Ray Gilmer and Charlie Weddington, both trainers of World Champion Walking Horses.

 This love of gaited horses has stuck with Drew his whole life. After returning home from school with a law degree, Drew began the first incarnation of Canale Farm.  Drew got involved with the Spotted Saddle Horse breed in the early years, as The Spotted Saddle Horse Breeder’s and Exhibitors Association was formed in 1985 in Shelbyville, TN. Drew was on the forefront with this beautiful and versatile offshoot of the Tennessee Walking Horse.

During the years that Canale Farms was a Spotted Saddle Horse breeding and training facility, Drew owned, trained or handled top notch horses.  World Champions such as “Chocolate Soldier”, “Seminole Chief”, and “Dirty Harry” were standing at the farm, and their offspring were making a name for Canale Farm.

Even during the early days, Drew did not “put all his eggs in one basket.” In an effort to keep his barn full, he offered boarding for area horses. Drew freely mixed breeds and disciplines in his barn. He thinks that different breeds and disciplines should have an open dialogue with each other as this can lead to camaraderie and education.

Drew’s next experiment with his property was a “Paddock Club.”  Canale Farms presented itself almost as a Country Club or Tennis Club with horses.  Members could trail ride and use the nice horses at the Farm and at the end of the Month they would owe fees depending on how much time they had spent in the saddle.  The Paddock Club was moderately successful, but another idea had already taken hold with the Canales.  

A New Idea:
In 1995, Drew quoted a price for a birthday party at his Farm.  Surprised at the quick deposit on the event, and encouraged by his neighbor, Davy Johnson, Drew and his wife Allison realized, “This is what we need to be doing!”  From those early days of event hosting, Canale Farms soon blossomed into a premier corporate event center. 
The Canale family had settled in to their new lives as event coordinators when unforeseen circumstances challenged them.  Their original barn burned in July 2010, sparked from an accident with a battery. David Fowler at Fowler Paving demolished the old barn and laid a new foundation. Drew’s friend Hunter Burris of Hunter Burris Concrete laid the concrete in the new barn. Then Raymond Helmuth and his four sons, Lyndon, Anthony, Conrad, and Ryan, a local Mennonite family, stepped forward to help their neighbor with an old fashioned “barn raising.”Chris Morris of Chris Morris Contracting handled the electrical work.

The result is a modern barn with a 220 ft main hallway, with 10 12X12 stalls along one side.  An area available for a second row of stalls was left open for event fun, such as mechanical bull rides. The barn has spacious crossties, feed and tack room, with an addition not found in most barns: The Paddock Club Saloon, which Drew calls the “Man Cave.” 
The “Man Cave” is an entertainment center with a rustic lodge theme.

Canale Farms’ events are tailored to the client’s requirements, whether they be family reunions or professional retreats.  Parties from 150 to 5,000 people can be done, but Drew said the most common are events for 600-800 people.

The hundred acre farm is still home to twenty or so horses and ponies. Pony rides are given regularly for the children because, Drew said, “Kids have to have that first great experience with a horse or we may lose a generation.  The kids have to come in and smell the sawdust and the horse sweat.  This is the way that they get interested in learning more about horses.”

The Canales stand a stallion, a Palomino Tennessee Walking Horse called “Jokers Gold Dust.” Joker is a direct descendant of Trigger, Jr., Roy Roger’s horse.  Joker is the unofficial greeter of visitors at the farm, from his turnout by the front gate.

Drew Canale and Family are determined to adapt and change as needed to stay on their farm.  For more information about Canale Farms, visit their website: www.canalefarms.com.

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