Friday, December 31, 2010

Michael Schmidt’s raw milk Cow Share College to be offered across Canada in 2011, according to the Vancouver Sun | The Bovine

Michael Schmidt’s raw milk Cow Share College to be offered across Canada in 2011, according to the Vancouver Sun | The Bovine

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Talking Turkey

Broad breasted bronze turkey

     This year we ended up with three types of turkeys on our farm – our heritage Black Spanish that we have had for several years, and some unclaimed 4-H poults of the White and Bronze Broad Breasted varieties. The Black Spanish were raised as naturally as possible. They mated naturally, nested in the woods, hatched out and raised their own babies. They ate seeds, bugs, berries, walnuts and grass, and receive some whole grains in the winter months. Black Spanish originated in North America from the wild turkey, and were taken to Spain by Spanish explorers in the 1500s. In the 1600s, the turkeys were reintroduced to North America, bred with wild turkeys, and selected for different feathering traits. These heritage turkeys, once very popular, were on the verge of extinction when the Broad Breasted Bronze and White grew in popularity. In recent years, heritage breeds have been increasing in numbers and ours are part of a living gene bank.
Broad breasted white turkey
      The commercial white and bronze turkeys we raised this year were acquired as poults, or chicks, from a hatchery in Alberta. They arrived by mail at the Pender Island post office. They were raised under a heat lamp with a diet formulated especially for turkeys. As the commercial turkeys grew, their diet changed slightly to a finishing diet, with a final sweet diet of crush grains, molasses and cracked corn. Once feathered, they were let out in the orchard during the day where they ate grass and fallen apples, with walnuts that fell to the ground in the fall.
Physically the white and bronze broad breasted turkeys were different from the Black Spanish, too. They grew much faster – especially the white ones. Most of the turkeys raised commercially are the white broad breasted variety. Commercial turkeys are mostly white because the pin feathers on the processed turkey aren't as noticeable. The white turkeys were originally selected from Broad Breasted Bronze turkeys, which came over from England to BC with Jesse Throssel in 1926. His Broad Breasted Bronze became the foundation of the modern turkey industry in North America.
      Some of the difference in growth rate was due to diet, but I have also raised the Black Spanish under similar conditions in the past– with heat lamps and formulated diets – and they still grew slower and matured later. Most of the difference is due to genetics. Over the years, turkeys have been selected for increased feed efficiency and rate of gain. At one point, turkeys became more inclined to eat without becoming full, increasing their growth and fat content unless their feed is restricted. I noticed the white turkeys want to clean up every bit of food, and the bronze types will eat until full, then go exploring. Turkeys are now doubled in size from the turkeys of 1929. They have reached such an increased body weight that natural mating is virtually impossible, and since the 1960's it has become necessary to use artificial insemination with commercial turkeys. They hadn't lost all their instincts to mate. They still flirt and prance about, but they aren't successful at mating.
They haven't lost other instincts or behaviours also. All turkeys are naturally curious and gentle. Curiosity without a lot of intellect spells trouble, and turkeys can get into lots of mischief. The broad breasted turkeys raised at MacDonald Farm have been known to visit the Nu to You and the playschool next door, upon hearing people's voices. They have jumped the fence and followed people down the road. 
Black Spanish at the home farm in the Grimmer Valley
     The Black Spanish at home are no better – they have visited up and down the valley, making unwelcome visits to gardens and the golf course. For all the turkeys, if you crouch down they will come and investigate, picking and poking, ever curious. They communicate through vocalization, and will come if called. A few years ago I kept a female broad breasted bronze because she had mated in an apparent monogamous relationship with my oldest Black Spanish tom. She surprised me by nesting and hatching thirteen poults, but lost them due to an inability to talk to them, so they scattered and some followed the Black Spanish mothers. We hope to try a crossbreeding program again, if there are any female Broad Breasted bronze turkeys left after Christmas this year.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Gulf Island Beer - Salt Spring Ales

Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy”

 Benjamin Franklin
First hop harvest at Grandview Farm for Salt Spring Ales
American statesman, scientist, philosopher, writer and inventor, 1706-1790

As the old year draws to a close, and the new year is here, many of us raise a glass or two in a toast to good health and good friends. For some like myself, the drink of choice will be beer. It is encouraging and exciting to see a local Gulf Island cottage brewery succeed and inspire on so many levels. Salt Spring Island Ales, also known as Gulf Islands Brewing, is an award winning cottage brewery that is co-owned by Becky Julseth and Neil Cooke-Dallin, located in the Fulford Valley of Salt Spring Island. The couple took over the brewery from Neil's uncle in 2008 and their goal has been to advance the cottage brewery movement in Canada and to make good beer, in small batches with locally-sourced ingredients. Brewmaster Murray Hunter has been with Gulf Islands Brewery since the early days and started out with a “Brew your own” business for hobbyists.
The brewery uses as many ingredients from Salt Spring as they can, such as honey, heather and hops. In 2009, the brewery formed a partnership with Grandview Farm to produce hops. Grandview Farm is organic, and only 1.5 km from the brewery. Providing labour and split cedar posts, the brewery helped to deer fence the hop field. The hops field receives water from the same Mount Bruce spring water as the brewery uses, a feature that adds to the “terroir” concept. Terroir comes from the French word for land, and in food and drink relates to the unique aspects that culture, geography, geology and climate bestow on a local variety. This fall the first crop of hops was harvested for use by the brewery, and the product of their labours were released in limited edition.
Hops have been grown in BC since the 1860's. By the 1890's, hops were cultivated in the Fraser Valley, Squamish, Vernon and Kelowna areas. Chilliwack in particular became the single largest hop growing area and remained strong until the 1970's, then declined into the 1990's. The growing conditions for hops and grapes are similar, so wine producing regions are home to both great hop and grape growing. The Hop plant is a hardy perennial that produces annual vines from a permanent root known as the crown. Vines grow up to 25 feet tall in a single season, but die down to the crown each fall. The female flower cones of the hops plant are used for brewing. They flavour and stabilize the beer.
An added bonus to local farmers is the availability of spent grains for cattle and sheep feeding.
Just as tourists flock to the various wine regions of the planet, including the Gulf Islands, tourists also seek out the best in cottage beer. As a twist on a typical pub crawl, there are those who go from island to island to enjoy the local brews, often by boat.
But perhaps the biggest inspiration for me was to see Becky in bright pink boots, amongst the hops in a photo on their website. These are in fact quite a badge of honour among the women who are involved in making beer – whether it be home brewed, cottage brewed or commercially produced. A club was formed called the “Pink Boots Society”, whose mission is to inspire, encourage and empower women to become professionals and advance their careers in the Beer Industry. The Pink Boots Society especially believes in education for women brewers, to produce superior beer, and to increase the number of women beer judges and brewers.
Murray, Becky and Neil planting hops (note the pink boots!)
Happy New Year to you all – and Cheers!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Country Guide - article on truth behind young people and ag by Gord Gilmour

Monday, November 08, 2010 | 
By Gord Gilmour, CG Associate Editor


By now we’ve all seen the reports and the newspaper stories. It doesn’t matter exactly which ones. They’re all more or less the same, starting with the “fact” that tens of billions of dollars of farm assets must somehow be transferred to the next generation of farm operators over the next few years.
Is it really a “fact?” And if it is, is it really going to cause massive upheaval in Canada’s farm sector?
Take the recent report from Statistics Canada as an example. Based on the 2008 Farm Financial Survey, the federal number cruncher lays the scope of the issue out in black and white: 53 per cent of the farms in Canada are operated by a farmer 55 years of age or older. Those farmers hold the majority — about $134 billion — of Canada’s total farm assets of $247 billion.
“Most of those are expected to retire over the next 15 years. Consequently Canadian agriculture will lose significant expertise as these operators retire,” reads the report in part.
That StatsCan report isn’t the only one out there. It’s just among the latest.
One of the first salvos in the farm succession challenge came from Guelph’s George Morris Centre about 10 years ago. Larry Martin was the lead author on the report, which told agriculture that it should expect huge asset turnover — as much as $50 billion — and as many as 120,000 farmers of pensionable age by 2010.
Martin’s report was one of the catalysts creating a whole trend towards fretting over farm succession in Canada, and over the past decade it has seen governments and farm organizations press for bigger, better and costlier programs.
But when Country Guide contacted Martin about the study, he spoke frankly about its limitations.
“I think if I were asked to write that report today, I’d either say no, or I’d write a completely different report,” Martin says candidly.
New thinking
The talk of big dollars turning over and a greying farm population is fine as far as it goes — and it remains an accurate portrayal of the most experienced and established farmers in the country. But that talk fails to address other, more heartening trends that Martin now sees eddying below the surface in the up-and-coming generation.
“I’m not worried about attracting good young people to agriculture in Canada — not one little bit,” Martin says. “The quality and skill level of the new generation of farm managers I’m meeting is just phenomenal.”
Martin meets a new crop every year through the centre’s Canadian Total Excellence in Agriculture Management program, which offers a group of predominantly younger producers an annual ongoing educational and networking opportunity. He says based on this experience, he’s convinced there’s a new breed of farm manager sinking their roots in Canadian soil.
Martin says these managers are frequently farm kids coming home in their 30s after an extensive off-farm career, or even high-powered professionals with no direct connection to the farm. They’re bringing innovative new management ideas that accomplish a lot of things, including finding ways around the seemingly perpetual problem of financing the establishment and growth of a new farm.
One of Canada’s top agriculture lenders echoes that sentiment. Rémi Lemoine, chief operating officer of Farm Credit Canada (FCC), tells Country Guide that succession planning isn’t something that can be ignored — but there aren’t any signs that it’s a pending crisis either.
After all, the StatsCan numbers are talking about the industry in its totality, and while they’re an important piece of context, each succession plan is unique and finds its own innovative way past these hurdles. Lemoine describes a fast-changing landscape where young farmers are open to new ways of doing business that their predecessors never even considered. He doesn’t quite come out and call it a generation gap, but it becomes clear as he speaks that this is exactly what he’s describing.
“When I was coming into the business in the 1980s — I’ve been in agriculture lending for more than 25 years — there was this idea that you had to own all the assets,” Lemoine explains. “You bought the assets and paid them off as quickly as possible, even if you struggled on the income side.
“The new operators today are much more open to different ideas like long-term rental arrangements,” Lemoine says. “In many cases they’d prefer someone else carry some of the risk of land ownership, and they’d prefer to make their investments in other areas.”
Cameron Short, executive director of the policy division of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), agrees farm transfer is a big dollar issue — but he joins his counterparts in questioning the occasionally overhyped nature of the discussion. In fact farmers don’t tend to turn 65 and pull the pin. They’re engaged in a business they enjoy and few of them circle their 65th birthday on the calendar as some sort of escape plot.
“To the average farmer, turning 65 isn’t some magic number,” says Short. “They’re like most small business owners in that way. Many of them really like farming, they’ll continue long after they’re 65, and they’ll retire gradually.”
That trend dovetails nicely with the realities of farmland ownership in Canada. In many cases retiring farmers are, not unnaturally, reluctant to turn their backs on a lifetime’s work by selling their land. Many of them prefer to retain ownership through their retirement years, relying on the rental income to supplement government pensions and other investments.
And eventually, when the retired farmers pass away, more and more of their children are opting to retain land ownership.
“I think that’s something you’re going to see more and more,” says Martin. “It’s become very common down in the U.S., where you might see someone who lives and works in Denver owning and renting out what was the family farm in Iowa.”
In most cases that land goes to another local farm, but Martin says there are also farm management companies in some parts of the U.S. that will manage the day-to-day farm operations for landowners as well, something that could potentially emerge on this side of the border in a big way. And then there’s also the issue of outside investors.
“There are a number of operations, some in Ontario, some on the Prairies, whose business plan is to buy land and hold it long term and rent it back to farmers,” Martin says. “They say they will be — and they appear to be — holding it long term.”
All of these one-off solutions give just a hint as to some of the ways the farms of tomorrow will grow and thrive despite the challenge of farm asset transfer.
Getting started
Putting such strategies to work means sitting down to honestly evaluate the operation and the goals of the various family members who will be affected by any future succession plan. Starting early gives operators and heirs time to manage tax implications and to adopt strategies ranging from downsizing to using insurance to offset farm asset inheritances.
There’s only one problem — nobody wants to do it. Elaine Froese is a farm family business coach, public speaker and consultant who works closely with families to conquer some of the interpersonal issues that inevitably surround any attempt to talk these issues through. She spoke to Country Guide recently by telephone from her family’s operation near Boissevain, Man.
“These topics are very, very sensitive ones, especially these days, with so many zeros trailing around behind all the numbers,” Froese says. “The value of farms has gotten so much greater over the past few years.”
Froese also says that the farm community is, generally speaking, not necessarily well equipped to have these discussions. Farm operators and their families tend to be hard workers and problem solvers, but they also as a rule tend to be more comfortable with technical rather than interpersonal challenges.
“We don’t deal with these issues very well at all,” Froese says. “We prefer to push them off as long as possible.”
But that’s a terrible strategy, she says, because no matter how invincible any of us may feel, the day will come when our will is opened up. And if the issues aren’t talked through ahead of time, someone could be surprised and angered — and the fact that they’ll likely be grieving at the same time will raise the stakes even higher. Froese says she’s seen plenty of examples first hand of families being irrevocably fractured.
Abe Toews grew up on a dairy farm near the city of Steinbach in southern Manitoba. These days he operates StoneCreek Financial Group in Regina, where he advises businesses of all type about business issues including succession planning. Like all succession advisers, Toews told Country Guide that there’s a right way to do these things and a wrong way.
“I’ve been involved in and seen some really good plans, and others that were, well… not good,” Toews says. “And when it’s not good, it can really be a disaster.”
Both Toews and Froese had no shortage of horror stories to share — something they say is a reality for anyone who’s in the business. Assets can get hung up for years at times, leaving multimillion-dollar businesses twisting in the wind. Siblings can refuse to speak to each other for years on end. Or lawsuits start flying, eating up the hard work of a lifetime.
Toews agrees that sitting down and talking frankly about these issues with family members is the first and most important step. He also says that doing it now allows a farm operator to explain a few of the facts of life to non-farming heirs, facts such as the reality of needing to keep assets together to ensure that the business remains viable, and the contribution that the farming heirs have made over the years to building the business.
“It’s the old question of fair versus equal,” Toews says. “In a lot of cases, an equal division of assets would actually be very unfair to the farming heir.”
Making the headlines
While the big numbers in the farm succession reports are grabbing all the attention, the people in the know say there’s the danger that the problem is being overblown a bit.
AAFC’s Cameron Short says one issue that’s frequently overlooked is just what definition is used to determine what’s a farm. In a lot of cases there are farms with tiny annual sales — about $10,000 for example — that are included in the global industry figures.
“A lot of these small, hobby-type operations actually hold a surprising amount of the total value of the assets,” Short says.
That’s because they tend to be retirement or hobby enterprises that are clustered in desirable areas or around major cities, where other forces like general real estate pressures have a major effect on asset values.
Farm Credit Canada’s Rémi Lemoine says there also appears to be little evidence that young farmers who do want money to purchase assets are having trouble finding it. He cites his organization’s loan portfolio as just one example.
“Last year about 34 per cent of the loans we made were to people under 40 years of age,” Lemoine says. “And those have been loans to every possible type and model of farm operation.”
In fact, Lemoine says one of his growing concerns these days isn’t the scope of the farm succession issue. It’s that the industry is paying too much attention to this picture and risks painting an unattractive self-portrait at a time it needs to sell itself to new entrants.
“If I’ve learned one thing over the years, it’s that bad news gets out very quickly and good news doesn’t,” Lemoine says. “Sometimes I think this doesn’t project the industry in a very good light and it might actually scare new entrants, rather than attract them.”CG
“ The quality and skill level of the new generation of farm managers i’m meeting is just phenomenal.” — Larry Martin
It Turns Out The New Generation Is Making Business Moves Their Parents Never Dreamed Of

More Kentuckians involved in animal composting | | The Courier-Journal

Composting expert Steve Higgins stands near a pile of compost at the University of Kentucky's compost area near Versailles. (By James Crisp, Special to the Courier-Journal) Dec. 1, 2010

More Kentuckians Involved in Animal Composting

Oldham to begin program in January
By Andrea Uhde Shepherd
When an electrical wire fell on her Springfield farm in April and electrocuted 20 beef cattle, Frances Medley figured she’d have to bury the animals — they’d been left too long to be butchered, and her livestock pickup service had closed.
Then Washington County offered to compost the carcasses — something it had never tried. The experiment worked, making Washington one of the state’s first counties to compost animals. Now more farmers and counties are following its lead.
Oldham County’s Animal Control department will begin composting its euthanized animals in January, and 39 landowners applied this year to a new funding program from the state Division of Conservation to build a foundation for animal composting.
“This is the ultimate recycling,” said Barbara Rosenman, director of Oldham County Animal Control. “It’s as green as it gets.”
It’s also a cheap and safe way to dispose of dead livestock and road kill, said Steve Higgins, an animal compost expert and the director of environmental compliance for the University of Kentucky’s College of Agriculture.
Animal composting has been allowed in Kentucky for more than a decade, but state lawmakers eased the process this year by removing a requirement that large animals be cut up before composting.
In Kentucky, 14 farmers or groups have permits from the state veterinarian’s office to compost animals, though Higgins estimates 600 more farmers started composting livestock before the permits became available in 2008.
Across the nation, interest in composting has been growing, especially since 2008, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration instituted stricter regulations that targeted mad cow disease and required companies to remove the brain and spinal cord of cows over 30 months old before using the carcass to make other materials. The rules forced businesses such as Kentucky’s Griffin Industries to stop livestock pickup because it was too expensive to meet the FDA rules.
Cutting costs
Most livestock and road kill in Kentucky are dumped in landfills, incinerators or rendering plants that turn them into such usable items as fertilizer. Animals also are often buried or left to decompose, which can pollute water.
Dave Harmon with Harmon’s Dead Animal Pickup in Warsaw, Ky., said about 10 counties pay his company to pick up dead animals and take them to landfills in Boone County and Southern Indiana.
Washington has spent more than $30,000 a year on pickups, and Oldham paid Harmon’s more than $8,000 last fiscal year.
Eliminating such expenses was one reason Washington County Fiscal Court began looking into composting last year, Judge-Executive John Settles said. He expects the county, which has about 11,300 residents and is an hour southeast of Louisville, to save $15,000 to $20,000 a year by composting livestock and road kill.
“The way we were doing it, it was not sustainable,” said Washington County Extension agent Rick Greenwell. “It was too much money.”
A composting permit costs $25 a year and is required to ensure that it’s done correctly, officials said.
Jefferson County doesn’t offer financial help with livestock pickup on the county’s 475 farms, said Wayne Long with the extension office. He said most farmers bury the animals, pay for them to be picked up or let them decompose.
Animal composting is an option the county needs to consider, Long said.
The Kentucky Highway Department’s Middletown site composts animals and is applying for a permit, spokeswoman Andrea Clifford said. It also takes road kill from Oldham and its other location in Jefferson County, she said.
The six other sites in District 5, which includes Louisville, bury the animals on their property or take them to a landfill, Clifford said.
Micro-organisms used
In animal composting, the carcass is buried above ground, using wooden material similar to chips, which has micro-organisms that eat the carcass and generate heat. That both sterilizes and speeds up decomposition.
Complex chains of smelly gases break down so no smell is emitted — only water in the form of steam. There also is some carbon dioxide emitted and a hint of ammonia.
The bacteria scrubs the air so “people, dogs and buzzards can’t smell” the carcass, Higgins said. “We’ve done this for years, and we haven’t attracted a critter.”
Within six months, the animal carcass turns into a dark mulch-type material; all that’s left are a few brittle bones. It can be used as mulch or used on future composting piles. Higgins said he started composting animals at UK’s “experiment station” — a farm in Versailles — several years ago but began doing it on a wider scale last year after some rendering companies stopped picking up dead livestock and state agriculture officials voiced concern about options for farmers.
Higgins said he and others saw a need for animal composting and pushed for a change in the state law to allow people to compost whole animals weighing more than 300 pounds; previously, the animal had to be cut into four parts, Higgins said.
“Until the statute changed last session, it (composting) wasn’t really practical on the farm,” said Kevin Jeffries, a beef cattle and grain farmer in the Ballardsville area of Oldham County.
Jeffries said he plans to establish a composting area on his farm next spring.
At Oldham’s Animal Shelter off Ky. 393 in Buckner, the concrete has been poured for a composting site, and Rosenman said her department is waiting on its permit.
Rosenman said the composting initially will be for the 200 to 300 animals euthanized at the “low-kill” shelter each year. If that goes well, the department may expand to composting road kill, large livestock and even residents’ pets if they aren’t able to bury them, Rosenman said.
The compost material eventually will be used for a garden and walking area for the shelter’s animals.
“I’m trying to make something positive out of something sad and negative,” she said.
More Kentuckians involved in animal composting | | The Courier-Journal

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Turkey Facts

For my part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the representative of our Country. He is a bird of bad moral character. He does not get his living honestly....For the truth the Turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird and withal a true original Native of America...a bird of courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his farm yard with a red coat on”
Benjamin Franklin, 1774 in letter to his daughter regarding the choice of the eagle as the national bird of the United States – why he felt the turkey would have been a superior choice

Benjamin Franklin had the right idea, but obviously not everyone agreed. The turkey is a magnificent bird, loyal and brave. Fossil records place them in North and Central America over ten million years ago. They were initially domesticated by the Aztecs and natives of New Mexico and ranged over the entire U.S. and southern Canada. The Spanish explorers were so impressed with this beautiful and tasty bird, that they took some back home to Spain from Mexico in the 1500s. They selected for black feathering and over time the turkey increased its popularity throughout Europe. An excited female Black Spanish turkey has a way of spreading her tail feathers out in a fan, and holding herself proudly, reminding one of the flamenco dancers of Spain. Could it be that turkeys are fashion setters too? In the 1600's, the turkey was reintroduced to North America and crossed with the wild turkey. Selection over time resulted in standard breed turkeys with names such as the Spanish or Norfolk Black, Narragansett, Blue Slate, Bourbon Red, all with different colours and markings. These breeds would hatch out in the spring and after six months or so would be ready for market, coinciding with US Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Jesse Throssel in Aldergrove with his turkeys
Meanwhile, back in England a turkey known as the Sheffield Bronze, for the wild-type colour of the sheen on its feathers, was selected over generations for a heavier muscle in the breast area and improved hatchability. The breeder, Jesse Throssel, moved to Canada in 1926, and had some of his flock sent to his new home in BC. He developed a hatchery and was soon exporting eggs and poults throughout BC, Washington and Oregon. His Broad Breasted Bronze became the foundation of the modern turkey industry in North America. Over time, white birds were selected so that the pin feathers wouldn't be so noticeable. As the birds were selected for muscling, they became unable to breed naturally, relying on artificial insemination. Now 99% of the breeding stock, held by just three multinational companies – one in Ontario – are made up of only a few strains of Broad Breasted White turkeys – providing the basis for the nearly 300 million turkeys required to meet the demands in the US and Canada for our holiday feasts.
At the same time, the standard breeds, also known as heritage breeds, became slowly endangered as their numbers dwindled. In 1997, the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC), an organization that conserves rare breeds and genetic diversity in livestock, surveyed North American turkey populations to assess the genetic status of the breeds. They were very surprised to find that a number of the heritage turkey varieties including the Bronze, Narragansett and Slate were on the verge of extinction. For turkey growers, heritage birds hold important genetic traits such as disease resistance, critical to the turkey’s long-term health and survival. I have observed that although the Broad Breasted Bronze females can reproduce naturally and hatch out chicks, they have lost the ability to vocalize to their chicks, a trait that may be genetically linked.
Wild turkey numbers were also reduced because they were so easy to bait and hunt using corn. By the 1930s it is estimated that there were only 30,000 left in the wild of the US, and none in Canada whereas there used to be millions. Conservation efforts have brought back the wild turkey, and also have saved the standard breeds, now referred to as heritage breeds.
Black Spanish males foraging in the Gulf Islands
Scientists and dedicated enthusiasts have been central to these efforts. Margaret Thomson,of Salt Spring Island is one such person. There was a need for more rare breed turkeys, and she had looked into the work of the Domestic Fowl Trust while on a visit to England. This inspired her, so she contacted Rare Breeds Canada and found a source for heritage turkey eggs from Ontario. From an initial shipment of 48 eggs, 11 hatched. Another shipment resulted in one chick. That fall she went to Meadville Pennsylvania to attend a two day workshop on handling, selection, hatching and rearing heritage turkeys led by Frank Reese of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. Now, six years later her flock has included Narragansett, Bourbon Red, Black Spanish, Blue Slate and recently Ridley Bronze, from the University of Saskatchewan. I purchased a breeding trio from Margaret five years ago, and now have a healthy flock of Black standard turkeys that forage for food all year and eat blackberries, thistle seeds, hawthorn berries, grapes, grass and even walnuts. You wouldn't believe how good a turkey tastes after it has eaten walnuts! They even prefer to roost at night in the walnut tree. They not only breed naturally, they also nest and brood their own young. Females will even help each other out and raise their young together. It's not unusual for a hen who has lost her poults to join in with another hen and serve as a type of nanny. By keeping these old breeds alive, we are ensuring that their valuable genetics are retained as a living gene bank for future generations.