Milk Maid

Minnesota turkeys take the national stage

With Thanksgiving coming up in a few days, it’s always a good time to take a step back and think about things that you are thankful for. That’s a great tradition to have.

While I’m thankful for so many things, I’m also thankful for Minnesota agriculture industry.

We have a lot to be proud of. In combining Thanksgiving, pride and tradition, a turkey flock near Alexandria, Minnesota, has been named the Presidential Flock for the year.

With that honor, they have the privilege of raising the turkeys for the White House Thanksgiving pardoning. The turkey (and his lucky alternate) will travel to Washington, D.C. the week of Thanksgiving along with an entourage, to participate in this long running holiday tradition at the White House.

The flock belongs to Carl and Sharlene Wittenburg and Carl is the 2017 Chairman of the National Turkey Federation.

The Wittenburgs enlisted the help of five members of the Douglas County 4-H Science of Agriculture team to help them raise the turkeys. The Wittenburgs mentored the team to a second place finish in the statewide 4-H Science of Agriculture Challenge this summer with a project on turkey bedding. None of the girls had worked with turkeys before.

Now, they’re all going to the White House this week to help oversee the bird, though the Wittenburgs’ 19-year-old son, Wyatt, who will lift it up onto the table. On Friday, the Wittenburgs had another turkey pardoned by Governor Mark Dayton in St. Paul as the Minnesota turkey.

The turkeys are being raised just like any turkey flock in Minnesota. The birds eat a wholesome, nutritious mix of Minnesota-raised corn and soybeans, along with vitamins and minerals.

The birds also have constant access to fresh water and live in comfortable surroundings that protect them from bad weather and potential predators.

The only difference with this flock is that they are provided increased interaction with people so that, if chosen, any of the birds will be prepared for his role at the White House ceremony.

According to an interview with WCCO, “We’re getting them used to being on that table and getting them to gobble and strut on command,” added 4-Her Kodi Bundermann.

Strutting for a turkey means fanning out his tail feathers and puffing out their body feathers. Toms do it to look good to the hens. Gobbling also is a male behavior; females click or cluck.

On Monday, the turkeys and their entourage arrived in Washington, D.C. and the turkeys were given the names “Drumstick” and “Wishbone”.

After Thanksgiving, they will be retired to a special farm called “Gobbler’s Rest” at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA.

Minnesota leads the nation in turkey production. About 45 million birds are produced each year and over $800 million in economic impact according to the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association.

There is so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. It’s pretty neat that Minnesota turkeys are being showcased on the National stage and “Drumstick” and “Wishbone” get to live the glamorous life.

To read more about their Presidential Journey, visit or visit Minnesota Turkey’s Facebook page.

Brittany Moorse

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