In 1939, Dale and Fern Peterson set out to find the perfect land to start their turkey farm. They found it in Cannon Falls, Minnesota and started Peterson’s Turkey Hatchery, which became Ferndale Market, the main supplier for Willy Street Co-op. Their turkeys can be found at all three of our locations in both the Meat and Deli departments.
The Petersons started raising turkeys the same way most other farmers did in the 1930s and ’40s, on pasture without any pesticides or fertilizers. In the 1950s, however, many farmers made the switch to cheap feeds and indoor confinement. Even during the rise of factory farming and the use of antibiotics becoming the industry standard, the Petersons carried on the way they always had and that has continued virtually the same through today. The result is a better turkey than can be found at most stores.
Today, John Peterson is the third generation to operate his family’s business. John grew up on the farm and learned from a young age the many aspects of traditional farming practices for pasture-raising turkeys. In 2008, the Petersons opened their on-farm store and named it Ferndale Market in honor of the farm’s founders Fern and Dale.
These days, turkeys begin their lives in what is called a brooding barn. The brooding barn is an enclosed area with ample heat, water and food to provide the necessary needs for the early stages of development. In the first couple of weeks, turkeys are fed and watered by hand in temperatures near 98ºF. They stay in the brooding barn for about a month and are then moved to an indoor/outdoor barn to help acclimate them to the outdoors. When the turkeys are about 8-10 weeks old, they are moved out to pasture. Between each flock of turkeys, the brooding barn and the indoor outdoor barns are completely cleaned and sanitized to help prevent infection and the spread of disease.
Rotational pasture system
Ferndale then uses a rotational pasture system that is completely outdoors. Shelters are moved each week to an area with fresh grass. This fresh pasture allows the turkeys to forage for food, and is vital to a healthy natural diet. The rotational approach is also better for the land, never over-taxing any one area of the farm. It is on this open pasture that the turkeys, both hens and toms, spend their remaining months before being shipped off for processing. The processing facility used is Turkey Valley Farms, a farmer-owned, independent USDA facility. They have received a 100 percent rating on all Animal Welfare audits and are one of a handful of independent USDA turkey processors left in the U.S.
Get one for Thanksgiving!
Willy Street Co-op is proud to call Ferndale our main provider of fresh turkeys for Thanksgiving. Stop in to the Customer Service desk at any Willy Street Co-op beginning November 1st to reserve your holiday turkey. We will also have organic and local options available for pre-order but remember to get yours reserved soon in order to get the right size bird for you!