From Your Farmer: May 2022

I’m an unabashed summer lover. I’m probably out-of-step with my profession, because extreme heat can be worrisome with turkeys, but I’d take most summer days over any day in January. I love the season that finds our birds outside on every corner of the farm, and I relish the long summer days that create the illusion of “bonus hours” to get that perennial one-more-thing accomplished. These days are also a great time to hit the road for a daytrip, so I’ll proudly sport my community spirit hat and encourage you to make a trip to see us in Cannon Falls! I’m a biker, so I think the Cannon Valley Trail is a hidden gem, running to the Mississippi River in Red Wing. If you’d rather be on the water, you can rent a canoe or tube to float the Cannon River. Either way, you should finish your ride with a local glass or pint at either Cannon River Winery [...]


From Your Farmer: April 2022

There’s been a lot of news to follow lately, and it seems farmers – poultry in particular – find themselves in it too often right now. With all that’s happening, you’d be forgiven if you haven’t followed the movement in Washington DC to fuel more competition among the major meat companies. While it may not be a headline grabbing story, I’d bet it’s an issue near-and-dear to any farmer, particularly given the continued consolidation among the big global meat brands.  In the case of cattle, for instance, four companies control 85% of the beef market. The big just keep getting bigger. I’ll leave it to economists far smarter than me to untangle the impact this has on prices consumers pay at the grocery store. Speaking as a farmer, however, I know the consolidation has severely limited the outlets most farmers have to sell the animals they’ve worked so hard to raise. Of course, when there’s only one buyer at [...]


From Your Farmer: March 2022

There’s never a dull moment in farming. While I expect that’s true of most professions most of the time, the adage seems especially true in agriculture these days. As you’d probably imagine, rapidly rising costs are one of the things trying to give me gray hair. Some of you have noticed small price increases on our turkey products, so I thought I’d unpack the backstory a bit here. Our feed costs were already on the rise, but grain costs have shot up further with the war in Ukraine. I don’t need to tell you what gas prices have been doing lately, and we rely on fuel in a few different ways: propane to heat our barns on cold days and diesel for our tractors and delivery trucks. Processing costs are following the same trend line, as our processing partners experience the same rising costs and short staffing. Long story short, it costs us a lot more to raise, harvest, [...]


From Your Farmer: February 2022

It’s probably not a traditional best business practice to use this space to discuss a turkey product we currently don’t make. But a few of you responded to our January request for feedback (feel free to keep it coming, by the way), to ask why we don’t offer a Ferndale turkey bacon. It may be no surprise that turkey bacon is one of our most commonly requested items, both in our market and from our retail partners, so I thought I’d share the back story. There are two closely connected hurdles that have prevented us from jumping into the turkey bacon game. I’ll start by saying that I love pork bacon in all its forms. Give me a BLT or a side with my eggs any day of the week. But, it’s important to remember that pork bacon has an inherent natural advantage over turkey bacon. Namely, pigs have a pork belly and turkeys have lean breast meat in its place. [...]


From Your Farmer: January 2022

I love the chance at the start of each year to stand between the past and the future. To look back at what we accomplished, and ahead to all we hope to do in 2022. If I’m totally honest, 2021 came with its share of challenges. Like all small businesses, we wrestled with continued economic and pandemic-related uncertainty. Would our college, restaurant, and school customers return to normal? Would the severe truck driver shortage impact our ability to receive deliveries? What would Thanksgiving demand look like? Would prices for turkey feed continue to rise? I also had assumed a new turkey product would be one of our 2021 highlights, but very soon after we excitedly launched our Sliced Smoked Turkey Breast, our processor informed us they were too short-staffed to continue making it. We had a similarly abrupt end to a popular turkey burger we made almost exclusively for schools. It was a tough year for meat processors and [...]


From Your Farmer: December 2021

I’m always struck by the quiet that comes immediately after the hustle and bustle of TurkeyFest. After days of cheerful conversations, ringing phones, swinging doors, and the movement of trucks and orders, there’s a sudden quiet after we lock the market door on Thanksgiving eve. In the quiet hum of the cooler compressors, I’m overcome with a deep sense of gratitude for all that goes into our Thanksgiving season. While the signature TurkeyFest event happens in the final week before Thanksgiving, our staff has been working hard for months to prepare for the season. The poults get started in the spring and summer, our frozen turkeys begin shipping in the fall, and our market staff is busy ordering cranberries, pies, and brine along the way. It’s a team effort, and we’ve got a good one. I’m incredibly grateful for our Ferndale staff. Of course, none of this work would matter if we didn’t have customers (that’s you!) who see [...]


From Your Farmer: September 2021

I’d like to personally invite you to our Customer Appreciation Day, coming up fast on Saturday, October 2nd! This event has known many names over the years, starting as our Anniversary Open House in 2009, when we celebrated the first anniversary of our on-farm market opening. When I think back, making it to one year was quite a feat, given that we were turkey farmers learning retail through on-the-job-training! We’ve continued to celebrate the Anniversary Open House on milestone years, when we made it to 5 and then 10 years in business, but we began calling it our Fall Open House in the not-so-notable years between the goalposts. Somewhere along the way, we got smart enough to collaborate with other fall events happening around Cannon Falls, and this year will be no different! There’s the longstanding Sogn Valley Art Fair and fall harvest activities at both Cannon River Winery and Tilion Brewing. I’m excited to resume the tradition of our fall [...]


From Your Farmer: August 2021

I’m a believer in vocation, the idea that all work has purpose, and we can all contribute to a better world through our daily work. There’s no job that doesn’t have an impact on somebody else’s life or livelihood, so all work is important. You may be able to tell that in a past life I was an Admission Counselor at my alma mater, Augustana University, so my feelings on work and purpose are well rehearsed, going back to my years counseling would-be college students. Afterall, even on our farm, we wouldn’t do very well growing turkeys if someone hadn’t made our woven wire fencing, or if we didn’t have a garbage hauler to retrieve our cardboard recycling each week. Or, if we didn’t have the grain farmer that grows corn for our feed. Or, for that matter, the mechanic that services that farmer’s combine. You get the idea. It takes us all. Still, I’ve been thinking a lot [...]


From Your Farmer: July 2021

Midwestern farmers aren’t supposed to brag, and typically I try to live up to that reputation. But when we learned that our Turkey Wiener had been named the BEST poultry hot dog in a tasting by Epicurious, we couldn’t keep it to ourselves! If you haven’t seen the article, you can find it here. We were as surprised as anybody by the news, which made it all the more special. We hadn’t applied or known this was happening, so it felt like a real endorsement and we ran into real competition with some familiar names. When it comes to bragging, the truth is that the real credit goes to our friends at Lorentz Meats, who actually make the hot dog for us (and, through a stroke of amazingly good fortune, happen to be located just up the road from us in Cannon Falls). Sure, we raise the turkeys, but if you’re picturing our team with a sausage stuffer and smoker, [...]


From Your Farmer: June 2021

When you live in a small town, it doesn’t take much to make the local news. In our case, it’s even easier, because our local newspaper runs a weekly “Yesteryear” column, featuring headlines from milestones years prior. As a history guy, I always seek them out (right up there with the police report and the obituaries), but two in particular have hit close to home recently, both from 1946 – 75 years ago: Former serviceman Dale Peterson received discharge from the Army and has again taken up work on his turkey farm a short distance from town. And: Firemen were called out to the Dale Peterson turkey farm about 6am on Wednesday. A fire of undetermined origin destroyed one of the several large straw sheds housing the turkeys, but most of them had been driven out before the blaze reached any proportion. I always enjoy reading entrepreneurial stores and the start-up tales of new businesses. Like any good story, [...]