We have just finished another year of turkey farming. The turkeys have been raised, processed, and delivered…all that is left is the feasting. It has been another year of successful farming and lots of life lessons. Some things were more difficult this year, like building a fence, shoveling out a flooded turkey pen, and trying to keep 70+ one-day old turkey poults alive when they were shivering and wet. The local newspaper wrote a story on our experience and here is something that I wrote. I wanted to be sure and record some of the lessons and experiences that we had this past year because such adventures are shaping and molding my children into who they are meant to be. And if that means they become anti-turkey raising and anti-turkey eating adults, then so be it.
November at my house means all things turkey. But so do July-October because every year for four months our family becomes turkey farmers. You might wonder why this “city girl” and her family choose to participate in something that involves the daily donning of muck boots and a designated turkey wardrobe. My girls do it for the money, my husband does it because he is a good guy and likes to have a happy wife, and I do it because I have always had a secret wish to be Laura Ingalls Wilder…except with indoor plumbing. Four months of turkey farming gives us all what we want, with the added benefit of not having to worry about it for the other eight months of the year.
As we wrap up our fourth year of turkey farming, however, I’m realizing that the greatest benefit of dabbling in farming has been the life lessons that my daughters have learned along the way. Who knew that turkeys make such great teachers.
Life Lesson #1: Hard Work is Part of Life. My sister and her family, who moved to Grantsville from Georgia last summer, are also dabbling in farming and every day my sister says, “being a farmer is hard work.” It is. Some days we are tired, sick, forgetful, lazy and busy. Time at the turkey pen is the last thing we want to do. But turkeys get hungry and thirsty and they rely on us for survival so we are there every single day working hard.
Life Lesson #2: The “Magic Food Myth” is Debunked. Like most kids, my girls were under the impression that turkeys come from grocery stores…I think I was, too. Now we all know what it takes to get a turkey to the table. That has given us a greater appreciation and understanding of what it takes to get any of our food to the table. We actually think and discuss and care about where our food comes from and what it does to our bodies. As a result we make better choices, eat healthier, and feel better.
Life Lesson #3: Sometimes Life Hands You Crap…Deal With it and Move On. A few weeks ago we walked into our turkey pen to discover that it had become a turkey swamp. Our watering device had malfunctioned and water had been pouring into the pen for almost 24 hours and that meant lots of soggy, stinky turkey crap. We spent the next five hours shoveling and repairing, but after that five hours the turkeys were housed in a lovely, clean, and straw-filled pen. We dealt with the crap and moved on to an evening of Halloween parties and Grantsville football.
Life Lesson #4: Sell Yourself Like Nobody’s Business. This is the part of turkey farming that I detest. I would rather spend five hours shoveling turkey crap than spend five minutes trying to sell a turkey. But selling turkeys is part of being a turkey farmer so sell we must…and getting a turkey sold is a great confidence booster. That kind of confidence can lead to great things like running for school office, cheerleading in front of a big crowd, sharing daily thoughts with thousands of people, applying for college or a new job, or trying to get your curfew extended.
Life Lesson #5: Everyone Needs a Daily Song. This year we have infused our turkeys with a lot of love. Our work at the turkey pen always includes a song for the turkeys and until they got too big, we spent time every day holding them and “playing” with them. Turkeys, animals, people, all living things need a daily dose of love to thrive on…and all living things deserve to be loved.
Tonight we will spend several hours in the turkey pen tagging and weighing our turkeys and bidding them adieu. We will sing them a farewell song and wave goodbye to their feathery bodies. And on Thanksgiving day, as we gather around the table and share what we are grateful for, “turkey” will be my response…for so many reasons.