Lindsborg farmer starts movement of raising 'heritage' turkey breeds

US - He doesn't care if he doesn't make much money at it, Frank Reese says. His payback is much bigger: He's saving the original Thanksgiving turkey from extinction.

But far from the Butterballs and HoneySuckle Whites of the industry today - broad-breasted birds this 57-year-old calls tasteless - is Reese's Good Shepherd Turkey Ranch. It's where, Reese, a fourth generation farmer, is raising flocks of "heritage" turkeys that once were common more than a century ago - breeds like American Bronze, Bourbon Reds and Narragansetts.

These old-time turkey breeds once populated farms across the Midwest, ones like his great-grandmother, grandmother and mother had back when farms had a flock of chickens and turkeys, along with a milk cow and a quarter section of crops.

Those days have long vanished, and the turkey breeds of that era almost disappeared, too.

That is, until Reese stepped in. This year, the Lindsborg-area man raised 9,000 birds for Americans' Thanksgiving meals.

"About 10 years ago, I realized these turkeys were disappearing from the face of the earth," Reese said one sunny day before Thanksgiving, recalling a promise he made to a mentor on his deathbed, "I will not let these birds die."

calendar icon 22 November 2005
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