The man with all the turkeys
FORREST – The holiday rush is just starting for some but will soon be over for Ken Roth.
The owner of Roth Turkey Farm near Forrest in Livingston County has been in the midst of his busy season since early November. The Thanksgiving period begins for Roth when 1,200 dressed turkeys are shipped to New York City through a ministry with Midwest Food Bank.
“We process those mid-October and they’re boxed up and frozen,” Roth explained. “They are now in the hands of the people in New York City.”
Then the hauling begins. Roth supplies several different wholesale companies and takes turkeys down to Arthur to be processed before bringing turkeys back for local retail customers who reserve their Thanksgiving bird every year.
“We try to fit the size that they’re wanting, anywhere from 14 to 25 pounds.”
Roth Turkey Farm raises 15,000-16,000 large toms year round. They focus mostly on the toms since they have more potential to put on weight than hens. These are processed in Eastern Iowa.
“Most of it goes to Subway restaurants. That’s our busy all-year round project,” Roth said.
Young turkeys in three different sizes enter the farm starting on July 1 and are processed in early November to keep them fresh and never frozen. Roth has clients from all over Illinois and elsewhere with some customers coming from Indiana to get their fresh bird each year.
Roth and his wife, Deb, have been in the turkey business since 1988 with the family involved over the years. They have five kids: Nic, Chuck, Zach, Olivia and Eliza along with nine grandchildren: Ty, Mya, Madi, Lucy, Noah, Eli, Jade, Caleb and Charlie.
Back in 1988, there was a hatchery a mile up the road. Two of the men involved with the venture decided to partner with a large corporate company and start a turkey-raising operation. The Roths connected with them and after about three years, the company shut down. That’s when the Roths worked with processor Sara Lee for 25 years. They are now part of a cooperative in West Liberty, Iowa.
“The suburban people are really excited about knowing where their meat comes from and that it’s fresh,” Roth notes.
The farm also sells live turkeys, giving customers the chance to see their turkey before it is processed. A man from Michigan hauls more than 1,500 turkeys to Detroit and Chicago.
“Of course, when Thanksgiving comes we are really excited to have it all over and we can relax, sit down and have our turkey for Thanksgiving,” said Roth.
Information about the farm can be found at www.rothturkeyfarm.com.