GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. (WCCO) — This time of year, students at the School of Engineering and Arts in Golden Valley are talking turkey. On Monday, they got a special lesson about one of Minnesota’s biggest industries.

“For the most part [turkey farmers] kind of fly under the radar. People are surprised we’re number one in turkey production,” said Steve Olson, executive director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association.

Minnesota farmers produce 46 million turkeys a year. Since 1947, the chairman of the National Turkey Federation will bring a turkey to the White House for a presidential pardon. This year, the chairman is John Burkel, of Badger, Minn.
His farm produces enough turkey to feed 2 million people each year.

For the last 19 weeks, his family has been raising 10 turkeys as part of the official presidential flock. They are kept in a special coup where they’re exposed to noise, lights and distractions.

Olson explains the birds need to be socialized so they’ll behave while in the national spotlight. The same flock is used to participate in Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton’s ceremonial pardon.

The official presidential pardon dates back to President Harry S. Truman. Public ceremonies we see now began with President George H.W. Bush.

“We do them because it’s one way to recognize Thanksgiving is a big American holiday and turkeys play a pretty big role in that,” Burkel said.

After their pardon the free birds will live at George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

You can learn more about the Presidential Turkeys here.


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