Bits & Pieces continued 2 - Growing Up on a Turkey Farm

Turkeys and noise - When turkeys hear a noise almost the whole herd will all gobble at once.  (Click on the audio above to hear the turkeys).


Growing up on a Turkey Farm in Moroni, Utah

1945 - My dad and my oldest brother - John LaMont

LaMont as an adult with his 2 boys still raising turkeys.



Growing up on a Turkey Farm was a very unique experience. I remember at a young age helping out with the turkeys. I think it was more for the experience of learning to work than that my dad needed the help.

My dad started out with herds of bronze (black) turkeys (later on in years, they only raised white turkeys – that was so the black pinfeathers wouldn’t show when the turkeys were processed) The herds they would receive started at 2,000 then increased through the years to 5,000 and now they are anywhere from 10,000 to 16,000 depending on the size of the brooder barn they are going in to. They stayed in the brooder coops for about 5 weeks where they were protected from the weather, then they were transported out to the open range in the hills with only a roof on the range house to protect them until they were ready to go to the turkey processing plant. Today, they are transferred to huge barns called outgrow barns where they are completely protected from weather, varmints and disease. Some of these barns will hold 10 to 16,000 turkeys. (See pictures below).



Bronze Turkeys




White Turkeys



Up in the hills, they also had trouble with deer coming and taking the feed for the turkeys. They would build 2 tier fences and they could still jump over them and get to the feed. That’s why it’s all enclosed now in the outgrow barns.

They received water and food in long troughs. Sometimes I had to help put water in the troughs and feed also. Today everything is really automated with the feeders on a chain and the water is fed into little cup s that have nipples on them where the turkeys peck at them to release water and also the grain feeders now have augers that keep the troughs full.




The water troughs have little nipples on them that the turkeys peck at to get their water.




The grain is piled into huge tanks outside and is then transported through the lines with augers where it spills out into the baskets.




De-beaking and vaccinating. In the olden days, they were de-beaked around the age of 2 weeks I think. A hot blade would be pushed down on a metal plate to cut the end of the top beak off. This was done so they wouldn’t peck each other to death. We also vaccinated them in their legs against disease around the age of 3 weeks I think. If the herds got a disease in them the whole herd could be affected with many of them dying. Around the age of 7 o r 8, myself and other brothers and sisters would go help herd the turkeys into a little pen to wait in line. Then someone else would grab the turkeys by the legs while someone else either vaccinated them or de-beaked them depending on what we were doing that day.

Turkeys are kind of fragile in the beginning.  The turkeys are so soft and cute when they are so tiny.  Sometimes loud noises would scare them and they would run and gather too close to each other and sometimes smother to death.  Turkeys will also stop each other until that turkey is almost as flat as a pancake.  When the turkeys get older, it's funny when you make a noise, the whole heard of turkeys will all gobble together.





Even in the summertime, they need heaters in the beginning to keep them warm.



Baby turkeys all huddled together.


With all the technology and science and information they have today - there is a lot more control in raising turkeys. See the age and weight comparison for Large Hens & Toms in the past and today with technology:

Type Today Past

Hens – Older 12 weeks 15 lbs. 16 weeks 16 lbs.

Toms – Older 19 weeks 42 lbs. 28 weeks 28 lbs.


Today, my brothers and brother-in-laws each raise anywhere from 150,000 to 200,000 turkeys a year depending on the size of their barns.




Going to the Turkey Plant: I remember being very little and sometimes going down to my Dad’s office at the plant. It was always fun going in there; the secretaries would let us have some promotional items like pencils and little notebooks and let us have a soda pop.




My dad sitting in his office at the turkey plant.



I also liked it when we got to go help with the turkeys because that meant we earned a little money plus it was just fun even though it was hard work. I don’t remember how much, but it was great to have my own money to spend.


4-H -- Earning $350.00: For 2 or 3 years, I was in 4-H. I got to raise 25 turkeys myself. Of course my brothers and Dad helped and it wasn’t all that fun, but at the end of the year just before Christmas, they had a Turkey Show – each person that had turkeys would go down to the processing plant to pick their best turkey. You had to clean it all up and clean out the pin feathers and make it look really nice. Then we would go to Salt Lake City and get to stay in a motel. Some of my friends like Nora Kellett was also in 4-H so we got to have lots of fun together while in Salt Lake City. At the Turkey show, some big businesses and Restaurants and Hotel owners would come. Some even came from New York City. Everyone’s turkeys would be displayed and judges would come around and inspect them and decide which ones were the best. Then the businesses would bid on the turkeys. There were several different categories for the turkeys between Tom’s and Hen’s and how heavy they were also. One year I came in 2nd place. I think I won around $350. LaMont, my oldest brother won the Grand Champion one year. I think he got over $1000 for his.



At the Turkey Show, I took 2nd place and got around $350 for my turkey.




My oldest brother, LaMont won the Grand Champion Tom and got over $1000.00



Learning to drive different vehicles.

I got to learn how to drive different vehicles also living on the farm. I drove trucks, a big dump truck even a tractor a few times. My brother Oneil taught me how to drive a truck. He said I had to learn how to drive a stick-shift before I could drive a car. One day he took me out on some dirt roads and made me stop and start many many times to make sure I knew how to make the clutch work. If I would start to use my left foot on the brake, he would reach down and slap my foot to remind me that I was to only use my left foot for the clutch. (More to come about driving and getting my license).

My first real job besides helping with the turkeys at home, was working at the turkey plant. I was in high school – probably around 15 years old. I would go down to the turkey plant each weeknight and run a ticker tape through a machine that would send the information about the day’s work at the plant to Norbest (the Corporate office in SLC). It was a great job. As the ticker tape was processing, I could work on my homework. It gave me a little spending money for lunches and activities which was great.

When I turned 16, I was able to work at the turkey plant on Saturdays and in the summertime during the week. Nora Kellett and I would go down to the plant to see if any workers didn’t show up. Usually we could work and most of the time it was on the Pin line. My first big job at the plant was on the Pin Line. The turkeys were killed with an electric shock then their throats were slit so the blood could drain from their body. Next, they were dipped in large tanks with scalding hot water and as they traveled down the line, long rubber fingers would scrape the feathers off. As they came around the line – we would handpick off any pin feathers that were left on the turkeys. It was a wet yucky job, but the pay was good. Originally they only raised bronze (black) turkeys but later on switched to white turkeys because you couldn’t see the pin feathers as well.

“YOU GOTTA HAVE HEART” I remember Nora Kellett and I working at the giblet table with a bunch of older ladies. That’s where you bundled up a heart, a gizzard and a liver from the turkeys and put them in a bag and then put it up in that little pocket of skin above the opening of the neck. Do you remember that song – “You Gotta Have Heart”? Sometimes the turkeys would get hung up on the line and everything would stop until they found out what was the matter. Nora and I started singing that song throwing hearts at each other. The ladies really started laughing. It was a nice break to stop the monotony.

Working on the packaging side of the turkey plant: Grandma Olsen and Aunt Vawn (my dad’s sister) worked at the turkey plant for many years. Sometimes I got to work with them which was a lot of fun. They worked on the box side. As the turkeys traveled around the moving belt they were bagged and put in cold water to get ready to freeze them and then put them in boxes with the weight of the turkeys put on the end. I worked in areas where they folded and put the boxes together as well as putting the turkeys in the boxes and recording their weights. We had to add the weights of the 2 turkeys together in our heads. Someone would shout out the weight and others would write it down on the end of the box. We took turns doing each different part of the job.

Embarrassing Moment: One summer while my husband was going to Officer Training School for the National Guard for 4 months, I went home to stay with my parents. I worked in the area of adding (in my head) the weights of the turkeys and then recording it on the end of the box. I worked in this area with Gaye Blackham. She was Moyle Blackham’s daughter. Moyle was the Assistant Manager to my father at the plant. One day I had an embarrassing moment. Gaye and I were goofing around exercising kicking our legs high in the air as we waited for some more turkeys to come on the belt. Just at that time my father walks up with a business man taking him on a tour of the plant. We were really embarrassed kicking our legs so high in front of them. My Dad never said anything to me about it though.

A very sad event - One other vivid memory was when Gaye and I were working – Bishop Tidwell came in and took Gaye away quickly without saying a word to anyone. At break time I found out that her father (Moyle) had a massive heart attack and had died at a young age of 48 years old. It was a shock to everyone. There oldest son, Leonard Blackham was a classmate of mine.




Assistant Mgr. Moyle Blackham died of a heart attack at 48 yrs of age.




The funny thing is----- I’m not sure what my Dad was thinking about, but I remember riding with him sometimes to go out and check the turkey’s in the hills. We would talk some, and then sometimes he would be in deep thought. You could see his mouth moving as he was talking to himself and then sometimes he would shake his head no. I’m sure he was probably working on problems with the turkeys and the turkey plant, trying to figure out solutions. The funny thing is, I find myself doing the exact same thing sometimes that my children catch me doing, moving my mouth and shaking my head no as I’m deep in thought pondering.

A Herd of Deer: One time when Mom and Dad and I went to check the turkeys out in the hills and there was a herd of deer roaming about. As we were traveling along the road, all of a sudden here came that herd and they all just jumped over the fence very easily. There was one deer that was only using 3 legs. We didn’t know what was going to happen to him when he reached the fence. Evidently there was a small hole in the fence down at the bottom and he just bent way down low and went right through it. We all laughed so hard. It was really something to see.

Huge Tom Turkeys – Pecking at me. The last time I remember helping in the turkeys – I came home from college for a weekend. Dad was out of town to turkey meetings somewhere. Mom had to go check the feed and water up in the hills with the Tom Turkeys. Well, here I was in nice clothes, but I wanted to help, so I grabbed two big long sticks and waved one in front of me and waved one in back of me at the same time. Those big Tom turkeys will come after you and start pecking at you. I hurriedly went through and checked them and watered some of them. When we were through, Mom and I just laughed.



Even taking these pictures, I didn't want to go inside because they all come running at you.  I just stuck my arm inside to take the pictures and shewed them back while I tried to click it.






******Famous BBQ Turkey Recipe – TRY IT – YOU”LL LIKE IT!

This recipe has been around for many many years. It’s sooooo simple and yet soooooo good! It’s always available at Town events – 4th of July and other holiday events.

1 part oil

1 part soy sauce

2 parts 7-up

little salt and pepper and garlic salt


You decide what the “parts” size is depending on how much turkey (or you can use chicken if turkey isn’t available) you are going to cook. Example, 2 cups oil, 2 cups soy sauce, 4 cups 7-up.

Cut turkey or chicken into large chunks and marinate in sauce above for 6 to 8 hours. Cook out on the BBQ grill. Don’t overcook or it will be dry. Just cook till done.


My Dad’s example: My Dad was a very influential man in the turkey industry. He held many positions on different boards. One of the most important things I learned from my dad was to work hard and do your best in whatever you are trying to accomplish. He worked hard his entire life. It wasn’t easy being manager of the processing plant and also being a turkey grower himself. Even after he retired, he continued to work, helping his sons with their farms however he could. They also had cattle and fields of hay to cut down, as well as turkeys to grow. Even though he put in very very long hours, he was also always there for his children and grandchildren coming to our sports games, to piano recitals, etc.




Dad at a PEPA (Pacific Egg & Poultry Association) in Las Vegas being honored.

My Dad was generous to those who needed help. He took care of his Mother for 40 years while she was a widow, making sure he saw her everyday he was at home. He also quietly helped others who might be struggling for one reason or another.


Work and Positions held on a few of the boards he was on are listed below.

--Manager of Processing Plant 1946 to 1977 (31 yrs)

--General Manager Feed Co. 1977-1986 (9 yrs)

--Utah Manufactures’ Association (UMA) 1967-1974 – President in 1973

--PEPA (Pacific Egg & Poultry Association – (consists of 11 Western States & Canada)

Treasurer 1983

2nd Vice Pres. 1984

1st Vice Pres. 1985

President 1986

--Director & Chairman of the Norbest board

President of Norbest Board – June 1979 to 1984

--Utah Manufacturer’s Association

Man of the year – along with Ralph Blackham

--BYU Parent Committee about 4 years

--County Republican chairman 4 years

--Advisory Board of Sacramento Bank of Cooperatives – 3 years


I had a wonderful childhood growing up. I’m so thankful for being raised on the turkey farm and having such wonderful parents who taught us so much. We arose early to take care of chores and piano practice. We worked hard and appreciated all that we had. We also had the Gospel in our lives which taught us many values. My dad held many different positions in the church throughout his life. He accomplished so much and instilled in all of us (siblings) to do the same thing. We were so thankful that he stayed with us until he was just over 90 years old.


(still to come - Click here to read my Dad and Mother’s Life Stories)



A Few extra pictures:



The first turkey coop my Dad owned - Now it's used for tool storage.



Old office building that was part of the original turkey plant.



This is the south end of the plant. It is where the turkeys are killed and cleaned and prepared to get ready to freeze. This is an add-on section. There were many add-ons through the years. At one point Moroni had the largest turkey processing plant in the United States.