Visit Oakdale Farm in west central MN where we will meet turkey farmer Erica Sawatzke. She is a 6th generation turkey farmer. Erica farms with her father and husband, although her husband also teaches high school agriculture. They grow corn and soybeans, and raise light hens. Erica and her husband have a 16 month old daughter who loves turkeys as much as they do!
Virtual Field Trip Overview
During our virtual field trip, we met with Dana Nelson, fifth generation farmer, and his daughter Erica Sawatzke, sixth generation farmer, as they walked us through what it is like to be turkey farmers.
Oakdale Farm History
The Oakdale Farm was started in 1866 when Dana’s great-great-grandfather homesteaded in West Central Minnesota. He had moved from Wisconsin, however, had originally come over to the States from Norway. When he first started there was 160 acres and has since expanded. In 1978, Dana started farming with market and breeder turkeys. [Market turkeys are sold for meet. Breeder turkeys have their eggs sold to a hatchery for other farmers to raise turkeys.] For about twenty years, Dana and his family farmed both market and breeder turkeys until they switched completely over to market turkeys in 2019.
At the Oakdale Farm, they grown corn, soybeans and five barns with a total of 32,000-33,000 turkeys. One barn is called the Poult Barn where their baby turkeys, called poults, lives. The eggs that breeder turkey farmers sell to the hatchery are sold to farmers like Dana and Eric who are raising market turkeys. Poults from one day old until 4 weeks old live in the Poult Barn and then are moved. There are four other barns where they will stay until they are sold at 12 weeks old weighing about 14-15 pounds.
The poults are moved out of the Poult Barn for the same reason human babies are moved out of cribs. As the birds grow and get bigger, they need more space. The first week and a half of the poult’s life, there are a lot of feeders and waters. These added necessities aid in ensuring good health for the baby turkeys. A cardboard ring is also used to keep the poults in a smaller area to find water, feed and the heat source. This barn is kept 90 degrees F all year long to aid in good health for the poults!
Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom would like to give a special thank you to the Oakdale Farm family for showing us their farm and teaching students more about turkey! We look forward to learning more about their farm and other Minnesota turkey farmers.