In September of 2008, Acee and Mitch Lucero looked out over a sea of white on their newly inherited 120 acres of land near Richfield, Idaho.
No, snow hadn’t come early. The pasture was covered with the white feathers of nearly 200 turkeys.
“What in the heck are we going to do with all these turkeys?” Mitch Lucero remembers thinking. Acee’s father, Allan Laudert had raised turkeys off and on for years. He processed them on the family farm and hand delivered them to customers far and wide.
When Allan died that September, leaving “A+ Ranch” to the newly married couple, Mitch and Acee hadn’t been through a full season with birds. While they knew how to care for and feed the birds, they were not prepared to butcher and deliver. They both had full time jobs off the farm and the process was a bit daunting.
While Allan Laudert had sold his turkeys through good ol’ fashioned “word-of-mouth”, Mitch and Acee had to rely on their knowledge of business and the potential customer base.
Meeting the challenge, one quick call to Atkinsons’ Markets in the Wood River Valley and the bulk of that first batch of turkeys were sold. Since then, Lucero says they have doubled their production every year. This fall Luceros harvested 1000 turkeys.
The certified organic turkeys are still available at Atkinsons’ along with Idaho’s Bounty and several Wood River Valley eateries (see A+ Ranches website for a listing of where their turkeys are sold). And holding on to a bit of Allan Laudert’s customer service tradition, they do sell a few directly to their customers.
The farm is fully certified organic and the turkeys are allowed to “free range” in the pasture – guarded by a Pyrenees sheep dog named Hogan. This year, Lucero’s grew organic wheat which was then shipped to their feed supplier to be used in the organic feed provided for the birds. “We’re trying to create a closed circuit, bio-diverse system,” Mitch Lucero said.
Mitch Lucero said the last few years haven’t been without challenges. Aside from learning how to care for the turkeys there have been, well, “learning processes”. Just last year, moldy feed wiped out the bulk of the flock. And then, there is the challenge of butchering 1000 birds in a USDA certified processing plant. There’s only one certified processor in Southern Idaho, several hours away in New Plymouth. Since, their livestock trailer will only hold about 150 birds at a time, that meant every weekend in October and part of November was spent in the Treasure Valley. Already the Luceros are planning for next year’s crop of turkeys.
Both Mitch and Acee are Richfield natives. Acee was raised on the farm and has a passion for horses and rodeo. Mitch grew up nearby on his family’s dairy farm. They both say they grew up with a respect for raising livestock and taking care of the land.
“If you had asked me five years ago what a turkey farmer looked like,” Mitch laughs, “I’d have said someone with missing teeth out on the back-40.” But more seriously he observes, “I’ve learned a lot since then and it’s become an appreciation. When you’re caring for the animal and being a steward of the land, it’s a relationship – and an appreciation.”
A+ Turkey Ranch
Mitch and Acee Lucero
Turkeys available for Christmas