- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 20, 2009

PARKTON, Md. (AP) | Lynne Ferguson had 228 turkeys roaming in her backyard this summer, and she plans to have twice that number next year.

The former nurse and construction worker has found her calling as a turkey farmer, raising the birds all year long for her customer’s Thanksgiving tables.

Miss Ferguson says she decided about six years ago to start farming to make sure she was getting safe, nutritious food. She started raising chickens with her son for a 4-H project and later added Berkshire pigs - a heritage breed - before adding turkeys two years ago.

“It’s a slow process,” Miss Ferguson said. “I was blessed to have the ability to take [time] and do it, and not have the sole focus be money.”

Miss Ferguson has been using land she bought for development, rotating the turkeys every few weeks to a new patch of grass.

“Turkeys are a hoot,” Miss Ferguson said. “They like women, so when it gets [to be] time to loading up and taking them up onto the truck and things like that, all you have to do is call them.”

Miss Ferguson gets day-old turkeys at the end of July and feeds them in her backyard, where they like to peck at wild grass and weeds along with the feed she puts out. By the end of their lives, each turkey eats a pound of feed per day, growing to 15 to 20 pounds apiece.

Miss Ferguson said she likes to market her turkeys herself, selling most through farmers markets and Web sites devoted to small, sustainably managed farms. Miss Ferguson said she had all of her turkeys spoken for three weeks before Thanksgiving, and next year, she’s planning to double the size of her flock.

She and three other farmers buy young turkeys together and have the birds slaughtered and processed at a facility built by one of the farmers.

“Where things are butchered or processed makes a big difference,” Miss Ferguson said. “People need to start understanding where their food is [handled] and connecting to their food source.”

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