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Small farms raise turkeys for Sanpete co-op

Published: Friday, Nov. 25 2011 9:19 p.m. MST

Turkey and cattle farms near Moroni.

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MORONI, Sanpete County — In rural central Utah, a cooperative of 43 farmers has helped build one of the largest turkey production companies in the country.

All the farms in the family-owned operation are located within the county and have been worked by multiple generations.

Additionally, about 500 people are employed at the cooperative's processing plant in Moroni, Utah, making it the largest employer in the county of 27,822 people.

The Moroni Feed Co. produces more than 100 million pounds of Norbest turkeys annually. The company is the 15th largest producer of turkey in the country, according to the National Turkey Federation.

Among its farmers is Todd Jorgensen, who lives in Mt. Pleasant, which is only a few miles from the processing plant and about 90 miles south of Salt Lake City. His farm has been in the family for four generations, and is currently worked by his wife and him, along with his father and two sons.

Even his grandchildren, who are too young to work, are learning their way around the farm, Jorgensen told The Daily Herald of Provo.

"It's a great place to raise kids," Jorgensen said. "They learn to work hard and they learn to take pride in the things they have, build things, to watch things grow and progress. It's a great life."

On his farm, Jorgensen raises about 1.5 million pounds of turkey from 16,000 birds. Jorgensen also has raised sheep and grown hay.

"A lot of the farms are like ours," Jorgensen said. "There are a few farms that do nothing but turkeys, but most of them have other things they do too … and all the farms are family farms."

Farmers raise the turkeys from time the birds are born as "poults," until they reach 19 weeks old, Jorgensen said.

During the first four weeks, the farmers spend considerable amounts of time monitoring equipment in the sheds where the turkeys are raised because "if anything breaks or stops, it doesn't take very long before you could lose a lot of turkeys," Jorgensen said.

Since the Jorgensen family got into the turkey business about 25 years ago, things have changed dramatically. The automation alone has made things much easier to manage, as the fans and heaters in each shed are managed by computers, Jorgensen said.

Turkeys are also kept inside all of the time, which protects them from disease and helps them grow, he said.

Overall, Angie Jorgensen, Todd's wife, said the importance of the turkey industry in Sanpete County cannot be overstated.

"Without it, this area, we couldn't survive," she said.

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