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An open letter to the Minnesota turkey industry

Over the past several months, the boards of directors of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association and the Minnesota Turkey Research and Promotion Council have been engaged in the process of restructuring the two organizations with the intent to refocus our efforts on the interests and needs of the Minnesota turkey industry. This process started as the direct result of several members expressing concern regarding the current and future direction of our two organizations.

Immediately after the summer meeting concluded in June, longtime Executive Director Steve Olson resigned from his position.  Not long after, in mid-September, Lara Durben and Teresa Sorenson submitted their resignations and have elected to move on to other opportunities. We appreciate all that they have done for our organizations and the Minnesota turkey industry and wish them well in their new endeavors.  The sudden resignation of these three individuals has left a temporary void regarding the staffing levels in the office but at the same time has provided us with the opportunity to restructure our missions from the ground up.

The members of the MTGA and MTRPC boards remain committed to the Minnesota turkey industry and are looking for ways to streamline our efforts and budget while remaining focused on the priorities of research, grower education, and supporting our growers. We have hired an outside consulting firm to guide us through the process of refocusing our goals in order to come up with a long-range plan.  Once achieved, the process of searching for an executive director to fit our new needs and direction will be one of the primary goals.

We are moving as quickly and diligently as we can and ask our members to please be patient with us as we continue through our strategic planning process and executive director search. We will be reaching out to our members and other key stakeholders throughout this process; please speak up and let us know how our organizations can better serve our industry.


The Board of Directors of the MTGA
The Board of Directors of the MTRPC


Episode #26 – Turkey Grow-out Farms

We’re excited to continue our “Turkey Mini-Series” on What The Cluck!

It used to be, 30 years ago, where a turkey farmer would have breeder hens and toms, hatch the eggs and raise the turkeys all on the same farm.  Farmers have since specialized so they can focus their knowledge on a particular segment.  Each of the episodes focuses on one of these aspects of raising turkeys and talk about the expertise needed to produce safe, affordable and abundant turkey protein.

In the latest episode of “What The Cluck!”, host Steve Olson is joined by Scott Heymer, owner and manager of Red Bridge Farms in Princeton as well as vice president of the Minnesota Turkey Research & Promotion Council (MTRPC) Board of Directors. We focus on what happens at a turkey grow out farm, where either hens or toms can be raised and take different amounts of time to reach market weight. Scott Heymer talks specifically about how housing management, monitoring health, excellent nutrition and modern genetics all contribute to the success of growing out a turkey. And you’ll learn that Scott makes his own turkey feed in the family’s feed mill that was started by his father in the 1960s.


Episode #25: MTGA Summer Conference

In episode #25 of What The Cluck! Podcast, host Steve Olson is joined by Paul Kvistad, a turkey grower from Wood Lake, Minn. and the current MTGA President. The two discuss why MTGA Summer Conference is a can’t miss event and the stellar education program. They encourage all members to attend and use the education program as a resource to bring back useful information to the farm.

In the second segment of the podcast, host Olson interviews John Hausladen, President & CEO at the Minnesota Trucking Association and former MTGA Executive Director (1982—1996). The two discuss MTGA through a historical lens including the proud 80 year history and the evolution of the Minnesota turkey industry. Despite the changes in technology and genetics, one thing remains constant and that’s the people or as Hausladen said it best, “Characters who [are] full of character.”

Learn more about MTGA Summer Conference and register here.
Check out the MTGA Summer Conference education program.


Episode #24: Importance of turkey hatcheries

In episode #24 of What The Cluck! Podcast, host Steve Olson is joined by Demetrio Barajas, a hatchery manager with Select Genetics. The two discuss all aspects of a turkey hatchery including incubation, poult uniformity, walk through the various stages of eggs at the hatchery and share the ideal conditions inside the hatchery for the turkey eggs.

In the second part of the episode, Demetrio discusses the process a poult goes through after hatching until it reaches the customer at a grow out or breeder hen farm. The turkey industry continues to utilize science and modern technology to create the ideal hatchery environment for new poults in addition to carefully timing and monitoring individual steps throughout.

To learn more about Select Genetics: https://select-genetics.com/
To learn more about Aviagen Turkeys: http://www.aviagenturkeys.us


Episode #23: Turkey smoke competitions add flavor to summer

In episode #23 of What The Cluck! Podcast, summer is heating up with turkey smoke competitions as host Steve Olson interviews Beth Breeding, vice president of communications and marketing for the National Turkey Federation, Leslee Oden, vice president of legislative affairs for the National Turkey Federation, and Joey Machado, brand manager for B&B Charcoal.

Learn about turkey as a versatile protein that takes on various flavor profiles, how the National Turkey Federation is investing in barbecue contests to increase the awareness of turkey in the barbecue community, and competition stories and grilling tips from barbecue expert Joey Machado. NTF is excited to bring turkey smoke to a competition near you! Have fun trying your hand at the grill this summer and experiment with turkey to create delicious flavor combinations.

Follow the National Turkey Federation (Serve Turkey) on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and be sure to tag them in your photos of grilling or smoking turkey at home. Follow #turkeysmoke and #tryturkey to join the online conversation.

Learn more:
National Turkey Federation: www.eatturkey.org 
B&B Charcoal: www.bbcharcoal.com


Episode 22: Poultry Health Management School continuing education opportunities

In episode #22 of What The Cluck! Podcast, host Steve Olson is joined by Dr. Darrin Karcher, poultry extension at Purdue University, Madison Taylor, partnership and outreach coordinator at Ferndale Market, and Todd Smith, quality assurance at Daybreak Foods. Dr. Karcher serves on the Poultry Health Management School executive committee and both Madison and Todd are former turkey/broiler and layer school attendees, respectively. The four discuss the opportunities PHMS provides for poultry farmers and their employees seeking continuing education to incorporate into their farm business and how that ultimately benefits the end-user consuming poultry products. Dr. Karcher gives insight on how topics and speakers are decided each year while Madison and Todd share their previous experience attending; the knowledge attendees receive and hands-on skills learned add unique value to the companies represented at the school.

Poultry Health Management School | May 13–17, 2019 | Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Learn more at www.PoultryHealthSchool.com.

Genetics vs. Gene Modification: A Useful Tutorial!

One of our allied members, Hendrix- Genetics (which owns Hybrid Turkeys), posted this terrific video showing a great explanation of genetics versus gene modification. Since not all of us are science people around here, we thought you might like to view it too. It’s a quick video that helps dispel a lot of the confusion between these two terms. Check it out!

Looking for more information? Visit the Hendrix Genetics website and Facebook page! You can find Hybrid Turkeys here and here.

Minnesota Turkey: A Trusted Source of Information

Recently Fair Oaks Farm – a major dairy and pork agritourism operation in Indiana – was targeted by animal activists. Hannah Thompson-Weeman of the Animal Agriculture Alliance wrote an outstanding blog post for Meatingplace.com on Fair Oaks Farm’s response, which was exactly right at the exact right time.

Hannah wrote: “I’d like to commend Fair Oaks on its bold, transparent approach. The company quickly issued a public statement via social media to inform customers and others about the situation and has continued to respond to comments and publish additional content related to the matter, including video commentary from the owners. While the statement has attracted some of the usual comments from activists, it has also drawn out responses from strong supporters of the farm.”

Hannah went on to write that because Fair Oaks took such a quick, proactive approach to the situation, they were able to essentially “own” their own narrative. And interestingly enough, the animal activist group has not even released the video yet – likely because they are rethinking their strategies, according to Hannah.

All of this speaks to the importance of building up a “trust bank” when it comes to customers and consumers.

According to Hannah: “Fair Oaks has made countless deposits to its trust bank over the years through each positive customer interaction, and now the brand is able to draw against that goodwill and be trusted to handle this situation appropriately.”

This is exactly what Minnesota Turkey does each and every day as we create written and video content about growers and their farms, and we post to our social media platforms and our website. We want consumers to get to know the farmers and turkey companies; we want to show them all the ways Minnesotas turkey farmers strive to do what’s right – with their birds, with their products, with their businesses, with their family farms.

Why is this important?  We can look no further than the 2015 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) outbreak or the recent salmonella recall on ground turkey last November to see it makes a difference. Consumers look to Minnesota Turkey as a trusted source of information and their comments to us on social media suggest they are strong supporters of what you do.  And the relationships we have built with reporters over the years has been paramount to making sure our messages are heard.

We take all of this very seriously. We strive to be honest, transparent, and we want to earn that trust. We will continue to build turkey’s “trust bank”. And know that we will be ready to address our industry’s critics if we need to on behalf of our members.


Episode #21: Egg nutrition and education during Easter

What The Cluck! - the podcast of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association and the Chicken and Egg Association of Minnesota

In episode #21 of What The Cluck! Podcast, host Steve Olson is joined by Ashley Richardson, Senior Director of Marketing Communications for the American Egg Board (a check-off organization funded by American egg farmers). The conversation kicks off discussing the Egg Nutrition Center, the Egg Safety Center, and AEB’s iconic brand – the Incredible Egg. Learn how the egg is a nutrition powerhouse at an affordable price point. AEB is involved in several education activities during the year and with Easter coming up, Ashley highlights the 141st annual White House Easter Egg Roll and presenting the 41st Commemorative Egg. Lastly, the two discuss eggs in schools and how AEB works with key influencers including nutritionists and registered dietitians.

Find Easter egg recipes and egg decorating tips at www.incredibleegg.org/Easter.

To learn more about the American Egg Board, go to www.aeb.org
To learn more about their sister site, Incredible Egg, go to www.incredibleegg.org
Or find them on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram


What is UMASH?

Get to know us – We’re UMASH

(Note from the blog editor: We thought this would be a great opportunity for you to get to know UMASH and what it does to keep farmers and workers free of injuries. Read on to find out more!)

The Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center (UMASH) is all about keeping farmers, farm families, and workers injury free and healthy in their occupation.  The center began in 2011 with funding from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).  Here is a brief video, which describes our center and the work that we do.


Over the last year UMASH has worked with others on supporting farmers during this low economic time by bringing attention to stress, depression, anxiety and other effects of the downturn.   We have a stress and mental health page on our website dedicated to this purpose.  Here you will find items such as:

  • Farm Safety Check on Stress and Wellness
  • Signs and Symptoms of Stress
  • Helpline numbers
  • Recorded webinars on Cultivating Resiliency (a partner project)
  • Resources from other partners both nationally and in the Midwest

Get to know us more by visiting our website and learning about the additional safety and health resources we offer.  Questions?  Email us at umash@umn.edu or call us at 612.625.8836