Smith Valley School FFA students conduct annual turkey sale
Before each of the around three-dozen turkeys Smith Valley School FFA students prepared for sale, seventh-grader Audrina Banta would hold the bird and thank it for its sacrifice.
Despite contagion and theft, Smith Valley FFA conducted its annual turkey sale on the Friday before Thanksgiving.
The turkey business is one of several run by students out of Smith Valley School’s FFA Program.
Student in charge, seventh-grader Banta sold three-dozen turkeys, one of which, A small female named “Smalls,” was pardoned by Smith Valley Principal Duane Mattice.
The largest turkey sold was a 30-pounder.
The business is a standing tradition with many repeat customers who count on Smith Valley FFA to provide the turkey at their Thanksgiving feast. Banta and the FFA students handled every aspect of the processing from death to scalding, plucking, evisceration, cleaning and packaging.
According to the school, Banta held each turkey, and thanked it for its sacrifice before the animals were processed.
The turkey business usually comes with some challenges, including just getting the two-day-old chicks to start out.
Only about half of the chicks survive the trip with some exhibiting birth defects.
In addition, Smith Valley FFA also struggled with theft this year. Turkeys, among other items, were stolen from the program.
But Banta and Smith Valley FFA persevered with the turkeys that remained.
Banta will keep six turkeys, one of which is a male, to breed her own turkeys for the following year and hopefully moving forward. If Banta is able to breed and grow her own turkeys, she would be able to eliminate the need for a breeder and hopefully produce more healthy turkeys for the future of her business.
She hopes to have about 60 turkeys for next year’s event, which would almost double her production from this year. The proceeds from the turkey processing go in part back to Smith Valley FFA, to fund next year’s event and to Banta, who is the business manager.
She said she plans to work in the turkey business through her middle and high school years, giving her a chance to make some lasting changes and innovation. Since Banta is only in 7th grade, she has the next five years to give her turkey breeding plans a go and time to see her business flourish.
In addition to breeding turkeys for next year’s Thanksgiving holiday, she also plans to sell some of the turkeys for show at the National Junior Livestock Show, according to the school. Banta will breed White Heritage, Chocolate and Mixed Breed (Chocolate and White Heritage) since those are the breeds she will be keeping to breed. She found this year that those with Chocolate in their genetics tend to grow slower. She plans to keep this in mind and addressing this throughout the year so that all of her turkeys will be in prime condition come next Thanksgiving.