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Talking Turkey

Julien students learn about presidential fowl

Talking Turkey

A California Agriculture in the Classroom representative teaches students at Julien Elementary School about turkeys on Wednesday - more specifically about the presidential turkeys that will visit w...

POSTED November 12, 2010 8:53 p.m.

This Thanksgiving when President Barack Obama pardons the nation’s turkey, it will be a local bird’s neck spared from the axe man.

The presidential turkey hails from the Foster Farms facility in Livingston and will be presented to the president for clemency by Turlock native Yubert Envia, the chairman of the National Turkey Federation.

On Wednesday, students at Julien Elementary School got to see the presidential turkeys first hand. Two of the presidential turkeys from the turkey flock of 25 have been making their rounds throughout the west coast to eight different schools to educate students about turkeys and what the presidential turkey is all about.

“We are pretty excited to bring agriculture into the classroom,” said Envia. “Most kids haven’t even seen a turkey before.”

The turkeys have visited schools in Los Angeles and Seattle, and made appearances at the Stanislaus County Fair and California State Fair this year.

Two male turkeys, also known as Toms, were present at Wednesday’s assembly where they gobbled up a storm, puffed up their feathers and strutted in front of the students.

Students learned about the pardoning of the turkey at the White House, how the presidential turkeys are raised, and what agriculture is all about—food, fiber, fish, flowers and forest, according to the California Agriculture in the Classroom program.

This is the first time that a presidential turkey has been selected from Foster Farms and the second in California. The first one was selected in the Fresno area in 1995.

Foster Farms started to prepare their presidential turkey flock on July 10 when the official presidential turkey was born. The turkey will be about 45 pounds by Thanksgiving at 20 weeks old after consuming about 110 pounds of feed.

The presidential flock is taken care of in a house specially built for them with wood chips, water, food and fans to keep them cool in the hot valley weather.

The turkeys are also trained every day to sit on a table and be held in practice for their national television debut.

There are 25 male turkeys in the flock and two will be selected to meet President Barack Obama, one to be pardoned and one as an alternative.

“The first two birds that volunteer go to Washington, D.C.,” Envia joked.

The two selected turkeys will fly out of San Francisco to Washington, D.C. on Nov. 21 to give them time to adjust to the east coast weather, he said. Then on Nov. 24, the day before Thanksgiving, Obama will pardon the presidential turkey as part of a White House tradition since 1989.

The National Turkey Federation has been presenting a turkey to the President of the United States since 1947, but the official pardoning began with President George H.W. Bush in 1989 to spare the turkey’s life on Thanksgiving.

After the turkey has been pardoned by Obama, both the National Turkey and the Alternate National Turkey will be taken to Mount Vernon Estate in Virginia, to live out the rest of their days, free from the fear of ending up on a dinner platter.

Students were interested in how big the turkeys can get, how long they live and especially the way they gobble. And before the assembly ended, students screamed “turkey” to get the presidential turkey’s to gobble one last time. And they did.

“They really like that turkey call,” Envia laughed.

To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.

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