A turkey tale, from 4-H to DC

November 20, 2017
Kerryn Lund, Christina Kuismi, Kayla Egenes, Katie Kent, and Kodi Bundermann, with turkeys in the background

The 4-H "Talking Turkey" team, left to right: Kerryn Lund, Christina Kuismi, Kayla Egenes, Katie Kent, and Kodi Bundermann

When the cameras turn to the White House this week to catch President Trump “pardoning” the National Thanksgiving Turkey (for turkey transgressions unknown), look for a big Minnesota presence.

Among the turkey presenters will be a team of five youth who won second place in University of Minnesota Extension’s 2017 4-H Science of Agriculture program.

None of the team members, all girls from Douglas County, had prior experience with turkeys, but—in the 4-H spirit—they took on the challenge. The Science of Agriculture program teams young people with adult mentors to discover solutions to problems faced by today’s ag professionals.

The “Talking Turkey” team’s research involved testing bedding options, such as leaves and corn stalks, in turkey pens, and gathering data from turkey producers. 

Once their project was complete, the 4-H’ers turned their attention to socializing and handling the turkeys—one official bird and one alternate—for the ceremony in Washington. 

The 4-H youth were mentored by National Turkey Federation (NTF) president Carl Wittenberg and his wife, Sharlene, along with coach Barb Egenes, a 4-H volunteer in Douglas County. The Wittenbergs, their son Wyatt, and the 4-H’ers will present the turkey. After the ceremony, the turkey and its alternate will go to live at Virginia Tech University's Gobbler’s Rest “in the folds of the Blue Ridge Mountains.” Even before the main event the turkeys were getting the royal treatment, staying Sunday night at the posh Willard InterContinental Washington.

President Harry Truman first received the National Thanksgiving Turkey at the White House 70 years ago. Wittenberg is the 13th NTF president from Minnesota (the nation's No. 1 producer and processor of turkeys), to be a part of the White House presentation.