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.
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.
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.