A lot has changed since my last Minnesota Turkey blog post – I am no longer the Ag Program Specialist and Membership Coordinator at the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association. I recently got the opportunity to return home to be the 6th generation on my family farm. I’ve been full-time on the farm now for one month and am blessed beyond belief that I get to continue our family tradition of raising turkey breeders (along with my husband who is also a high school agriculture teacher).
I want to take this opportunity to briefly talk about one of the many reasons Minnesota turkey farmers have been successful over the years and continue to be. Many of the turkey farms in Minnesota are multi-generational – consisting of 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th generations. Knowledge is passed down from generation to generation.
On my family farm, there are currently three generations working together – myself being the youngest and my grandfather the oldest. This past month, I’ve been working alongside my grandfather – he is the ripe age of 85 and continues to be instrumental on our farm. The experiences my grandfather has gained and the changes he’s seen in farming are irreplaceable. Even though I’ve grown up helping on the farm my entire life, there’s a partial lack of understanding based on inexperience in keeping a business running, hen behavior at every age, disease symptoms, analyzing farm inputs, and managing the ventilation system and temperature in the barns with the changing Minnesota weather, to name a few examples.
I believe what impresses me the most is how we as a family and the turkey industry as a whole, have continued to improve how we raise and care for our turkeys. Because we now raise our turkeys in barns, we are able to raise turkeys year round in a comfortable temperature. My grandfather has told me stories of shoveling turkeys out of snow that were buried in an early fall snow storm, or pulling turkeys out of mud after a heavy spring rain. We are now able to vaccinate for many diseases that my grandfather and his family fought to prevent from sickening their turkeys. The feed our turkeys consume at every age fulfill their requirements – a turkey hen laying eggs has different mineral and vitamin needs than a poult (baby turkey). Turkeys are curious creatures, so our waterers and feeders are bright colors such as green, red, and yellow – which help encourage poults to drink and eat.
How we raise turkeys today is very different from how my grandfather’s family raised turkeys many, many years ago. Through the years, he has learned many things that are getting passed down to me. Many of those things are helping mold me into a better farmer and a better care taker of our turkeys.