Once upon a time in the 1870s, the Osterholt family left Germany and settled along the Ohio and Indiana state line.
How to Become a Turkey Farmer
In 1949 my husband’s grandpa Aloysius Link married Cleopha and they bought a farm in Fort Recovery (which is an actual town with a fort, not a rehabilitation center). They had ten kids and even though things were cheaper back then they still had to figure out how to pay for all those kids. Adding animals to the land that they purchased was one way to help pay more bills. And since it doesn’t take ten kids to clean the house and mow the yard why not get those kids some chores? This is all very logical the more I think about how the story developed.
We reached out to a particular uncle of Joe’s to hear more of the story of how the turkey starter barn or brooder house came to be. The barn is 100 feet from the house my husband Joe grew up in. The uncle shared that Aloysius raised young turkeys in small spaces in a couple existing barns that he had. When the turkeys got too big he would take them out on the range to finish growing until Thanksgiving. He owned the turkeys himself and one year just before Thanksgiving a snow storm came and very few turkeys survived. In the next year or two, the opportunity to go into a contract agreement and build a barn, but raise turkeys owned by another farmer came along. Given the loss from the prior year and understanding that a barn would help better care for animals, Aloysius and Cleopha signed a contract and built a turkey starter house. The contract helped mitigate risk and assure income over time.
Turkey Farming is About Family
Al and Cleo were among many prolific families in the area. As their kids became adults and wanted to establish farms they began to look a little further from home and buy land a few miles away in Indiana. As the kids looked to establish their own income, several of them wanted to continue doing a job they knew and love, taking care of animals. Building turkey barns was also a way to help pay bills.
This picture was taken when Joe and I started dating. This was the first time Henry and I visited the turkey starter house.
One of Joe’s favorite recipes to make with turkey is our Turkey BLT!
How to Get Out of Turkey Farming
Fast forward a few decades and there was a turkey farmer (Joe) happily minding his own business when a particular uncle suggested that he go to a wedding to be some girl’s dance partner. In a shocking turn of events, the turkey farmer married the girl (me) and moved a couple hours away.
Is Joe still a Turkey Farmer?
Joe was headed on the same track as others in his family before I showed up. Buy a farm, work a few more years, then add some animals. The good news is that we both love farming, so he still farms in Randolph County. Strong support from his parents and working together with his brothers makes this possible. Here he is harvesting corn a little ways from Winchester, Indiana.
This corn will be sold to Cooper Farms or an Ethanol plant. Cooper farms makes feed for turkeys, pigs, and egg-laying chickens. Here’s a comparison I made about making feed on a large farm compared to a small farm.
One of my favorite parts of visiting his family is seeing how they all work together. Just think about how hard it can be to pick a date and time for Thanksgiving with a couple family members, farming is running a business and they rock it! Let’s be honest sometimes the lack of communication between all these men cracks me up, but they get a lot done and they do it very well, so I try to laugh only at appropriate times.
A Turkey Farming Family
I appreciate how supportive Joe’s aunts and uncles are of their nieces and nephews. A couple of Joe’s uncles are in the process of retiring and selling their turkey barns to his brothers.
I’m especially fond of the year that the uncle that set up our first date gave us a nice deal on turkey manure. He had a barn to clean out and there is most definitely a market for manure because it has all of the nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash) that corn and soybeans need to grow. He did not charge Joe the full market value, he was kind to offer a discounted rate. It’s so impressive what this family does to help and support each other! Here’s a post I wrote about the value of manure.
While Joe is only an owner of farmland he still helps in the turkey barn, specifically the starter barn that his mom takes care of when asked. This summer she did a major upgrade on the feeding and watering system and asked for his help. When our kids visit they often go along with grandma to take care of the young turkeys.
Our ten-year-old is capable of more tasks. Several times he has helped sweep the concrete floor to clean the barn in between flocks. He helps move new sawdust around to prepare for new turkeys to arrive. The brand new birds are kept in ten groups of 600 and they are separated inside of cardboard rings. The rings keep them close to heaters that keep them warm. Henry helps remove the cardboard rings as the birds grow. He also helped clean waterers before this new system was installed. While our family are not regular contributors to the turkey farm I’m glad that our kids can be exposed and hopefully help a little bit every month or two. Here are stories I’ve written in the past about Life on a Turkey Farm and Thanksgiving Turkey Comes From Family Farms.
The Best Thanksgiving Side Dishes
The turkeys that my in-laws raised are too big to fit in a typical oven, they are raised for deli meat. We love getting thick sliced turkey all year around and making some of these great side dishes to go with the turkey: