house, fix feeder ring
stuck on their backs
poults next to heater
school run, pick up feed
Ask Ken & Dana the secret to raising turkeys, and the number two will come up a lot. They'll tell you that it helps to have two people dividing the everyday chores. The first two weeks of a new flock are critical, they say—and during that period, they check in on the young birds every two hours, day and night.
Dana adds two other important things: "Look and listen. Just like when you're taking care of people, what you see and hear can tell you a lot."
"She's inside, I'm outside," Ken says. "She does the brooders, and I do the grow-out facilities and general operation."
"Becoming turkey farmers is the best decision we ever made."
Ken and Dana have done a lot both inside and out on the farm, and they're innovative in using data analysis to manage their flocks. Their farming practices have won them awards in Environmental Excellence from both the Texas Poultry Federation and the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association.
"We have people coming over, telling us how great the place looks."
High environmental standards are among the first things you notice about Ken and Dana's farm. It's clean and well maintained for an operation of its size—some 600 acres, including grazing land for cattle, goats, and horses, as well as impeccably maintained turkey barns.
"I take pride in what I do," says Ken, explaining his first initiatives on the farm. "Clean it up, get it mowed, trim up the fence line." And the neighborhood took notice. "We have people coming over, telling us how great the place looks. That means a lot."
Prior to becoming turkey farmers, Ken worked as a software engineer, and Dana worked as a nurse, both juggling their schedules around their two young girls. As the girls grew older, Ken and Dana agreed that moving closer to their families would be a good thing. But each also felt ready for a job change.
While Ken was back visiting, he helped an injured friend on a turkey farm and immediately felt a connection to the work. He felt he could bring modern skills and efficiency to farming.
"We love every day we're out here."
"It was something I knew we could do and enjoy," he says. Dana was less sure at first.
"When he called and asked if I wanted to be a turkey farmer, I thought...what?" she laughs. "But it turns out, we're good at it."
The entire family took to it, with both daughters sharing the work through their high school years and their young son still helping out on the farm. When the kids gave Dana a "Turkey Mama" sign for the door of her home office, she happily accepted the title.
For his part, Ken says he doesn't miss his old office job at all. The satisfaction isn't just about owning a business or caring for a farm and its animals. It's about two people reinventing their life together and creating something of lasting value.
"Every day, we're reminded why this is the best decision we ever made," Ken says, as Dana nods in agreement. "We love every day we're out here."