NORTH POWDER – The image of blue corduroy jackets alongside cows and pigs at the county fair is a common sight in Eastern Oregon. However, high school classes and FFA projects cover a wide variety of animal sciences outside the popular livestock options. The North Powder FFA chapter recently finished a rather seasonably appropriate project to raise, process and sell Thanksgiving Turkeys.
According to North Powder FFA advisor and ag teacher Hailey Patterson, the project started back in the summer and was originally the brainchild of Haily’s Father, Ken Patterson. The Chapter originally received a Wilco Grant to purchase 5 turkey eggs and five turkey poults, with Oregon Trail Livestock Supply donating all the feed and providing other supplies such as the watering system, feeders, shavings and so on. As described by Patterson:
“When I called the store originally, I was just checking to see what type of turkey feed they kept stocked for planning purposes, but Martin Arritola generously offered to donate the feed for this year’s turkey project. Oregon Trail Livestock has always been a big supporter of our chapter and our community. We are so thankful for their constant support and generosity that they give to our community.”
Once the eggs and poults arrived in July, FFA Member Gage Bingham was responsible for incubating the eggs (none of which ended up hatching) and initially caring for the young turkeys through August. The class would then work together to care for the birds from August to October when they were eventually harvested. Kay Patterson and even the school’s Superintendent Lance Dixon assisted with the harvest and students helped with the killing, plucking, gutting, and packaging.
Two of the birds, sadly, wouldn’t make it to harvest. However, this became something of a learning opportunity in its own right. As explained by Patterson:
“One poult died upon delivery and another one died in September. I ended up making a mystery ‘Who Killed Tom the Turkey’ lab out of it and students used real evidence to determine what caused the Turkey to die and researched how to keep the others from dying as well.”
Even after the birds were harvested and ready for sale, the students still found opportunities to learn from the project. While one turkey was given away to the winner of the FFA Turkey Shoot trap shooting contest, there was a debate among students on how to sell the remaining two. Roughly half the chapter wanted to sell by the head and the other half wanted to put it in a raffle. To solve the issue, the students used their formalized Parliamentary Procedure skills to settle on a compromise. Two groups were formed, and each sold a turkey in the way they preferred, raising $500 dollars in total for the chapter.
Given the success of the turkey project, North Powder FFA plans on purchasing more turkey’s next year. The funds from this year’s sale will help to purchase the next batch as well as feed. As best summarized by Patterson when reflecting on the project:
“The purpose of this project was to create a self-sustaining, hands-on learning experience for students. This year’s earnings far exceeded my expectations. When we did the turkey drawing in class on Thursday (11/16) students were very excited and incredibly proud of themselves and their hard work!”