Fischer Turkey Flock Article




Fischer Turkey Flock of 5,000 had its Start

With 2 Hens, a Tom, A Dream 35 years ago

Sunday Morning, Nov. 22, 1959

By Dorothy Collins

Staff Writer Fargo Forum, Fargo, ND



Two turkey hens and a tom plus a young couple with a dream but not much turkey-raising know-how—the was the start of the Fischer Turkey Farm north of Moorhead nearly 35 years ago- the farm that will produce holiday dinners from a flock of 5,000 this fall.


The dream of producing good turkeys– more than that, championship show turkeys- was realized by Fred Fischer. But the vision was almost shattered for his wife, Zula, 15 years ago when Fred was killed in a tragic auto accident.


There were 14 children, too, for her to bring up alone. A few were grown- three were away from home- and the youngest was just 21 months old.


That summer of 1945 dealt a double blow to Mrs. Fischer, an only child who lost her mother when she was just five weeks old. Her father died in summer, 1945, too, and she says that she stood by his graveside after the funeral with her husband and three weeks later to the day, she was standing beside her husband’s graveside.


Her courage and her faith-these helped her go on. She knew little about the turkey business- that had been taken of by Fred, since she had her hands full caring for the children and home.


But the children pitched in, and they managed to carry on until two months later when her son, Bob, was discharged from the service to come home and take over the raising of the turkeys.


Mrs. Fischer remembers that there was comfort in walking miles through the fields and woods of the rolling Fischer lands, which follow along the winding Red River.


Bob had the turkeys 12 years, also attending NDAC until he received his degree in agricultural engineering. He is now with the Soil Conversation Service in Fargo.


Now son Lawrence of Fargo is raising the turkeys. It is no simple, easy job- turkeys require lots of work. And there is also the business side—it takes a gamblers instinct to know when and the best way to market them.


The major part of the turkeys are marketed at produce houses, but many are also sold at retail. Incubator-hatched and brooder-raised, the turkeys are Mammoth Bronze, bred to broad-breasted meat type.


The elements—storm, rain and sleet—are part of what makes growing the turkey to dinner size a touch and go proposition. They must be kept dry—a turkey perishes quickly when it gets wet—and it isn’t uncommon to lose hundreds at one whack from exposure to bad weather.


Cold temperatures are not as hard on them. They are outdoor birds and stay out in all kinds of weather. At the Fischer’s they have free run of 60 acres.


Wild in nature, they startle at any unusual disturbance. They are able to fly for a considerable distance and are also clever at taking advantage of any undetectable “leak in the fence”, Mrs. Fischer says.


Since she doesn’t fancy having them roam the front yard, they get chased back in short order when they’re successful. Still, she remarks that in the spring, “there is always one or two that make a nest in the flower beds.


She recalls, too, their early days with the turkeys when she would hang out her clothes on a washday and then sometimes have to start all over again when the turkeys would fly up on the clothesline, sway there and also pick off the buttons.


Wild animals are a menace to turkeys. Raccoons, owls, skunks and even crows enjoy turkey dinners whenever they can steal them. Mrs. Fischer tells about the time three raccoons waited in a tree, their watchful eyes upon the turkeys. They were spotted in time by son Jerome equipped with a rifle.


Asked whether any of the birds become pets, Mrs. Fischer swiftly assured us she prefers her turkeys in the roasting pan. She did comment that her husband had once made a pet of a tom, which became so tame he would come up to him and rub his head against his hand.


When it comes to buying turkeys at the market, any housewife knows that hens are higher by the pound, so we asked—why is this so? Mrs. Fischer says this is because hens have a finer meat than toms, and are usually fatter since they’re smaller and there aren’t so much of them to fatten up. But in an interesting aside on the difference, she remarked: “After the turkey is roasted, cut up and put on the platter, I doubt very much that anyone could tell if it was a hen or a tom. “


Since the Fischer’s have grown up with turkeys underfoot, one might think they would tire of them on the menu. Such isn’t so. The family has turkey almost every Sunday. They eat turkey’s eggs in the spring, too, usually scrambled. There used to be many angel food cakes with so many eggs available, but packaged mixes have replaced these.


The Fischer children are scattered now, most of them married with families. There are 25 grandchildren. Three of these have college degrees, and four attended Business College.


One son, Vincent, died in 1949.


At home now are Audrey, 16, the youngest, John, and Jerome, who is in the Air National Guard, and his wife and baby son.


The one who lives the farthest away is Arlene, who teaches physical education in California. The other children, besides Bob and Lawrence of Fargo, are: Allan and Mrs. Leonard (Charlotte) Nelson, both of Moorhead; Eloise and Lyle, both of Minneapolis; Frederick, Fergus Falls, Minn.; Mrs. David (Elaine) Gess, in Colorado; and Mrs. Roy (Mary) Gordon, in Illinois.


The article included a picture of Zula, (captioned: Turkeys of Mrs. Fred Fischer have enabled her to meet the expenses of raising 14 children. Throughout the years, the flock has numbered as high as 7,200, Audrey (captioned: Feeding the birds is not a usual chore of Audrey Fischer, 16, but she consented to throw out some corn to them for the photographer. Audrey, the “baby” of the Fischer family, is a junior at Shanley High School), Lawrence (captioned: Surveying part of the flock of 5,000 turkeys is Lawrence Fischer, who is in charge of raising them. He says the job is an all-day one and “sometimes all night too”. The Fischer’s also farm 284 acres of small grain), Randy (captioned: Are we friends?---Randy Fischer, 13 months, and a 35 pound Mammoth Bronze tom turkey eye each other warily through the fence).


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