Ever since I was a little girl, if I had the opportunity to talk about my family’s turkey farm, I took advantage of it. Minnesota is the top dog for turkey production compared to all other states in the U.S., but not many know this statistic or how farmers raise their turkeys. It all starts with the egg, and eggs are the business my family is in.
I am blessed to be the 6th generation on my family turkey breeder farm in west central Minnesota. Our farm was homesteaded in 1866 by my great-great-great grandfather who was discharged from the Civil War. My great-great grandmother started raising turkeys at the turn of the century for extra income to help feed her family. Her son, my great grandfather, loved turkeys and decided to expand the flock. He and his family spent many weekends showing their birds throughout the Midwest at turkey shows – this was how farmers promoted their turkeys to sell for breeding stock.
My grandfather was next in line and continued that love of turkeys with raising turkeys on the range for meat consumption and raising breeding hens in a barn, while my grandmother was busy promoting the turkey industry with her slogan “Eat more turkey!” When my father joined the farm after graduating college, they both decided to specialize in breeding hens to focus on egg production.
Today, my grandfather (who is the young age of 85), father and uncle all farm full time. My cousins, sisters and I help – it’s not uncommon to find us picking eggs on the weekends or driving grain cart during harvest (we also grow corn and soybeans). I recently got married to an agriculture teacher who grew up on a dairy farm; jumping in to help with chores is nothing new to him, either!
Poults (baby turkeys) arrive on our farm from the hatchery when they are one day old. They will stay on our farm until they are done laying eggs – they start laying at about 7 months old.
The hens (female turkeys) will lay an egg approximately every 25-26 hours for about 8 months. We sell the eggs to a hatchery. Our hens are not raised in cages, but are kept inside a barn. The barn protects our turkeys from the harsh Minnesota weather we experience here, predators such as coyotes, and diseases from wild fowl.
Along with being involved on the farm, I have a full-time job with the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association. I work as their Ag Program Specialist & Membership Coordinator. I wear many different hats where my responsibilities range from managing our association’s membership to communicating with our lobbyist on regulatory laws that affect our farmers to promoting the turkey industry.
I realized at a very young age that it’s important to talk about your farm and how your family makes a living. I was involved in 4-H and FFA growing up, which gave me the opportunity to talk about my family farm. Once I got to college, many of my friends were involved in agriculture but with “4-legged animals” and didn’t understand raising turkeys. I have always believed in appreciating your roots, taking pride in what you do, take a stand on what you believe, and share with others your passion. Following in the footsteps of my grandmother, talking turkey is truly in my blood!
I hope you’ll stay tuned to learn more about how we care for our hens’ day in and day out!