Governor Kim Reynolds has maintained a Thanksgiving holiday tradition, pardoning two turkeys who were strolling around Terrace Hill’s south lawn this morning. Iowa Turkey Federation president Russell Yoder had to sprint after one of the turkeys trying to make a break for it.
“Wow, I’m out of breath from chasing that turkey,” Yoder said and the crowd gathered for the event laughed. “…I’ve got my family here. I’m a third generation turkey farmer.”
Yoder’s uncle provided the two turkeys Governor Robert Ray pardoned in 1980. Yoder, who farms near Wayland, said turkey farmers from his area have participated in 13 of these annual turkey clemency events at the governor’s mansion. Reynolds read from her proclamation granting this year’s pardons.
“These are from his farm and you appropriately named them Henry and Washington,” Reynolds told the crowd and Yoder chimed in, explaining the names are “from the counties that we’re from.”
Reynolds continued: “Whereas, when in full production Iowa farmers like Russ proudly care for over 12 million turkeys annually, which ranks Iowa 7th in the United States for turkey production and whereas counties like Henry and Washington have a proud history of raising turkeys.”
After citing those stats, Reynolds then officially pardoned the two “Tom” or male turkeys. The birds each weigh about 40 pounds, the same weight as their “brothers” going to market this week.
“I like to say there’s a good chance that Iowans are going to be having an Iowa turkey this Thanksgiving, so we all need to do our part and get out there,” Reynolds said. “Kevin and I have purchased ours. We’re ready to go for Thanksgiving and we’re going to be hosting our family here at Terrace Hill…This is a time to just really step back and really be thankful for all of the wonderful things that we have going on in Iowa.”
There are 130 turkey farms in Iowa and Yoder said the industry is still bouncing back from the outbreak of avian influenza that started in December of 2014.
“Still not consumption numbers that we were before AI because people kind of had to make the switch because just lack…of product, but it’s a little slower than we’d like,” Yoder said, “but it’s coming.”
According to Yoder, two million turkeys are raised in Henry and Washington County each year. A group of turkeys is called a “rafter” and a rafter of Yoder’s turkeys turn 19 weeks old on Thanksgiving Day, meaning they’ve reached the age and weight to go to market. The two turkeys pardoned by the governor will go live at Living History Farms in Urbandale.