On a sunny fall day in early November, the gang of turkeys at Second Street Farm outside Lander — roughly 100 domestic hens and toms — seemed blissfully unaware of the impending holiday.
The birds clucked and murmured, preened and strutted. Curious hens untied the shoes of a reporter who ventured into their midst, pecked at her camera, even attempted to remove her glasses. At the slightest provocation, the entire flock would erupt in a collective gobble.
“They are pretty goofy,” Pat Brennan, the farm’s co-owner, said.
The birds, which will grace Thanksgiving tables from Riverton to Jackson and Cheyenne, are the product of a new, small-scale Wyoming farm. However, they also nod back to a time when Fremont County was home to a significant poultry industry.
Pat and Bailey Brennan are the young proprietors of Second Street Farm, a 74-acre operation right outside Lander city limits. The Brennans, who both grew up in Jackson, launched the farm this summer.
Though they hope to raise vegetables in the future, they decided to begin with poultry, Bailey Brennan said, because it seemed like the easiest need to fill.
“Through conversations with friends and other growers, we identified a need for local poultry,” she said. “There aren’t really a lot of producers doing local poultry.”
Plus, she said, they are a relatively hands-off stock.
“Once you get them past poult stage, they are pretty low maintenance,” Brennan said.
The Brennans ordered the flock in July and soon had 100 fluffy, palm-sized chicks in their care. They first kept them in brooders. When the birds got big enough, they ranged outside. On a steady diet of grass, insects and feed, the voracious birds quickly put on weight — even through spells of frigid weather in October.
When Second Street Farm advertised its holiday birds, it didn’t take long to sell out. Once the turkeys reached maturity, in mid-November, they were slaughtered, de-feathered, packaged and frozen. All told, the final carcasses weighed anywhere from 16-35 pounds.
The Brennans join a long tradition of turkey farming in Fremont County. Poultry raising played a significant role in the Lander Valley agriculture industry in the early part of the 20th century, according to the Fremont County Pioneer Museum.
There were 180 turkey producers in Fremont County, according to a Lander Journal article from 1926. Some were small operations, while others had upwards of 800 turkeys. Other news clippings provided by the museum said Fremont County turkeys were shipped to markets as far away as New York City. One clipping from January of 1930, meanwhile, estimated that the year’s winter shipments of turkeys through the Wind River Cooperative Turkey Marketing association from Lander and Riverton would total 225,000 pounds, fetching $50,000 in revenues.