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State Aid Set for Minnesota Turkey Farmers


Rebecca Groos
Minnesota Turkey Growers Association (MTGA)
Ph: 763-682-2171 (office)

Application deadline is December 1, 2020

BUFFALO, Minn. – The Minnesota Turkey Growers Association has been working for months with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) to secure financial assistance to Minnesota turkey farmers impacted by the COVID pandemic. This week, MDA unveiled the Turkey Market Loss Cost-Share Program to help turkey farmers and the industry weather what has been a challenging time for farm families.

“As a third-generation turkey farmer, you think you have seen it all. However, COVID has put a strain on farmers that no one could have prepared for and we are grateful for this aid,” said Paul Kvistad, Minnesota Turkey Growers Association President and farmer from Wood Lake.

MDA’s Turkey Market Loss Cost-Share Program provides financial assistance to farmers who marketed fewer liveweight pounds during March – September 2020 due to COVID-19. To mitigate losses during the pandemic, the industry pivoted quickly and utilized several different options. These decisions meant farmers saw a loss in production – putting a squeeze on farm families.

“While our farmers live with risk every day and roll with the punches, this aid from Governor Tim Walz and Ag Commissioner Thom Petersen is the shot in the arm we needed heading into our most important season – Thanksgiving,” said Sarah Anderson, Executive Director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association.

Turkey farmers uncertain of whether they qualify for funds should first review the application on the MDA website at: Questions about securing the necessary liveweight pounds statement from the Minnesota Turkey Research and Promotion Council should be directed to or call 763-682-2171.

All applications must be received by December 1, 2020 at 4:00 p.m.

Funding for the cost-share program was made possible by the federal CARES Act provided to Minnesota by Congress and distributed by Governor Tim Walz.

The Minnesota Turkey Growers Association (MTGA) is a trade group representing over 450 turkey farmers across the state. Many of our farmers come from multi-generational family farms. Our organization also represents turkey processors and industry stakeholders. Together, we advocate for the interests of the Minnesota turkey farmer and industry as a whole.

To learn more about MTGA visit Find us on Facebook (@MinnesotaTurkey), Twitter (@MinnesotaTurkey), Instagram (MinnesotaTurkey) and YouTube (MinnesotaTurkey).



Governor Walz Proclaims June 24-28 as “Minnesota Turkey Growers Week” for MTGA’s 80th Anniversary

For Immediate Release


Lara Durben, MTGA Communications Director

763/682-2171 or


Buffalo, MN (June 24, 2019) – Governor Tim Walz has proclaimed the week of June 24-28 as “Minnesota Turkey Growers Week” in honor of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association’s (MTGA) 80th anniversary.

MTGA was formed in 1939 by a group of turkey farmers from across the state who wanted to create a more formal organization for education, research, product promotion, and connecting growers with each other.

“The founding farmers of MTGA had the vision and foresight to create an organization that ultimately helped the industry grow into the powerhouse it is today,” said MTGA President and turkey farmer Paul Kvistad, Wood Lake, MN. “They were truly visionary leaders in terms of what they saw was possible for turkey production in Minnesota.”

Even in those early years, the partnership turkey farmers formed with the University of Minnesota was instrumental in building the organization and strengthening all aspects of turkey production – including nutrition, bird care and animal husbandry, and bird health.  That partnership – along with the relationship built with the Minnesota Board of Animal Health – remains at the core of the MTGA mission to foster a successful turkey industry in Minnesota for growers as well as a provide, safe, delicious, affordable protein for consumers around the world.

“These partnerships combined with the entrepreneurial spirit and wherewithal of Minnesota’s turkey farmers and turkey companies – both in terms of on-the-farm production and product development –  is an incredible part of MTGA’s history,” said Kvistad.

Approximately 450 turkey family farmers from Minnesota raise about 42 million birds annually. Minnesota remains steadfast at the #1 position in the U.S. for turkey production. Current U.S. turkey production stands at approximately 242 million annually – which means Minnesota farmers raise nearly 18% of all U.S. turkeys

Minnesota has the most independent turkey farmers of any state in the U.S. and is also home to three successful turkey processing companies – Jennie-O Turkey Store in Willmar, Northern Pride Cooperative in Thief River Falls, and Turkey Valley Farms in Marshall.  These companies collectively have created over 2,000 turkey products for the consumer and foodservice markets that are shipped across the country and the world.

Each turkey raised in Minnesota brings $17.46 in economic value to the state – which means Minnesota’s turkeys and the farmers who raise them generate over $800 million in economic activity for the state.


About MTGA

The MTGA, founded in 1939 and located in Buffalo, MN, is a nonprofit association dedicated to fostering a successful Minnesota turkey industry and its ability to make positive contributions to consumers, the economy, the environment and its members. Minnesota is currently ranked #1 for turkey production in the U.S. with its 450 turkey farmers raising an estimated 42.5 million turkeys in 2018. Minnesota has the most independent turkey farmers of any state in the U.S. For further information, visit or find us on Facebook: and Twitter (@MinnesotaTurkey).

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 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.

Thanksgiving 2018 Recap

Thanksgiving 2018 is officially in the books, and although nothing turned out quite as we planned, Minnesota Turkey ultimately made a very positive impact in a variety of ways.

Where was the Governor?

For the first time in decades, MTGA did not co-host a Thanksgiving presentation with the Governor of Minnesota. Unfortunately, Governor Mark Dayton was at Mayo Clinic until just before Thanksgiving, recovering from some complications from back surgery. The situation was out of our hands and we’re glad to hear the Governor is doing well.

Hunger Solutions Minnesota Donation

Despite the lack of a press event with the Governor, MTGA continued its proud tradition of donating turkey to our partners at Hunger Solutions Minnesota. (see press release) This donation – amounting to 12,350 pounds and announced on November 21 – is made possible, in part, by sales from our Turkey To Go restaurant at the Minnesota State Fair. Since 2001, MTGA has donated over 286,000 pounds of turkey to food banks and food shelves across the state!


Facebook Live Farm Tour at Zimmermans

Live … from the Zimmerman Turkey Farm

MTRPC partnered with Minnesota Ag in the Classroom to go live on Facebook for a virtual tour of one of John Zimmerman’s turkey barns outside of Northfield, Minn. Originally we were going to travel to a turkey barn in the Melrose area this year, but because of the low pathogenic avian influenza situation in that area, we gave John a call and he graciously agreed to pinch hit. He did an outstanding job, the Facebook Live session was filled with questions from classrooms across the state, and the video has been viewed over 1,700 times so far. Thank you, John and also a big thanks to the crew at Minnesota Ag in the Classroom spearheading this event. and Minnesota Department of Agriculture for handling the technology behind-the-scenes. View the video here.

Agweek interview with Chris Huisinga

AgWeek Talks Turkey with President Huisinga

MTGA President Chris Huisinga and his wife, Joi, were gracious hosts of AgWeek’s general manager, Katie Pinke, and her staff the week prior to Thanksgiving. Katie wrote a great article about the couple and their move from the corporate world back to the family tradition of turkey production. A segment also aired on AgWeek television. AgWeek is owned by Forum Communications, a multimedia news company with locations across ND, SD, MN and WI. The company includes print, online, television, and radio outlets. View Article  |  View Video (story starts at 8:42)

And Speaking of AgWeek ..

When Katie Pinke wrote a piece on about doing away with the National Thanksgiving Turkey pardoning ceremony at the White House, staffer Lara Durben just had to respond to give a different viewpoint. “The National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation brings our nation’s turkey farmers to the media spotlight every year – that’s a good thing and we’re lucky to have it. Let’s continue to use that time wisely,” she wrote. View article

Sharing the Minnesota Turkey Story

University of Minnesota Extension collaborated with our office to share some fun tidbits about Minnesota’s turkey industry in an article titled, “Six Savory Facts About Minnesota Turkey.” The article included information about raising turkeys in barns, biosecurity, turkey eggs, and some great tips for leftovers. Thank you, Minnesota Extension! View article

Did You Happen to See the Recall?

The Friday before Thanksgiving, Jennie-O Turkey Store recalled 91,000+ pounds of ground turkey due to Salmonella Reading concerns. Minnesota Turkey worked with the National Turkey Federation to track misinformation about the recall on social media and use our digital spaces to remind consumers about safe food handling – at Thanksgiving and all year long.

NTF put out a digital press release on its website. “The turkey industry takes food safety very seriously. In July, as soon as USDA and CDC made the turkey industry aware of the possible link between Salmonella Reading illnesses and raw turkey, the industry leapt into action. More than 20 turkey companies representing virtually all U.S. turkey production formed a task force charged with developing strategies to control this strain. Companies participated regardless of whether they sell raw turkey products or whether Salmonella Reading had ever been found in their turkeys.”

To be clear, the CDC has not recommended that consumers avoid turkey. However, the sheer number of ‘clickbait’ headlines on social media was daunting, to say the least. It seemed most media outlets shared information about the recall with a photo of a whole roasted turkey – NOT the ground turkey about which the recall was based.

Minnesota Turkey responded to as many of those clickbait headlines as we saw. And in one particularly troubling news report from KARE-11, staffer Lara Durben wrote a direct response from Minnesota Turkey on KARE’s Facebook page. That post was shared over 1,800 times and viewed by almost 180,000 people – clearly the most “viral” post Minnesota Turkey has ever created! You can read the response here.

We also put together a special food safety podcast with the help of NTF, who lined up special guest Shelly Feist, executive director of the Partnership for Food Safety Education. You can find that podcast (#11 for What the Cluck!) here and on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you find your podcasts.

Food Safety Graphic

Food Safety Message Continues!

Food safety is an important message to send to consumers throughout the year. After all, 22 million turkeys are eaten at Christmas! Just a few simple steps – clean, separate, cook and chill – can help families have a safe and healthy meal when preparing turkey. Minnesota Turkey will continue to tout this message on our social media platforms and utilize a variety of National Turkey Federation resources on this, including informational graphics, fact sheets, and videos.

Whew! What a Thanksgiving season, right? Let us know if you have any questions or would like to follow-up on any information we shared here. You may direct any questions to Lara Durben at or 763/682-2171.


Minnesota Turkey Donates 12,350 Pounds of Turkey to Hunger Solutions Minnesota


For Immediate Release


Lara Durben, MTGA Communications Director

763/682-2171 or


Buffalo, MN (November 21, 2018) – Minnesota Turkey Growers Association (MTGA) – the nonprofit organization that represents the state’s turkey farmers and turkey companies – has announced a donation of 12,350 pounds of turkey products to Hunger Solutions Minnesota.

President Chris Huisinga, a turkey farmer from Renville, Minn., says the turkey products will be distributed to food shelves and food banks across Greater Minnesota.

“Thanksgiving has always been a special holiday for Minnesota’s turkey farmers – all about tradition and giving thanks for our many blessings,” said Huisinga. “Many Minnesota families, however, struggle to put food on their tables. Through our annual partnership with HSM, we hope to help ease that struggle over the holidays.”

For Huisinga and his wife, Joi, this donation is even more special to them as they are wrapping up their first full year as turkey farmers. Huisinga has more than 70 years of turkey farming in his family history, and in 2017, he and his wife joined that legacy by starting a new farm.

“Farming and extending the family legacy in agriculture is important to us. We are grateful for the opportunities we’ve been given to raise turkeys,” said Huisinga. “Because we have so many blessings, we feel it’s important to give back to those who may need some extra help, and our fellow turkey farmers in Minnesota join us in that commitment.”

Since 2001, MTGA has donated over 286,000 pounds of turkey to various areas of the state, which will feed 381,000 people in Minnesota. These product contributions have been made possible by Minnesota’s turkey farmers and MTGA allied members as well as a portion of the sales from MTGA’s Turkey To Go restaurant at the Minnesota State.

Hunger Solutions Minnesota, a comprehensive hunger relief organization that works to end hunger in Minnesota, will coordinate the purchase and distribution of the turkey. One in six Minnesota families struggles to put healthy meals on their tables.  The need for emergency food relief continues to be a problem in Minnesota.

There are more than 3 million visits to food shelves in Minnesota every year. Volunteering or making a donation to Hunger Solutions Minnesota is a great way to help.

Approximately 450 turkey family farmers from Minnesota raise about 42.5 million birds annually. Minnesota remains steadfast at the #1 position in the U.S. for turkey production.

Current U.S. turkey production stands at approximately 242 million annually – which means Minnesota farmers raise nearly 18% of all U.S. turkeys. Approximately 88% of all Americans will eat turkey at Thanksgiving, according to the National Turkey Federation.

MTGA was founded in 1939. Minnesota has the most independent turkey farmers of any state in the U.S. and is also home to three successful turkey processing companies – Jennie-O Turkey Store in Willmar, Northern Pride Cooperative in Thief River Falls, and Turkey Valley Farms in Marshall.  These companies collectively have created over 2,000 turkey products for the consumer and foodservice markets that are shipped across the country and the world.

Each turkey raised in Minnesota brings $17.46 in economic value to the state – which means Minnesota’s turkeys and the farmers who raise them generate over $800 million in economic activity for the state.


About MTGA

The MTGA, founded in 1939 and located in Buffalo, MN, is a nonprofit association dedicated to fostering a successful Minnesota turkey industry and its ability to make positive contributions to consumers, the economy, the environment and its members. Minnesota is currently ranked #1 for turkey production in the U.S. with its 450 turkey farmers raising an estimated 42.5 million turkeys in 2018. Minnesota has the most independent turkey farmers of any state in the U.S. For further information, visit or find us on Facebook: and Twitter (@MinnesotaTurkey).

About Hunger Solutions Minnesota

Hunger Solutions Minnesota works to end hunger by advancing fair nutrition policy and guiding grassroots advocacy on behalf of hungry Minnesotans and the diverse groups that serve them. We connect Minnesota’s food shelves and hunger-relief organizations with the necessary funding, technical assistance and logistical support to reach thousands of Minnesota individuals, families and children in need. HSM’s work is made possible through the generous support of donors across the country; each sharing our commitment to ensuring no Minnesotan will struggle with food insecurity alone.  For further information, visit, on Twitter @hungersolutions or on Facebook


Episode #8 – Understanding A Greater Minnesota

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

In this episode, host Steve Olson is joined by Dr. Adam Birr, Executive Director of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association and the Minnesota Corn Research and Promotion Council and Dave Preisler, CEO of the Minnesota Pork Board. The three discuss A Greater Minnesota; what it’s about, how agriculture impacts all Minnesotans, and how you as a voter can ask your legislators to support Minnesota agriculture. Learn more about AGM at


Turkey To Go Celebrates 60 Years at the Minnesota State Fair

For immediate release


  • Lara Durben, Minnesota Turkey Research & Promotion Council
  • Ph: 763/682-2171 (office) or 612/554-0920 (cell)

(Buffalo, Minn.) … Turkey To Go, the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association’s (MTGA) food stand at the Minnesota State Fair, is celebrating 60 years of selling delicious turkey products to fairgoers.

Minnesota turkey farmers have always been forward thinkers and passionate about raising birds. Sixty years ago, turkey was considered more of a seasonal product mainly around the holidays, but our farmers saw its big potential. That’s why they made a commitment to serve turkey in a variety of ways and highlight it as a convenience food to consumers at the Minnesota State Fair, starting back in 1958.

Today, this driving passion for promoting and serving a quality product to fairgoers remains the same.

“Stopping by Turkey To Go is a favorite food destination — truly a staple — of fairgoers enjoying Minnesota State Fair since 1958,” said Steve Olson, MTGA Executive Director. “When people come to the fair, they expect a great turkey product and we have aimed to deliver that quality guarantee for 60 years.”

Throughout the past 60 years, the food stand’s name was changed four times; from “Turkeyteria” (think cafeteria), “The Turkey House”, and “Pilgrim Tom’s Takeout Turkey” to what we fondly know today as “Turkey To Go.” The food stand has also featured many different products including: turkey steak sandwiches, turkey noodle casserole, and grilled turkey tenderloin sandwiches, to name a few.

“It is exciting to see what changes 60 years have brought to Minnesota’s turkey farmers and Turkey To Go,” Olson said. “We are certainly optimistic for new opportunities to raise, promote and serve turkey in the next six decades!”

Flash-forward to this year and Turkey To Go is pleased to offer a tremendous line-up of mouth-watering turkey options starting with the newest product that debuted in 2017 — turkey ribs!

These ribs are meaty, tender, juicy, and so flavorful — everything you would expect from the turkey experts at Turkey To Go. The all white meat ribs sell for $9.50 per serving and come in three flavor choices: original, sweet glazed, and buffalo.

The turkey ribs will complement a menu wholly focused on turkey — from the signature Giant Juicy Turkey Sandwich and Slow-Roasted Turkey Drumsticks, to the Tasty Turkey Sunrise Sandwich. Rounding out the menu is Turkey To Go by the pound that will sell for $16.75 per pound.

About Turkey To Go

Turkey To Go concession at the Minnesota State Fair is located at 1256 Clough Avenue, next door to the All-You-Can-Drink Milk Stand. Turkey To Go is owned by the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association, which has had a food stand at the Minnesota State Fair since 1958.

Turkey To Go’s Giant Juicy Turkey Sandwich comes in its original version or a gigantic half-pound option. Additionally, the concession stand serves up its popular roasted turkey drumsticks. Topping choices for these items include: bleu cheese crumbles and buffalo sauce; brie cheese and cranberry sauce; and crispy chopped bacon and sweet glaze. Finally, the food stand serves up its Tasty Turkey Sunrise Sandwich featuring its signature Turkey To Go product, egg, and cheese on a bun – with the option to add turkey bacon as well.

In addition to its location at the Minnesota State Fair, Turkey To Go has two locations in Target Field during Minnesota Twins’ home games (between sections 112-113 and also in 318).

Fans can find Turkey To Go on Facebook (, Twitter (@TurkeyToGo), and at

About Minnesota Turkey Growers Association (MTGA)

MTGA is a nonprofit trade organization that began in 1939 with a mission to foster a successful turkey industry in Minnesota. The state ranks #1 for turkey production and processing in the U.S. with its 450 turkey farmers raising approximately 46 million turkeys annually. Minnesota has the most family-owned turkey farms of any state in the U.S. and many of these turkey producers are 4rd, 5th and even 6th generation farmers. For more information, visit or  You can also find Minnesota Turkey on Twitter (@MinnesotaTurkey), Pinterest (, and Instagram (@MinnesotaTurkey).


Editor’s note: High resolution photos of the turkey ribs, Giant Juicy Turkey Sandwich, and our breakfast sandwich are available by request; we also have some vintage photos from our food stands in the 1950s-1980s. Please email


Minnesota Turkey Goes to Washington

Collin Peterson visits with Minnesota Turkey

Congressman Collin Peterson’s office.

Minnesota’s turkey industry had excellent representation at this month’s National Turkey Federation Summer Conference in DC, where the group visited all the Congressional offices of Minnesota and North Dakota as well as several in Wisconsin.

In addition to the “Hill visits”, as they are called, industry leaders heard from keynote speakers Ambassador Gregg Doud of the Office of United States Trade Representative; Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs for USDA, Ted McKinney; and Congressman David Young (R-IA). The Legislative committee meeting also featured a bipartisan discussion between Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Thom Tillis (R-NC). All had great insights to share about moving forward in Washington D.C. and spoke on the need for strong trade policy.

Senator Tina Smith visits with Minnesota Turkey

Meeting with Senator Tina Smith.

Additional Committee meetings allowed members to discuss, social media strategy, consumer understanding of labels, as well as hear from the government agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food Safety and Inspection Service.

Throughout our time at the conference – and especially in our meetings with all of our Congressional offices, we discussed the following topics:

  • Farm Bill, specifically asking for support for the Animal Disease and Pest Prevention Program and urging both the House and Senate to include the requested baseline funding for this new program over the next five years.
  • Trade specifically related to ongoing issues trying to gain access to China, leaving Mexico (NAFTA) as is, and talking about Canada and India – the latter country being a newer potential market for turkey.
  • Worker availability, which is a major issue for not only the processing plants but for many farms as well.
Senator Amy Klobuchar meets with Minnesota Turkey

Meeting with Senator Amy Klobuchar.

Upon our return to Minnesota, we heard the news that the House – thanks in part to the leadership of Collin Peterson (D-MN) overwhelmingly backed a motion to instruct its conferees on the Farm Bill to insist on mandatory funding for the Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Programs during conference committee negotiations begin with the Senate. The vote came as the House was rejecting the Senate amendments to the Farm Bill and requesting the formation of a conference committee.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Conaway (R-TX) and Ranking Member Peterson (D-MN) gave strong statements in support of the motion. The Senate is likely to vote late July/early August on moving to conference and naming conferees. The current Farm Bill is set to expire on September 30, 2018.

With regards to trade, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on July 24 announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will take several actions to assist farmers in response to trade damage from unjustified retaliation. President Trump directed Secretary Perdue to craft a short-term relief strategy to protect agricultural producers while the Administration works on what it calls “free, fair, and reciprocal trade deals to open more markets in the long run to help American farmers compete globally.”  Specifically, USDA will authorize up to $12 billion in programs, which is in line with the estimated $11 billion impact of the retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods. According to Perdue, these programs will assist agricultural producers to meet the costs of disrupted markets.

Tom Emmer meets with Minnesota Turkey's college students

Students meeting with Congressman Tom Emmer.

Learning Experience for U of MN Students

This year, MTGA was pleased to be able to take four University of Minnesota students / recent graduates to Washington DC with us to participate in the NTF Leadership Conference.

  • Eliza Theis graduated in the spring and will be a first-year veterinary medicine student in September with a strong interest in poultry.
  • Elias Braun will be a senior this fall and hopes to get into veterinary school (hopefully at the University of Minnesota!).
  • Madison Taylor graduated in the spring and currently works full-time at Ferndale Market in Cannon Falls, handling a variety of tasks from live production to marketing.
  • Wyatt Wittenburg will be a junior this fall and has been gaining plenty of work experience this summer on his family’s turkey farm in North Dakota, spending time at Northern Pride Cooperative seeing the processing side of the industry, and working at Protein Alliance to get a feel for the sales/marketing aspects.

The students were fully immersed into the NTF Leadership Conference, attending the general sessions, committee meetings, and networking with industry leaders. They also toured the Capitol building, and participated in all of our Congressional office visits.

“It is MTGA’s hope that exposure to leaders and the turkey industry on a trip like this will encourage these students to consider poultry in their career plans,” said Steve Olson, MTGA Executive Director. “All have a passion for agriculture and are very smart and capable. Our industry would welcome their talents in a variety of ways.”

Prior to the conference start, MTGA staffer Lara Durben brought the group to the poultry research facilities at USDA-ARS in Beltsville, Maryland. The students met poultry researcher Dr. Julie Long and she and her staff gave the group a tour of her facilities and talked at length about the different research projects going on for turkeys, layers, and broiler chickens. It was definitely a highlight for the students.

USDA-ARS Poultry Research Facilities in Beltsville MD

Students with Dr. Julie Long at the USDA-ARS Poultry Research Facilities in Beltsville, MD.

After the students returned to Minnesota, we asked them to provide a brief write-up of their experiences. Here is what they told us:

Eliza Theis:

Thank you so very much for the opportunity to travel to DC with you all once again. It was such an incredible experience and I felt that I gained so much attending the NTF conference for a second time. As a future veterinarian, I can feel confident in diving headfirst into the poultry industry. Meeting leaders from the turkey industry and leaders from within our government was key in fueling my passion for poultry and politics.

Wyatt Wittenburg:

Thank you again for everything you guys did on this educational trip. I really enjoyed the USDA research facility. It was interesting seeing all different types of lines among the turkeys and chickens. My favorite part of the trip was meeting with the congressman/women and senators, and discussing issues the turkey industry is seeing. I hope the MTGA continues to bring students to this conference as they will be able to experience first-hand on how issues like trade, immigration policies and the farm bill are discussed with our representatives. Thank you again!

Elias Braun:

As far as the trip goes I think my biggest takeaway was seeing how willing representatives and senators will willing to meet and talk with their constituents. I always slightly imagined they would be too busy. My favorite part of the trip was probably the USDA Poultry Research tour. It was really interesting as a researcher to see Dr. Julie Long have such a passion for her studies and her birds. It also gave me a fresh perspective on working for the government through science. This trip mainly helped me through the connections I made. It was really enjoyable meeting everybody throughout Minnesota Turkey and the National Turkey Federation. It was good for me to hear about all of their roles in the perspective fields whether it be processing or sales. This trip definitely opened my eyes to possibilities in my future that I was not considering before.



Veggie Fed Turkeys

Veggie Fed Turkeys via

“Do you like that Veggie Feed?”

We’ve been asked many times from consumers and other farmers, “How do you like raising vegetable fed birds?” We’ve heard other farmers not having luck, and they like conventional feed provided. We’ve also been asked, “Do the birds like the feed?”, “What differences have you seen since swapping out conventional feed over to vegetable feed?” We’re happy to say, our birds have adapted well and we think our birds like vegetable feed better. Their guts seem tighter (meaning, their stool isn’t as loose). They seem to be more active, running around more, the litter is drier, and the air quality has improved.

Some have asked, “Do your birds take longer to grow to their optimal weight?” Answer is: Yes. Yes, they take an average of an extra 4-7 days longer to reach their optimal weight.

“Are your feed costs higher?” Yes, our feed costs are just a bit higher however, feed conversion is the same.

Priding ourselves in the ABF market (never treated with antibiotics) we also know the vegetable feed given to our birds has been a major factor in the meat quality. We have to butcher a few turkeys each flock before they go to market. The reason we need to do this is to collect fat and blood sampling so all is approved before selling our birds to consumers. After we collect these samples we then harvest the meat off the bird (as you can imagine, we get to eat lots of turkey!) One major improvement we’ve noticed since converting over to vegetable fed turkey is that we feel the meat/breasts are juicy and much more tender! (Read below for our quick turkey breast recipe).

As we’re in this farming business wholeheartedly, going back to the basics is what we BELIEVE in. Farming in this fashion suits us. We enjoy feeding our turkeys vegetable based feed as we’ve seen many more positives after implementing this farming concept. I thoroughly enjoy talking to other farmers and understanding what works and what doesn’t work – and every farm is a different. “We,” as turkey farmers stick together and take lots of pride in what we do – and we learn from each other.

Please feel free to comment or ask questions below. After all we’re all learning this together, I believe the more we can learn from each other the better we can suit our consumers and industry as a whole. Thanks for taking the time; have a nice day!

Instant Pot Turkey Breasts

Boneless Turkey Breasts in the Instant Pot

  • 1 boneless turkey breast or turkey tenderloin (equivalent to about the same size as a chicken breast)
  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil or garlic infused oil
  • 2 Tablespoons seasoned salt
  • 1 cup chicken broth

Cover breast(s) with oil and rub in the seasoned salt.

Pour in 1 cup of chicken broth.

Insert trivet into the pot and place breasts on it.

Place lid on the pot and set vent to SEALING.

Select MANUAL and use the +/- buttons to change time to 4-5 minutes.

When pressure cycle is over, let the pressure release naturally.

Open pot and enjoy your juicy, flavorful turkey!

Farm Trucks & Cleaning Turkey Barns

Cleaning out turkey barns | via #turkeyeveryday #MNAg #agchat

Clean Out Equipment owned and operated by Riverbend Acres and Riverbend Trucking of Melrose.

One of my most favorite things on our turkey farm is the farm pickup truck.

I am not certain any farming operation could live without one. Ours happens to be a 1996 green, at least I think it is green, Chevy Silverado. I remember when we purchased it as a used vehicle; oh boy it was a good lookin’ shiny truck. We would regularly wash it inside and out, drive carefully and slowly on the gravel roads, avoided using it for dirty work and farm use. Well eventually, the green Chevy became more of the utility truck – you know the vehicle that is handy and generally available because, by then, it was not as shiny and new as it used to be.

Over time the Chevy pickup was transformed into an all purpose mobile shop, hardware store, lumber yard, service station, home office, recycling bin and moving truck. The former grey interior with the carefully Armor All-ed dash and control panel, became uniformly and thickly dust covered, faded and cracked from the elements. The floor mats, well they just plain disappeared under the necessary items that collect in a working farm truck like a battery charger, a can or two of WD 40, extension cord, crescent wrenches, pliers, hammers, pipe wrenches, wrappers from Little Debbie chocolate covered doughnuts, chaff, candy wrappers, receipts, work gloves – well you know. The formerly well buffed and waxed exterior has given way to rust, dents and a driver’s side door that stays shut only if the driver holds onto the handle or the half open window and the driver learns quickly not to take a right turn too fast!  After way too many missed regularly scheduled maintenance service jobs, the pickup just does not run as smooth as it used to. It has gone downhill with age.

But, I tell you what, that darn farm pick up is dependable, trustworthy and essential. It was about a month ago on the farm, when we ran into vehicle gremlins, everything from a dead battery in the car to the other truck being in the shop getting new tires. The last option was the farm pickup. By gosh the ol’ Chevy, started right up and we were on the road. So often, I hear the sputtering, missing engine as John heads out to the barns.

We use the pickup truck pretty much every day on the farm.  We can haul basically everything and anything in that truck.  Typically we use it to load and haul turkey gates, to check turkeys, run errands and do whatever is needed.

One of my favorite things to do is to drive around in the summer in the farm pickup truck with the windows down, looking at the crops of corn and soybeans, smelling the freshly cut alfalfa.  When cruising around in the spring and fall, my senses are reminded that manure needs to be cleaned out, spread and incorporated onto farm fields.

We too are part of that process.  We clean our barns after each flock.  Cleaning is a big job because for us it means the entire barn is cleaned.

The first task is to blow down as much dust in the barn as possible. Dust accumulates on rafters, fans and stoves due to the turkeys stirring up dust by running around in the sunflower hull bedding on the barn floor. The dust is blown down with a blower which is mounted to a bobcat/slid loader. Here’s a tip – don’t stand in the front of the blower or you will be blown over! It is a powerful blower, but it needs to be in order to reach to the rafters and to have enough power to remove the dust that sticks to screens that get rusty over time.

After the dust is down, then the walls, fans, vents and screens are power washed using a large water tank pulled through the center of the barn. Off the back of the washing tank are two high pressure washer wands that are used to power wash all surfaces.

After the washing is complete, then the litter on the floor is moved by a bobcat/skid steer to the center of the barn forming a mound of litter throughout the length of the barn. Great care must be taken when moving the litter to the center of the barn. The bobcat operator must pay close attention to the bucket and maneuver the bobcat and bucket to avoid hitting walls, supporting poles, or most importantly, the operator must have the skill to operate the levers and bucket so the floor of the turkey barn does not get torn up. The floors in the barns consist of heavily compacted clay, which is a solid and a water impermeable surface, but still no match for the power of a bobcat bucket.  If the driver does not pay attention to the position/angle of the bucket on the floor while moving the litter, the bucket will make holes in the floor, which results in an uneven living surface for turkeys.

The litter that was moved to the center of the barn is then removed with a front end Michigan loader, taken outside of the barn and immediately loaded onto semi trailers. The semi trailers are then covered with a heavy canvas and the litter leaves the farm and goes to farmers to use on their fields for fertilizer.

The process of cleaning is labor intensive, but clean facilities are a vital part of creating and sustaining a healthy living environment for the turkeys to grow.

John & Lynette Gessell | via #agchat #MNAg #turkeyeveryday

Lynette and her turkey farmer husband, John!

I am thinking about those old farm pickup trucks again. I’ve come to the conclusion that farm pickup trucks kind of take on the persona of the farmer themselves. Farmers begin young, handsome and strong, working daily to build their farming operations. Over the years, they don’t take the time for as much basic maintenance as they should, and eventually the farmer begins to show their wear and tear. After years of daily hard work, they may not look quite like they did when they were “new,” but be assured they will “run” when needed in all kinds of weather, in any condition and they just keep going.  They are dependable, trustworthy and essential to a farming operation above all else.

I love both of my farm trucks!

Twitter me @ lynnbackgess

Merry Christmas!