Every time I see it, and I've seen it a lot, I smile. That low slung open sided barn filled with thousands of turkeys. Whistle and they gobble. Of course I'm not the only one smiling, so is Dave Jaindl. He owns the place: "We are breeders, hatchers, growers and processors of approximately 750,000 turkeys each year. Primarily for Thanksgiving and Christmas."
Yup, he said 750,000 turkeys. The only thing more remarkable is that his family started this business 60 years ago with five turkeys. "Gee, Those turkeys were pretty prolific weren't they Dave?", I ask. "Yes, " he says laughing, "they certainly were."
The Jaindl family has been pretty prolific itself in those 60 years. They own 11,000 acres of the Lehigh Valley. And while they are first and foremost an agricultural operation that's not all they are. In fact, for most successful large farmers in the United States, the Jaindl operation is pretty typical. Well organized, well thought out, targeted and run like a business. Jaindl Farms is one of the top five fully integrated turkey operations in America.
As Dave pointed out they do everything for and with a turkey from cradle to ladle. And now, they're branching into the biofuel business. Much of the land they own they farm for feed for the turkeys. Soy beans is a very large crop, and as they process the beans, they take the oil and are experimenting with turning it into biofuel. Using it to heat the hatchery and offices. Soon they plan to run the farm machinery on it.
But wait, there's more. The Jaindl Land Development Company. "As infrastructure and utilities move out, and it becomes no longer feasible to farm land, we develop as the need arises. We try to acquire additional agriculture land to supplement," says Jaindl. We're having this conversation while we walk through one of Jaindl's subdivisions. It's a high end affair not far outside Allentown.
"More and more people are moving out this way from New York and New Jersey. It's a quality of life issue," he says.
What Jaindl does as he develops portions of his holdings closest to growing communities, is buy up smaller farms as they become available. For a farmer his or her farm is their retirement fund, their pension. When it comes time to move on, selling it is money in the bank. Dave Jaindl is happy to buy it because he wants to always be in the farming business and it's land that makes that possible.
"Our lands are predominantly agricultural lands, and we're determined to keep it that way." He says that as he and I walk through one of the turkey barns. I whistle, they gobble. I smile every time.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all. 'Mike On America' has a Thanksgiving hour special for your enjoyment on Thursday at 11 am eastern time.
Have an extra piece of pie on me.
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