Iowa is known for corn, soybeans, pigs and cattle, but did you know that the state is also home to many turkey farms?
Iowa ranks 7th in US turkey production, with about 130 turkey farms. And most of those farms are 2nd, 3rd or even 4th generation turkey farms, like the farms owned by ChopLocal's founders, Jared Achen and Katie Olthoff.
This year, ChopLocal once again has local, Iowa turkeys for sale for Thanksgiving. But they didn't come from our founders' farms.
The Achens and Olthoffs raise turkeys for West Liberty Foods, a farmer-owned turkey processor. Most of their turkeys are processed for sandwich meat, although some of Achen's turkeys are processed for The Farmer's Turkey. The Farmer's Turkey offers pre-seasoned turkey breast, marinated turkey tenders, and pre-cooked shredded turkey for easy, delicious meals.
The Thanksgiving turkeys on ChopLocal are from Golden Prairie Turkeys in Manson, Iowa.
The Moline family came to Iowa in the 1800s and began farming at their current location nearly 100 years ago in 1924. Brad Moline, the father of Ava, Coy and Logan Moline, is part of the fourth generation on the farm.
"I started raising my own turkeys when I was in grade school," Brad says. "I went to Iowa State University and got a degree in animal science and dairy science. Then I returned home to the farm full time in 2002 and I've been in charge of the turkeys ever since, along with my father John and my brother Grant."
Ava, Coy and Logan are continuing the family tradition as 5th generation Iowa turkey farmers. In addition to their family's commercial turkey farm, which also raises turkeys for West Liberty Foods, the Moline children have been raising free-range Thanksgiving turkeys for several years.
The free-range turkeys raised for Thanksgiving by the Molines are a small breed known for its flavor. Hybrid Mini-Classic turkeys have white feathers and a smaller stature than the family's commercial turkeys which are Broad-Breasted White.
The baby turkeys (poults) arrived at the farm in July and have been taken care of by the kids since that time. The poults start their lives on the farm in a barn, where they are protected from predators and can easily access feed and water. Heaters in the barn keep their body temperature where it needs to be.
As they grow, the turkeys are introduced to an outdoor area where they can peck grass and eat bugs. Trees provide shade and fans inside the barns keep the birds cool during the warmer summer weather.
The flock includes male and female turkeys, which are expected to be between 10 and 20 pounds each after harvest. This year, the turkeys will be harvested November 11, and can be found at many locations across Iowa. Golden Prairie Turkeys can be ordered online here for pick-up in Ames, Wayland or Manson.
This is the 4th year that the Moline kids have raised turkeys for Thanksgiving. In addition to the responsibility of caring for the turkeys, they also manage the financial aspects of the endeavor.
It's clear from the pictures and videos posted by the family that Ava spends the most time with the turkeys, but her brothers also help her. They feed the turkeys once a day and check on them two more times. The kids make sure the turkeys have clean waterers and they remove wet bedding to help keep the turkeys healthy.
The kids, who are in 7th grade and 9th grade this year, keep records of the chores they perform and the expenses related to raising the turkeys. Feed, bedding, fuel for the heaters, and processing costs will be subtracted from the proceeds of the sale of the turkeys. The profit is saved for the kids' college funds.
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