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Local second graders get up close with seasons favorite bird
turkey pic1
Students from Sisk Elementary School hold baby turkeys, or poults, during a visit to Foster Farms Wellsford Ranch, home of the presidential turkey flock. - photo by ANDREA GOODWIN / The Journal

Students in Mr. Munoz’s second grade class will have a much better understanding of their Thanksgiving turkey this year, thanks to a class field trip to Wellsford Ranch in Modesto. The class from Sisk Elementary School had the unique opportunity to tour a Foster Farms turkey ranch on Thursday.

Wellsford Ranch raised the presidential turkeys last year, which were pardoned by President Barak Obama at the Whitehouse Thanksgiving celebration. The turkey and his alternate were put up at a hotel in Washington, D.C. and personally escorted to the Whitehouse by Foster Farms delegates. “Apple” was officially pardoned, and he and “Cider” were sent to live out their natural lives at Mount Vernon, the former estate of George Washington.

“Apple” and “Cider” were raised along with 23 other presidential turkey candidates in their own barn at Wellsford Ranch. The presidential turkey flock went on tour last year to schools all over California. They also made an appearance at the Stanislaus County Fair. They are still used for educational and outreach purposes and are housed at Wellsford Ranch. Sharon Lufkin, site secretary for Sisk Elementary School, reached out to Foster Farms to coordinate a school visit from the presidential turkeys.

“They did everything in their power to get the turkeys to us, but it never worked out with our break schedules,” Lufkin said.

So instead the children learned all about the presidential turkeys over the morning announcements. They continued to follow the presidential turkey story and several months ago second grade teacher James Munoz found a call for submissions to a Foster Farms essay contest. The subject was “what I am thankful for,” and the prize was a trip to a Foster Farms turkey ranch to meet the presidential turkey flock.

Munoz’s class won the prize and gathered at Wellsford Ranch on Tuesday morning. They had to dress head-to-toe in biosecurity gear, including coveralls, hairnets, hard-hats, protective glasses and feet coverings.

“This is to keep you from bringing any germs in, or from taking any out when you leave,” said Yubert Envia, vice president of turkey at Foster Farms and 2010 National Turkey Federation Chairman.

Students were given a presentation about the presidential turkey and some general information about turkey production. Then they met the presidential flock in their private barn. They asked questions about the birds and learned fun facts about turkeys. They also had the chance to hold baby turkeys, called poults, as they learned all about the egg cycle.

“Kids always learn better when they are doing something, not just sitting at a desk. This is an opportunity to see firsthand where their food comes from and how it works,” said Munoz.

Students learned that the male turkeys’ necks change color to indicate their mood and they have a long flap of skin called a snood hanging from their noses to attract females. They asked about the funny noises the turkeys make and learned that whistling at male turkeys will make them “gobble.” They spent the rest of the visit whistling at turkeys. They also decided that if they ever got to name a presidential turkey they would call him “Sheldon.”

“This is an experience they are going to remember for a long, long time,” Munoz said.

The visit was topped off with lunch provided by Foster Farms. To many students’ relief they did not have turkey, and dined instead on corn dogs.

To contact Andrea Goodwin, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2003.