Meet Lynette Gessell – Sharing Our Family Farm Experiences

Meet Turkey Farmer Lynette Gessell | via MinnesotaTurkey.com #minnesotaturkey #turkeyeveryday #turkeyfarming

Lynette’s family in a recent photo on the family’s farm.

There weren’t many cars parked around the church as I headed into Sunday Mass this weekend, in the small central Minnesota town I call my home. The sounds of muffled gunshots reminded me why the crowd was sparse.  It was the last day of the firearms deer season and the hunting crews were out on a last push to fill their tags.  In that walk into church, I could hear the rattling of a corn auger and a tractor engine, and in my mind, I could envision the river of corn flowing out of a gravity box into the hopper as a whiling auger carries the corn up into the bin, with wafts of red chaff blowing off the corn and into the wind, covering the ground making it look like red snow.  An additional pause in my walk, allowed me to hear the revving of a combine as a farmer Gary prepared to make his way to take more corn off the field, likely because some storage space had been freed up making room for more corn.  A glance to the north and I can see 10 vehicles parked in the farm yard.  It’s time for all hands on deck to bring in the harvest of venison and corn.

Hearing the familiar sounds like the combine, the auger and the gunfire have meaning for me and I can easily context them in the experience of living and farming in a rural community.  They ground me in the pattern and predictability of life.

Lynette Gessell | WingTips Blog | Minnesota Turkey Farmer

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to carry the memories of growing up on a dairy farm and now active on a turkey, beef and crop farm.  The richness in the fall rituals of hunting and harvest touch a deep place within me, one that brings comfort, gratefulness, excitement and pride.  I feel sad for people who have not had the opportunity to experience farm living and rural communities.  There is nothing glamorous about the experience, but I believe it is through living the lifestyle and the “hands on” of farming that brings one to fully understand why farming is considered a vocation verses a job and why people yearn for a place in the country.

I look forward to the opportunity to share our family experiences of living and working on our turkey, beef and crop farm.  I am humbled to think that you will use your valuable time to read my posts. I sincerely hope, that at the end, my effort will honor your time and intellect, by providing something you will enjoy reading, perhaps gain new knowledge, enjoy a chuckle, or for other farmers out there, the resonance of a shared experience.

My husband John and I live in Central MN where agriculture in all forms is the primary industry.  We are surrounded by hard working folks who watch the weather, watch the markets and watch their pocket books.  A tally of the various farming operations in the neighborhood include beef, corn, soybeans, honey bees, hay, vegetables, strawberries, broilers, dairy, hogs and turkeys.

I write this blog post in mid November just as people begin to think about the upcoming holiday season opening with Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is obviously an important time of year for the turkey industry.  The food we raise, turkeys, becomes center stage for our North American holiday.  To be an integral part of the long tradition of families gathering together at Thanksgiving makes me very happy.

John is the third in his paternal line to take on the business of raising turkeys.  Our daughter and son in law joined us as growers too, and so we mark four generations of raising turkeys.  We raise light hens.  Light hens are female turkeys.  They are delivered to the farm when they are one day old.  We take care of them of on our farms until the hens weigh thirteen and a half to fourteen pounds.  The birds are then loaded onto semis and transported to Melrose where they are processed by Jennie-O Turkey Store.  The whole bird is then placed into Jennie-O packaging, ultimately making its way to the grocery stores for consumers to purchase and enjoy.

Our primary job is to take care of each and every turkey, each and every day, and get each and every turkey to the plant in premium shape for Jennie-O to make great products.  It is important that we as independent growers, along with the entire turkey industry, do whatever is under our control to ensure that the turkeys that make their way from our farms, into the grocery stores and onto the dinner table of families on Thanksgiving and all year long will be the most appetizing turkey ever!

I hope you have gotten to know me a bit in this first post.  Oh, my name is Lynette.

I am at the end.  Was your time well spent?  Let me know on Twitter Lynette@LynnBackGess – I would love to hear from you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Pete Klaphake – Proud to be Part of the Ag Industry

Meet Turkey Farmer Pete Klaphake | via MinnesotaTurkey.com #minnesotaturkey #turkeyeveryday #turkeyfarming

The Klaphake brothers, their sons, and their father – photo taken a few years ago on one of the family’s farms.

As way of introduction, my name is Pete Klaphake and I am a third generation turkey farmer from Melroe, MN.  I am part owner of Klaphake Feed Mill, Inc and R&L Turkeys.  We raise around 30 million pounds of hen turkeys primarily marketed as frozen whole birds you find in the freezers of grocery stores.  We also manufacture and haul all the feed our birds consume out of our feed mill.

I am personally involved in running the day to day operations of the turkey farm side of our business.  I do this with my dad, Rick, and my cousin Ashley’s husband, Matt.  Our feed mill is run by my uncle, Leon, and his son, Chris.  My mom, Deb, my aunt, Mary, and her daughter Ashley help keep our office running smoothly.  We employ around 25 people between the farms and mill.

Our operation is a combination of 33 fully owned barns, 6 partially owned barns, and 6 leased or contracted barns on 14 farms.  All of our farms are in the central Minnesota area.  We try to keep as many of our farms with single age birds to help control disease.  This means all the birds on most of our sights were usually hatched within 1 day of each other.

I grew up working on our farms, however, I never thought this is what I would do for a living.  I graduated from St. John’s University in 1999 and still had no plans of becoming a farmer.  It took less than 6 months after graduation to change my mind.  I was sick of tying ties and polishing shoes.  I missed being outdoors and lacing up work boots.  It was a tough decision and there were some days I regretted it at first, but looking back now it was one of my best.  I truly do love what I do especially when I get to care for the birds.

Turkey farming is a very demanding lifestyle.  Live animals need attention 24-7 and we have always have birds somewhere in our operation 365 days a year.  Also, there has been a lot more paperwork and record keeping that has come along with what we do.  It can be difficult at times to keep up what is going on with my family.  I am lucky to have a wife who keeps things in line at home.  Her name is Brenda and fortunately, she grew up on a dairy farm.  She understands the farming lifestyle and what it is like to care for live animals.  She realizes I might not be home some nights till our children are in bed or she might have to pick them up at one of the farms when she is done working because I still have a few hours to work to finish. This makes things go so much smoother in our lives.

Meet Turkey Farmer Pete Klaphake | via MinnesotaTurkey.com #minnesotaturkey #turkeyeveryday #turkeyfarming

Pete and Brenda and their three spunky children!

We have 3 spunky children: Abby who is 8, Wyatt who is 6, and Isaac who is 3.  We live on one of our farms between Sauk Centre and Melrose.  They love living in the country and the boys like to go with me to check the birds quite a bit (I am still trying to work on getting Abby to help more but she is better at coming up with reasons to stay out of the barns than I am at getting her to step foot in).  This is by far the best part of turkey farming.  Being able to enjoy the ups and downs with family.  To help control something that was started over 50 years ago, try not to screw it up too much and maybe have the potential to pass it on to another generation.

Meet Turkey Farmer Pete Klaphake | via MinnesotaTurkey.com #minnesotaturkey #turkeyeveryday #turkeyfarming

Growing up on a turkey farm definitely has its perks! :)

I look forward to continuing to share with you various aspects about our industry.  My goal in deciding to do this is that we are able to make readers aware of the time and care we put into our birds and why you should feel confident in choosing to put our product in your shopping cart or on your plates.  I want to be open on topics and issues we face in our industry and how they affect all of us.  My family eats a lot of turkey and we wouldn’t if we didn’t think it was safe.

Our feed trucks have a logo on the side of them that says, “Proud to be Part of the Ag Industry”.  Such a simple statement but it has never been more true than right now.  If you eat turkey often, thank you.  If you don’t, please try it, you might be surprised.

Pete

What Do Consumers Want?

Animal Agriculture Alliance consumer panel

The Animal Agriculture Alliance held its annual stakeholders conference in early May in Washington DC. This is always an excellent conference that tackles a myriad of hot topics and important issues for poultry and livestock, as well as agriculture in general.

This year, organizers did something a little different to kick things off. They pulled together a panel of seven grocery shoppers from the DC area and asked them a few questions about food and agriculture. The kicker? The shoppers initially didn’t know they would be sitting in front of an audience full of farmers, ranchers, and agriculture representatives.

The results were fascinating!  As Hannah Thompson, communications director for the Animal Agriculture Alliance, wrote in her weekly blog post for Meatingplace.com this week, “One of the biggest takeaways for me is that there is no “the consumer” – while it’s easy to make generalities, each individual grocery shopper has their own priorities and opinions. Even among our panel of seven there were distinct opinions on buying organic, wanting to see more of the slaughter process and which grocery stores were best.

Thompson also noted that while there was little consensus about food and farming from the panel, the group did skew on the very skeptical side about our food system. According to Thompson, “Because of all the conflicting information they hear about food, they are left skeptical of most claims and information sources. In a word association question, one panelist responded that “natural” was “not necessarily a good thing,” while another called the term free range “bogus.”

The good news is, these panelists are hungry for information about where their food comes from and want to connect with more farmers via social media.

So what does this mean for turkey farmers and our industry? It means that you must continue to put yourselves “out there” in whatever ways are comfortable for you.

  • Do you love to write? Then our Minnesota Turkey blog might be just the ticket and we’re looking for regular bloggers.
  • Do you love social media? Then think about a Facebook page for your farm.
  • Do you like snapping quick photos or videos on your phone? Then Instagram is an ideal place to share those images.
  • Not into social media? Then think about joining Minnesota Turkey’s speakers bureau to get connected with civic organizations and school classrooms.

You can view the full panel discussion from the Animal Agriculture Alliance here – starting at about the 4:38 mark. It’s well worth a look-see!

And if any of the ideas above sound interesting to you, please feel free to contact Lara Durben, MTGA Communications Director, at 763-682-2171 or ldurben@minnesotaturkey.com for more information.

Looking Back on 2014

As we move toward a new year, we took a few moments to capture 2014 in photos. This video highlights the people and events that made this a most amazing 75th anniversary year for the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association. Check it out – and Merry Christmas!

Minnesota Turkey – By The Numbers

It’s #FarmFactFriday and we’re sharing a new infographic all about Minnesota’s turkey industry. Did  you know:

  • Minnesota has 450 turkey farmers – many of whom come from 3rd, 4th and even 5th generation farm families!  (You can learn more about our farmers’ family connections here.)
  • Every turkey raised in Minnesota brings over $17 of economic impact to the state. Multiple $17 times 46 million birds raised each year, and that’s a lot of economic impact!
  • Farmers in Kandiyohi County raise the most turkeys in Minnesota.
  • Minnesota is home to three turkey processing companies – Jennie-O Turkey Store, Turkey Valley Farms and Northern Pride Cooperative. Collectively, these companies employ nearly 8,000 people.
  • The Minnesota Turkey Growers Association was formed in 1939 – that’s 75 years ago!

Check out the infographic for even more fun facts – and save this for Thanksgiving. It will give you some great conversation starters for the big meal!

Minnesota Turkey - By The Numbers Infographic

Coming Soon – Our New Blog!

About MTGA Turkey

A major goal with our new website debut is to add a blog all about Minnesota’s turkey farmers and the business of raising turkeys. This space is where we’ll bring in a variety of people to write about what life is like raising turkeys, along with folks who work for companies that supply the turkey industry (like construction, feed, bird health and more). We will also have a few Minnesota Turkey staffers write occasional updates on what’s happening, and we’d love to answer your questions, too!

Stay turned and watch our website for more information. We’re in the process of signing up writers now and will be back in early 2015 with new posts!  In the meantime, if you have any questions for Minnesota Turkey, please leave them in the comments section below or email us at info@minnesotaturkey.com. You can also follow our various social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

See you again soon!