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Finding Minnesota: Ferndale Market Raising Turkeys

CANNON FALLS, Minn. (WCCO) -- Thanksgiving is now just a week and a half away. If you're hosting the family meal this year, it's time to start thinking about where you are going to get that turkey.

You probably have heard that Minnesota is number one in the nation for turkey production and processing. Minnesota is also home to some amazing turkey farms that have been in families for generations.

In Cannon Falls, people passing by the Ferndale Market could easily assume it's just like any other store off Highway 52.

They'd be wrong.

John Peterson is one of the owners of the market.

The store sells everything from breakfast items to coffee roasted in Cannon Falls to jams and jellies, as well as cheese, beef and honey all produced at businesses within a short drive.

Everything is local.

But it's the turkey that really brings in the crowds. It's frozen and fresh; raised right next door on the Petersons' farm.

John's grandparents, Fern and Dale, started this farm more than 70 years ago.

But it was the third-generation of Petersons that took the family business to the next step.

In 2008, they cut back on selling to distributors and started selling to their neighbors in the Ferndale Market.

"We sold our turkeys to a processor who then handled all the sales and marketing. So we were really detached from the end user or the chef who would be serving our turkey and that was something we really yearned for was to have that re-connection with the people that were enjoying our turkey. So that's what we set out to do in 2008, was to begin selling our turkey directly to the public," said John.

Think about how many times you have you gone to the meat section, found a turkey that you like and then noticed labels like free-range and raised without antibiotics.

At the turkey farm next to the market, you can see exactly what all that means.

Free range means the turkeys literally have the freedom to run around outside. They are not cooped up around the clock.

John's father, Dick Peterson, described how he keeps the birds as close to nature, and as natural as he can.

"The other things that we do that are different is that we don't do any antibiotics or any growth promotion for turkeys and all our processing is done naturally, which means there is no water or butter or additives, added to the turkeys," said Dick. "So when someone buys our turkeys, it is pure turkeys. So we think we are a little different from what other people do. Even though we've been here for 70 years."

Dick learned all about turkeys from his father, Dale.

He then passed on what he knew to his son, John.

"My father's predominant business was hatching and selling day old turkeys. My love was more growing turkeys. And now we have gone to the third generation of selling the turkeys that we grow, our own turkeys, which is pretty exciting," Dick said.

Dick's wife, Jane, also helps run the turkey farm and the market.

"It's been really rewarding to get to chat with them and tell them more about what we do. They seem to really enjoy that," Jane said.

Turkey Fest will be held Nov. 19 and 20 at Ferndale Market. They will have lots of free samples of foods and cooking classes.

You also still have time to order a fresh free-range young turkey from them for Thanksgiving.

And for the first time this year, they are offering turkeys that fly: smoked turkeys that you can have shipped to any place in the country as a gift.

Click on the link below for more information on the Ferndale Market.

Ferndale Market Website

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