Saturday, March 03, 2007

Fowl Business in Orlando

by Steve Barnett, from Dale Barnett's remembrances of Orlando in the 1920s to 1950s.

Rosie Blake Raised Turkeys.
Rosie Blake lived up Clover Fork in one of the hollows that went back into the hills. She could not read or write. Her cash crop was a flock of turkeys. She would usually have over one hundred turkeys to sell each fall that she had raised. Each morning, she would take the turkeys out into the woods to feed. Her hens had been trained so that they would mind her when she told them to do something. Rosie would turn over rocks, split open rotten logs etc. to help her birds find bugs and worms to eat.

She had a granddaughter who lived with her, who Rosie refused to send her to school. Her quote was “I got along without learnin. My daughter got along without learnin. She don’t need no learnin either”. She finally relented when they threatened to take her away from Rosie for not going to school. Her teacher at school was Virginia (McCoy) Skinner,1 who Dale Barnett knew. Virginia told Dale she was the smartest girl in the school.

Bill Barnett Processed Turkeys,
My grandfather, Bill Barnett would purchase farmers turkeys and process them for shipping (see Rosie Blake). The turkeys were killed by cutting a blood vessel in side their beaks and then plucked. Entire families would come into town to pluck the feathers. They would be paid 10 cents a turkey. Often the adults would pull the large feathers and then hand the bird to the kids, because their smaller hands could pull the pin feathers easier. A family would have a good pay day at 10 cents a bird at this time.
The birds were shipped whole with even the head and feet left on. That is the way the merchants wanted them. The winters were a lot colder at this time than they are now, so the birds did not spoil. After plucking, the turkeys were packed in sugar barrels my grandfather had accumulated over the summer. He would pull the top hoop off, cover the barrels with a peace of canvas or feed sack, then fasten the hoop back on the barrels to keep the material in place. They would be shipped on the noon train and be in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Baltimore by the next morning.
To the left are Bill & Marie Barnett in the 1950s
. . . And Ducks & Geese.
Ducks were also shipped this way. They were plucked by dipping in boiling water and them placing in a burlap sack. The sack would then be rubbed over the ducks and the feathers would come off. If they were not left in the water long enough or were left in too long this feathers did not come off easily. Farmers also had geese and guineas around the house but there was not much of a market for these birds. They were used as watch dogs, making lots of noise when an animal or stranger came around. Some of the geese could be very mean. The geese were also used as a source of down feathers for use in bedding and pillows.
To the right is a closeup of down.

1. For more on teacher Virginia Skinner see the Sept '06 entry Virginia McCoy Was a School Teacher at Clover Fork

comment 1 Donna Gloff
The following discussion about Heritage Turkeys was taken almost word-for-word from The New Farm, an e-publication by the Rodale Institute.

What breed of turkeys did Rosie and the other Orlando farmers raise? Probably Bronze or perhaps Narragansett, certainly a breed very different from those that are factory-raised by Butterball today.

In the late 1800s the American Poultry Association inventoried the varieties of domesticated turkeys in America and identified eight "standard" varieties. Smart, colorful birds raised in barnyards and pastures, "standard" turkeys provided meat, eggs, and on-farm pest control until the 1950s. The two varieties that were most popular were the Bronze, shown on the left and at the top of the entry, and the Narragansett, to the right.

In the 1950s the agricorporations developed the “Broadbreasted" or "Large White” variety which served the needs of factory farming. Today, more than 90% of all turkeys raised in the U.S. are the factory-raised, antibiotic-injected, artificially-inseminated “Broadbreasted / Large White” variety.
In the last few years the turkeys that are a part of our heritage, the Bronze, Narragansett, Bourbon Red and other hearty, flavorful birds are again becoming of interest. Small farmers are raising the "heritage" varieties of turkeys for a variety of reasons economic, ecological, aesthetic, political and health-related.

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