On a Turkey Farm, 4-H Meets Slow Food

By Kiera Butler
Mother Jones

For the past few weeks, I’ve been blogging about the two heritage turkeys that my friends and I have been raising in our backyard. But our turkeys aren’t Berkeley natives. They spent the first ten days of their lives on the Thode Family Farm in Sebastopol, California. There, the four Thode kids raise dozens of turkeys every year for a collaboration between their 4-H club and the local Slow Foods chapter. Back in September, I visited the farm to learn more about this cool partnership.

The turkey whisperer above is Zach Thode. A soft-spoken 21-year-old, Zach is the veteran turkey farmer of the family. Seven years ago, he and a few friends began raising heritage turkeys for their 4-H club.

Through the club, the kids tried to sell their birds for Thanksgiving, but they had a marketing problem: Their customers wondered why they should pay $7.50 a pound when supermarket turkeys cost a fraction of that. “People didn’t understand that organic feed costs more, and so does giving them enough space to live in,” Zach told me. “Plus, we raise our birds for six months, whereas most supermarket birds only take three months or less to get to slaughter weight.”

But then, Slow Food Russian River got wind of the project. “We were so impressed with how these kids were raising their birds,” says Jim Reichert, a poultry farmer and member of SFRR. “We wanted to support the project.” It was a natural match: The 4-H club had the birds, and Slow Food had the network of foodies to buy them. The project has grown every year since. This year, 11 kids raised 225 birds. Project leader Catherine Thode expects some kids to earn upwards of $1,000. (A few years ago, Zach used his earnings to buy a used pick-up truck.)

Read the full post at Mother Jones.


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