This Thanksgiving we will be offering five turkey options for Owners to choose from so whether you’re looking for fresh, frozen, organic, natural, local, pre-order or in-stock, we have the right turkey for your holiday meal!
Gifts From the Good Earth Farm
For a pre-order frozen local organic option we are sourcing birds from Gifts From the Good Earth Farm through our friends at North Star Bison. This Stevens Point-area farm started in 1995 when Mike and Deb Hansen purchased an 80-acre dairy farm in the community of Milladore and immediately began working towards organic certification. In 1998, they achieved Certified Organic status and have maintained certification without interruption to this day. The Hansens raise organic pasture-raised, broad-breasted white turkeys, which have a nice plump shape with plenty of meat. Young birds come to the farm in mid-summer and begin their days in a brooder—a warm place where temperature, drafts, light, and moisture are carefully managed to give the birds a comfortable and safe living environment. The birds will stay in the brooder until they have fully feathered, about six to seven weeks, and can handle a Wisconsin summer. Once out of the brooder, the turkeys have free range of the farm. There are no fences to limit their ranging, only their instincts that keep them close to their shelter, food and water. Pasturing allows them to live the way nature intended. They scratch, eat clover and grass, chase grasshoppers, and receive a ration of non-commercial feed mix. The birds are lean, firm, and flavorful due to the healthy environment, fresh air, water and pasture that is part of their daily routine. These are exclusively hens that typically range in the 11–16 lbs range.
Once again we will be offering Ferndale Market fresh turkeys for pre-order from Cannon Falls, Minnesota. These birds typically range from 12–20 lbs and whole breasts run in the 7–9 lb. range.
Bell & Evans
Bell & Evans Natural and Organic fresh turkeys will once again be our option for in-stock birds which we have used for the past few years to great Owner response. Bell & Evans is a family-owned company located in Frederickburg, PA, and is able to provide us both the volume and larger size birds that some require to meet their holiday needs. Both the all natural and organic are free-grazing plus fed on a mixture of a corn and soybean meal. The difference is that the organic birds are given an all organic corn and soybean meal. Both are free of antibiotics and are never given hormones. These turkeys will be available in store and range from 12–25 lbs.
Lastly we will be stocking Organic Prairie flash-frozen turkeys which are raised on a cooperative of family farms throughout the midwest. Organic Prairie turkeys receive a 100% organic feed and the freedom to graze in the outdoors. This means that you’re assured a turkey free of antibiotics, synthetic hormones, and pesticides. Sizes for Organic Prairie typically run in the 13–16lbs. range.
Ferndale Market: A look at traditional farming practices
by Cory Schultz
While many changes over the past 30 to 40 years have resulted in most turkey operations going to “total confinement” systems, Ferndale has resisted those changes, sticking to a three-stage approach to turkey farming.
The day began like most days—an early start to the morning to properly prepare for the day ahead. This day wasn’t going to be spent indoors; there would be no stocking of shelves, wrapping chicken, ordering and receiving products. It would be spent enjoying the outdoors while touring one of our regional farms. This particular farm is the birthplace of Ferndale Market, a now third-generation turkey farm.
It all began in 1939 when Dale Peterson, a man with a dream and a clear vision on how to pursue that dream, began his search for the ideal farmland for raising turkeys. He and his wife Fern found that perfect picturesque setting nestled away in the small town of Cannon Falls, Minnesota. This land needed to consist of soil that was higher in sand to eliminate the potential for standing water. The presence of too much moisture presents too many health concerns and the risk of spreading disease, which could decimate a flock when no antibiotics are being used.
Our tour guide was John Peterson, the third generation of Petersons to operate this family business. John’s parents became involved with the family business after finishing their college degrees. John himself grew up on the farm and was given the opportunity to learn from a young age the aspects of traditional farming practices for pasture raising turkeys.
Our tour began with a look at the starting point, a brooding barn, for the turkeys are raised there. 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. While indoors, the turkeys are always in a clean, sanitary environment. Due to the non-use of antibiotics, it is imperative that the brooding barn be disinfected thoroughly between flocks to avoid the spreading of disease. Over the course of a roughly a month’s time the temperatures begin to gradually decrease which helps minimize the stress/shock to the turkeys as they embark on their next stage of farm life. As a transition from the brooding barn to full outdoor access, the turkeys are placed in an indoor-outdoor environment. These open-air barns allow the turkeys to self-select areas for comfort—indoors offering more warmth and protection from the elements while the outdoors offers more space for foraging and exploration.
rotational pasture system
The larger square footage offered in the outdoor portion of the open-air barns makes this a viable free-range environment. This portion of the turkeys’ transitional period from the brooding barn lasts approximately another month. This again allows the turkeys to acclimate to weather conditions and even the potential presence of predators. From here, the turkeys are placed into a rotational pasturing system.
The rotational pasture system is completely outdoors and completely on pasture. Shelters are moved each week to an area with fresh grass. This fresh pasture allows the turkeys to forage for insects, grains, etc., and is vital to a healthy natural diet as well as provides conditions that are free of moisture or over-used ground. The rotational approach is also better for the land, never over-taxing any one area of the farm. The rotation pasture system is part of a generative system in which each flock helps fertilize the ground for the future flock. Over the past 30 to 40 years, most operations have gone to “total confinement” systems. The threat of predators, and therefore a threat to profits, was a big push for many producers to go to confinement systems. John said coyotes and foxes are the usual suspects for him in regards to potential predators, but has never had any serious issues that would result in an unacceptable loss of turkeys.
It is there on open pasture that the turkeys, both hens and toms, spend their remaining months before being shipped off for slaughter and processing. The processing facility used is Turkey Valley Farms, a grower-owned, independent USDA facility. They have received a 100 percent rating on all Animal-Welfare audits. There are only two independent USDA turkey processors left in the U.S. Everything has been very tightly consolidated and is now owned and operated by large industrial companies such as Jenny-O (owned by Hormel) and Cargill. These are two of the three largest turkeys producers in the world. Minnesota itself is the largest turkey-producing state in the country. Conventional meat is so rampant that small independent natural turkey farms are exceedingly rare. Independence, however, allows farmers to make on-the-spot decisions in the interest of livestock, farm land and employees.
You will find their ground turkey and bone-in turkey breasts in our meat freezer section. We also offer turkey legs and tenderloins in our fresh poultry case and a fully-cooked turkey snack stick with pepper jack cheese in the adjacent cooler.