Why aren't there any turkeys at the Danville Turkey Festival?

Howard Sacks

Abstract

Twenty-five years ago, my in-laws came to visit us in central Ohio. They were city folks from Philadelphia who couldn’t understand why my wife, Judy, and I had moved to the country.

We timed their visit to coincide with Knox County’s Heart of Ohio tour. Each fall, this selfguided driving tour along the area’s scenic back roads features stops at farms, grange halls, and other sites that offer a glimpse into local rural life. This particular tour included a local turkey farm outside the town of Danville. Danville was well known for its many turkey operations; we were always thankful that it was easy to get a fresh bird for the Thanksgiving table.

It remains a family story to this day of how Grandpop Irv felt compelled to let out a gobble during our visit, only to generate a vocal response from what seemed like thousands of birds in the adjacent field.

A quarter century later there’s barely a gobble to be heard around Danville, and the only talk of turkeys is at the annual Danville Turkey Festival. Why aren’t there any turkeys at the Danville Turkey Festival? The answer is simple enough. The local processing plant moved 200 miles north into Michigan, in keeping with the trend toward centralization so characteristic of the current global food system. For local farmers, 200 extra miles was the difference between profit and loss, and so turkey farming disappeared.