Turkeys are very curious creatures, and so they will like to eat almost anything they can get their beaks on. Our farm was actually started 75 years ago by my grandfather, Dale Peterson. He got us started in 1939 and he specifically sought out our farm because we had very sandy soil. We’re right on the banks of the Little Cannon River and that’s ideal ground for growing free-range turkeys. So he knew what he wanted what he wanted to do; he found a farm that was well suited to do that and we’re still there 75 years later.
I often think that my grandfather might chuckle to know that free-range turkey was something exciting in the niche market, natural food world, because that was all he knew. That was the way that everybody used to grow turkeys and we were sort of the holdouts who continued to use those free-range antibiotic[-free] practices and so those are the claims that appear on all of our Ferndale turkey products:
Free range, outdoor access, no antibiotics used at any point in the growing of those birds, and everything is naturally processed without any additives or fillers.
We often hear people talk about the flavor difference. You can tell right away the flavors are true and the texture is so clean tasting like turkey should taste. It’s funny that that’s high praise, but so often times our turkeys today that our commercially available don’t have some of those real turkey qualities.
Because our birds are outdoors and on range in a low-density environment – they’re getting so much more muscle movement that you can even see it in our raw turkey. The color is more rich, the dark meat is more dark and that certainly comes through in the eating experience as well.
When we initiate a discussion with people about turkey they often times picture their Thanksgiving turkey and I think that as a turkey farmer, we have the honor of being part of Thanksgiving meals and certainly that’s such an important part of our year, growing cycle and our farm. But we also recognize that to be viable 12 months a year, we have to be able to do a lot more than just provide whole Thanksgiving turkeys. So we have tried to branch out and in fact today we offer about 25 different total turkey products ranging from fresh cuts to turkey roasts to today we’re sampling smoked turkey breast and some turkey hot dogs and some of those products that offer a little more convenience while maintaining the same quality that we’ve tried to carry through all of our products.
We have been in partnership with Upper Lakes [Foods] for a few years now and one of the things that I’ve really admired about working with them: not only have they talked a lot about local food, but I think they really have made the effort to come out and get to know us as growers.
Very early on they took a group of pepole down to see our farm, see our turkeys out on range, walk thru our pastures and really get to know us and our operation. For farmers, that’s something that we don’t get the opportunity to do very often, and in our world most business is done on a handshake and so its been really important for us to know the people behind Upper Lakes [Foods] and really feel like it is a partnership where they are as interested in our success as we are.
We have a great mix of customers: ranging from natural food grocers to restuarants to food service accounts; colleges, hospitals, health care settings. And really for us that’s what it takes to make things go: a good mix of folks that are looking for a mix of different turkey cuts and really really appreciate the chance to work directly with those folks and find the products that fit them best.