Archives for category: Presidential Turkey


Minnesota expects an invitation from the White House to bring two turkeys to Washington DC the week of Thanksgiving for the annual Presidential pardon. The invitation hasn’t officially been sent yet, but we anticipate that it will come later this fall. We are kicking off the “Road to the White House” at the Minnesota State Fair.


2017 National Turkey Federation (NTF) Chairman Carl Wittenburg and his wife, Sharlene Wittenburg of Alexandria, Minn. are raising the Presidential flock. Five 4-H members from Douglas County are assisting with the project, helping to train the turkeys to become accustomed to light, noises, music, and people.


Saturday, August 26 from 11:00 am – 12:30 pm
4-H Exhibits Building; STEM Center – State Fairgrounds


The Wittenburgs along with the five 4-H members and Minnesota Turkey Research & Promotion Council’s (MTRPC) Executive Director Steve Olson will be available for interviews regarding the kick-off to the White House. The 4-H members can also talk about how they were chosen to assist with this project – through their participation in the Minnesota 4-H “Science of Ag” Contest, in which they won second place.

A table will be set up in the 4-H Exhibits Building with information on how the public can follow along with the flock this fall via the website and several social media platforms.

Fun Facts:


  • 4-H is America’s largest youth development organization empowering nearly six million young people across the U.S.
  • The concept of 4-H is encouraging youth to “learn by doing”, through project areas such as agriculture, science, health, and citizenship.
    • Leadership development is a key aspect of the 4-H program.
  • In Minnesota, over 67,000 youth are active in 4-H.
  • Douglas County is the birthplace of Minnesota’s 4-H program.

Presidential Turkey

  • 2017 marks the 70th anniversary that turkey farmers across the United States have presented a turkey to the President of the United States at Thanksgiving time.
  • The National Turkey Federation (NTF) presented the first turkey to President Harry S. Truman in 1947.
  • Early National Thanksgiving Turkeys were destined for a dinner plate until President George H.W. Bush began the official tradition of pardoning the turkey in 1989.
  • Minnesota has had 12 people serve as the National Turkey Federation Chairman – and present a turkey to a President – since the NTF’s inception and 2017 will mark the 13th NTF Chairman from Minnesota to do so.

Turkey Farming

  • Minnesota ranks #1 in United States for turkey production – with 450 family farmers raising 46 million turkeys on 600 farms across the state.
  • Minnesota has more independent turkey farmers than any other state in the U.S. Many of these farmers come from 4th, 5th, and even 6th generation farm families.

Minnesota Turkey Growers Association (MTGA)

  • The Minnesota Turkey Growers Association (MTGA), established in 1939, represents the 450 farms and farm families who raise 46 million turkeys annually.
  • Minnesota turkey farms are family – and often have been in the family for 4, 5, and even 6th generations.

National Turkey Federation (NTF)

The National Turkey Federation (NTF) strives to support, grow, and promote turkey across the United States.

Did you catch this terrific video piece from CNN about Minnesota’s Presidential turkeys?  Check it out!

And here’s a video piece from Politico:

Other media links:

Wall Street Journal          For Thanksgiving turkeys, presidential pardon takes practice


Time Magazine                 10 things you probably didn’t know about presidential turkey pardons                       President Obama pardons Thanksgiving turkeys,,20761491,00.html                      President Obama crowns victor of turkey ‘Hunger Games’

Photo gallery:


Washington Post             Popcorn the turkey wins presidential pardon, but Caramel also spared


New York Times               History of the Presidential Turkey Pardon


New York Daily News      Sibling of turkeys getting presidential pardon has a different fate, as food for the    needy at The Salvation Army


Associated Press              Obama pardons turkeys as part of annual White House rite


Pioneer Press                    This Minnesota turkey drew the short straw


Star Tribune                      So far, this Minnesota turkey is one lucky bird

* Includes Minnesota Turkey video footage, photos and a link to our micro-website


Star Tribune                      Minnesota turkeys win White House pardon


Star Tribune                      Minnesota continues grand tradition of not pardoning turkey                   Several blog posts


The Huffington Post       Obama pardons national Thanksgiving turkey


Dakota Student (UND)   Burkels to talk turkey at White House


India Times                        America’s biggest shopping weekend (turkey pardon mentioned)


Washington Times          Inside the Beltway – Obama Plan: Raise Money, Then Pardon Turkey                  What it takes to get a Presidential pardon


Canada Poultry                Standing proud                             Minnesota turkey goes up for presidential pardon


Staffer blog                         Recap of pardoning week

The Presidential Turkeys are Off to DC | via

Have you seen the photo we posted on Facebook earlier today? It’s the Presidential turkeys making their way to Washington DC in the back of their vehicle – looking very comfortable, we might add!

We just heard tonight – via the driver of the car – that the birds are loving Lady Gaga. Everytime they hear “Bad Romance” they gobble!

You can’t make this stuff up.

Obama Foodorama Blog on the National Thanksgiving Turkey 2013  | via

Check out this great post from the Obama Foodorama blog – it’s all about the Presidential turkey and the Burkel family from Minnesota – along with some historical tidbits about the National Thanksgiving Turkey ceremony, an annual tradition since 1947 when Harry S. Truman was president.


This week, we’re in the midst of several school visits in the Twin Cities. We brought two of the turkeys from the Presidential flock in Badger down to the Twin Cities last weekend and they are now making the rounds at several urban and suburban schools.

It’s great fun, as for the most part, these kids have never been this close to a live turkey before. We present information on turkey farming, Thanksgiving and the Presidential flock – and then give them a chance to meet the turkey in person. Plus, our newest staff member, Erica, grew up on a turkey farm so that brings the connection even closer.

Kids always ask the best questions – and they are always super curious about the snood (the fleshy piece of skin hanging off the turkey’s beak). As we’ve mentioned before, the snood on tom turkeys doesn’t serve much of a purpose except that hen turkeys think it’s pretty special. (And yes, the kids thinks that’s pretty funny!)

We dusted off the following video, which we used a couple of years ago for similar school visits – there are a couple of dates wrong, but the information is good and the format is fun for the kids.

Plus, we added this video, which introduces the Burkel family from Badger to the kids:

Enjoy a few of our photos from our school visits – it’s been a fun week!

Presidential Flock - School Visits in the Twin Cities | via

Presidential Flock - School Visits in the Twin Cities | via

Presidential Flock - School Visits in the Twin Cities | via

Presidential Flock - School Visits in the Twin Cities | via

Presidential Flock - School Visits in the Twin Cities | via

Presidential Flock - School Visits in the Twin Cities | via

Just in time for the weekend … check out this fun video of folks from Minnesota getting their gobble on!  Most are from Badger High School – filmed by Alex Burkel. If there was ever a turkey video worth sharing with your friends, this is it! :-)

Last week, two classes from Badger Elementary School visited the Presidential flock, learned more about raising turkeys and, in the process, helped acclimate the turkeys even further to lots of noise and commotion. The photos below are of the kindergarten and 5th grade classes.

John and Joni Burkel’s two youngest children, Emily and Jack are part of those classes, as well. Emily is a kindergartner and Jack is a 5th grader. Judging from these photos, it looks like everyone had a great time learning about turkeys!

Presidential Turkey Flock 2013 | Student Visits on the Farm - via




Jack handing out turkey toes

Presidential Turkey Flock 2013 | Student Visits on the Farm - via






Presidential Turkey Flock 2013 - from Minnesota | via

This post is purely for fun and entertainment! One of the Badger High School students was in the large turkey barn at the Burkel farm last week and found herself a friend – or dancing partner, perhaps!

We couldn’t resist creating this video – thanks, Kate, for giving us permission!

What would you name these 2013 Presidential Turkey Hopefuls? from MN | via

Have you heard? Female turkeys really dig the snood!

But what is the snood? And the wattle for that matter?

Check out this short video featuring Alex Burkel, whose family is raising the Presidential flock in Minnesota this year. Alex points out the wattle and the snood – no thanks to a photobombing turkey – and also explains that turkeys have about 3,500 feathers or so.

Turns out, a snood’s main function in life is to attract the girl turkeys (or “hens”) to the boy turkeys (or “toms”).

See it really is true – chicks dig the snood!


Team Presidential Turkey 2013: Meet the Burkel Kids | via

Hi, my name is Andrea Burkel. This year my family has been given the honor to raise the turkeys for the Thanksgiving Pardoning with the president, so I thought I’d start out by introducing everyone!

First I’ll talk a little about myself. I am currently 17 years old and a senior in Badger High School. I’m planning to attend college at UND (University of North Dakota) after I graduate. My interests include volleyball, golf, band, and choir.

My older sister, Vanessa, is 19 and currently attending college at UND. Alex, my 15 year old brother, is a sophomore at Badger. He loves playing his trumpet and is also involved in one act plays, basketball, and golf.

My other brother Jack is 10 and in fifth grade. Right now he’s hooked on the video games Minecraft and Call Of Duty: Black Ops II. He’s also learning to play trumpet and likes to play outside, jumping on the trampoline and playing in the tree house that he and Alex built in our backyard last summer.

Emily, the baby of the family, will be turning 6 in December. She’s in kindergarten this year. Emily loves to play dress up and often has tea parties with the rest of us kids and all of her dolls.

I’ll be posting more later about caring for the presidential turkeys with my family and friends! Stay tuned… :-)

Team Presidential Turkey 2013: Meet the Burkel Kids | via

We’ve had quite a few visitors to our farm this month because friends and family want to come check out the Presidential flock! It’s great practice for the turkeys – they need to get used to people being close and taking their pictures.

Team Presidential Turkey 2013: Meet the Burkel Kids | via

Here are a couple of the turkeys, preening for the camera – see how their feathers are all puffed out? They do that to show off!