All News & Blogs
Caroline County farmer has spent a lot of time with turkeys in recent months, and said they don't deserve their simpleminded reputation
Mike Broaddus wanted guinea fowl--socializing here with one of his turkeys--but now prefers the turkeys.
View More Images from this story
Visit the Photo Place
His great-great-grandfather Richard Broaddus was an active-duty soldier who survived the entire war. He fought in the first major battle, at Manassas, and was present at the surrender in Appomattox.
Two months later, he was thrown from his farm horse and died.
He met his demise just down the hill from where Broaddus' turkeys spend their time, roaming freely.
Broaddus cut timber for many years and has been a Virginia Cooperative Extension agent since March. He knows a lot about life on the farm, but there's one aspect he avoids.
"I don't like killing things," he said.
That's why neither of his turkeys will be on his table today, or anyone else's for that matter.
When Broaddus bought the turkeys in July, as he helped exhibitors pack up their wares after the Caroline County Agricultural Fair, he had a backup plan in case he didn't like having them around.
He figured he'd fatten them up for someone else's table, then sell them live--or "on the hoof"--as he does with the pigs and beef he raises.
"That's not an option now," he said. "They've become pets."
He's not kidding. How many farmers do you know who buy live crickets for their turkeys as a treat?
Rhonda Barnhart raised turkeys for several years on her Rixeyville farm in Culpeper County. She agreed with Broaddus' assessment.
"There is something sweet, curious and, I suppose, peculiar about turkeys," she said. "I loved having them on our farm and wish I did have just a couple as pets. I miss the gobble."
She'd be out on the farm, resting against a fence in between chores, and a turkey would fly up onto the fence beside her.
"They look at you with these really soulful eyes, just really interested in you," she said.
Other turkey farmers agreed that the Thanksgiving centerpieces aren't the dumbest critters that ever lived, but they're not exactly Einsteins, either.
"They're every bit, if not more, personable than a chicken, but none of them are real, real smart," said Jason Gallant, a King George County resident who raises various birds for meat and eggs.
He said turkeys tend to be creatures of habit. "Once they learn what works for them, they do it over and over," he said.
He enjoys watching the birds he raises, just as he appreciates the natural beauty of the elusive wild turkeys he hunts.
But unlike Broaddus, who bought his Thanksgiving turkey at the store, Gallant is thankful when he can put a turkey on the table himself, through his skill as a hunter or farmer.
"Everything loves to eat chicken and turkeys, and in my opinion you can't get attached to them," Gallant said. "If you don't eat them, something else will."
Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425