Free-Range Turkeys, Happy Farmworkers

An animal rights activist I know once told me that there is a correlation between how a farm treats its animals and how it treats its workers.  “After all,” he said, “if a farm is exploiting and abusing its workers, then they’re probably not treating their animals with respect either. And the opposite is also true—if they’re taking the time to make sure their animals live good lives, they’re probably looking out for their workers as well.”

Well, I don’t know if this rule holds true across the board or not, but it certainly seems to be the case for Bowman & Landes Free Range Turkey Farm in New Carlisle, OH. Recently I drove through two hours of snowy Ohio scenery to meet up with the folks at Bowman & Landes, who gave me the grand tour of their turkey farm. And what did I learn? Things like: playtime is important—for all species! Apparently the turkeys love nothing more than running through the cornfields exploring and pecking at whatever hits the ground. And the employees who work on the farm have had their playtime too—a giant corn hole tournament that involved everyone on the farm, as well as a “pavo” tournament (it’s the same as “horse” in basketball, except that pavo means “turkey” in Spanish).

On the farmworker end, even simple, daily things like providing free cookies and coffee during breaks seems to do the farm well; the farm has around a 70% retention rate for seasonal workers (people returning each year to the farm)! When I asked one of the farmers why he thought their retention rate was so good, he said, “It may be simple, but I just try to live by the golden rule.” Well, I guess it’s working!   

Special thanks to everyone at Bowman and Landes, especially Steve & Anita, for showing me around!

Copy of Bowman & Landes -Written by Carolina Fojo, East Coast Fellow for Bon Appétit Management Company