A Publication of WTVP

For more than eight decades, Yordy Turkey Farm has prided itself on producing the highest-quality, freshest turkeys around.

In this age of industrial agriculture—where efficiency and economies of scale reign—the classic family farm, passed down from generation to generation, would seem to be an anachronism: the sentimental, idealized product of a bygone era. But with the rise of the local food movement and an increased focus on healthy eating, more and more people are paying attention to where their meals come from.

Founded more than 80 years ago, Yordy Turkey Farm in Morton remains true to the vision of its founder, Robert Yordy. Though it’s changed with the times, the farm remains in the Yordy family, distinguished by a stellar reputation for quality, and offering reassurance to customers who wish to connect with the food on their plates—and those who produced it.

Generations of Family Pride
Raised on a dairy farm in Morton, Robert Yordy set out on his own as a chicken farmer, selling and delivering eggs in the 1920s. Soon, he moved on to raising turkeys, as well as hogs, cattle and a range of crops. “Back then, you’d raise a little bit of everything,” explains Brent Yordy, Robert’s grandson and current owner of the business. “Now, we just raise turkeys.”

Having started with 15 or 20 turkeys, Robert Yordy began to focus primarily on turkey production in the mid-1930s—at the height of the Depression. Despite a rotten economy, he was able to gradually expand the business. “People still wanted food, and they wanted good food,” Brent says. “But money was quite tight. He struggled through that time, but he was able to grow his operation.”

And the business grew, slowly but steadily. In the early years, the turkeys were sold “New York dress”-style: whole birds, with only the feathers removed. “Everything was intact because you couldn’t open up the turkey… or it would spoil,” Brent explains. After World War II, consumer demand for poultry products grew sharply, leading the USDA to implement new sanitation regulations. This caused tremendous change in the industry—from the introduction of refrigeration requirements to the inspection and oversight of processing facilities.

As a kid, Brent Yordy would help his grandfather and father, Dan Yordy, on the farm, learning the ins and outs of the operation. In 1980, he became a partner in the business, a time when it was raising and producing about 2,500 turkeys each year. Today, it raises nearly four times that amount at a 15-acre growing facility just outside of Morton, while its five-acre facility inside the village is utilized for sales and processing.

Though the business has grown over the years, it’s maintained a strong sense of family identity—the iconic, traditional family farm. Brent believes this is a direct result of the Yordys’ longstanding commitment to quality. “Our main focus isn’t expansion—it’s quality,” he insists. “If the quality isn’t good, then quantity is an even bigger problem… Anytime the family stays involved, there’s a certain amount of pride they take in producing a good product.”

Pampered Poults
Turkeys are bred for quality and efficiency—two traits that have vastly improved over the decades. “The growing process is more efficient than it used to be,” Brent notes. “The genetics of the turkey are better, and they grow faster… We can raise those turkeys in about four weeks less time than… 30 years ago.”

The Yordys purchase their newly hatched turkeys, or poults, from hatcheries when they are just a day old. Because they’re raised without antibiotics, hormones or artificial preservatives, the business must adhere to strict rules of sanitation. That means consistent supplies of fresh food and water; plenty of fresh air and sunlight; and a secure, well-ventilated facility. “It’s a really large open area, with curtains on the side of the building that drop when the weather’s nice,” describes Travis Yordy, the fourth generation of family involved with the business. “It really opens up the building and keeps them safe from the elements.”

Their feed—mixed from non-GMO grain grown by the Yordys and prepared by specialists—is monitored attentively. “We mix all of the feed… Corn, soybeans, the vitamin package—we do all of that ourselves,” Brent specifies. Working closely with a nutritionist and veterinarian, they are able to fine-tune each turkey’s diet so it gets exactly what it needs.

“These birds are pampered… They live better, I think, than I do at my house!” he jokes. “You treat your livestock well, and they will treat you well.”

Lean, full of protein and packed with vitamins, turkey has grown more popular as greater emphasis has been placed on healthier diets. While the farm-to-table movement, so fashionable in recent years, might seem a passing fad to some, Yordy Turkey Farm has been “farm-to-table” from the beginning. “We raise them, we feed them grain that we grow on the farm, we process them all on the farm in a USDA-inspected plant, and we do all the sales right off the farm,” Brent asserts. “We really have control over that total product.

“I would say that’s pretty unique,” he adds. “I don’t know many places where you can buy a product like that.”

Quality Is Always in Season
While the business sells online year-round, it remains mostly seasonal—garnering the bulk of its sales during the months of Thanksgiving and Christmas. The retail shop continues to operate out of its original location in Morton, and in this age of high-volume commercial growers, Yordy remains one of the only family-owned turkey farms in the state, hearkening back to a simpler time.

Through it all, Yordy Turkey Farm has remained true to its founder’s commitment to quality. “We’ve had years where sales aren’t very good, or feed costs are higher than what you sell them for,” Brent relates. “But our philosophy is to raise a good product that people will want to go back for… We really listen to the consumer, and we try to adapt our operation to suit the majority of consumers. Quality is what we want them to remember.” iBi

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