Pure turkey

Mike Marsh

Mike Marsh of Rise & Shine Farms in Fallon raises, among other things, turkeys. Heritage ones, 43 this year. He’s been sold out since July. He’s pictured with granddaughter Kassie.

What is a heritage turkey?

We had orders that came in before Thanksgiving last year for this year—they go really fast. But a heritage turkey is a breed that—how to explain?—that hasn’t been modified. It hasn’t been bred to be a large-breasted turkey. The genetics haven’t been changed at all. It’s still the same as they had 100 years ago.

So it’s kind of like the concept of an heirloom tomato?

Exactly. Like any heirloom plant, it’s the same thing. There’s a website of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy [www.albc.org], if you want more information on heritage breeds. We raise the Royal Palm—a beautiful bird.

Why did you choose Royal Palms?

A few years ago, we were doing a bigger bird, and the customers were complaining they were too big, so we were looking for a medium range. We can get them what they want with a smaller 10-12 pound bird up to an 18-20 pound bird. A lot of the broad- breasted, especially when raised free-range, like we do—no added hormones, they just eat whatever they find: grass, bugs, grains—they’ll actually grow up to 35-40 pounds. They’re way too big. So we were looking at heritage breeds and decided the Royal Palm was in between. There’s a lot of heritage breeds out there, we picked one and stuck with it, and that’s what we’ve got.

What do they cost?

We charge $35 per bird. It’s not by the pound; we have a standard set fee.

What do they taste like compared to grocery turkeys?

You know what? I haven’t eaten one at the grocery store in so long I wouldn’t know. Customers love them. They’re juicier. I don’t think they’re meatier. They have a different flavor to them. That’s the biggest comment: They don’t have as much fat on them, but they have a juicier flavor. Probably because the way they’re processed. They’re not stuck in what we call fecal soup—they’re not pumped up with a saline solution like they are in the grocery store to keep them fresh. We process them and we deliver them within the next day or two.

Where do you deliver?

We deliver to Reno, Sparks, Carson City. We deliver right to the door.

So if someone wants one next year, how do they order?

Go to our website [www.riseandshinefarms.com]. It’s not on our website right now, because we take them down at July. They can call us at the number you called me [(775) 867-5873] and tell us they want one for next year, and we’ll put them on the list. … [A]bout the middle of May, we figure out how many people we’ve got and [in July] we start breeding for that many people plus 20 percent because we know more people will come along as the time goes. There’s always people who cancel.

You said they’re free-range? Are they organic, too?

We grow them as organic, but they’re not certified as organic. We give them organic grains, but that’s just after the grass and weeds start dying off and the bugs start going away, then we have to give them that little extra protein, but it’s all organic feeds they get. We don’t give them anything that will have any pesticides or herbicides or GMO crops.

Why the demand for heritage turkeys?

I think it’s just because people want local food. They want something they know is being raised. And heritage breeds—their genetics have not been modified, they haven’t been altered. It’s the pure breed. Nothing where it’s been crossbred with this one and artificially inseminated with that one. It’s just pure turkey.