Turkey farmer, mom, furniture re-inventor and thrift shopper extraordinaire Katie Olthoff might make you re-think how you’d categorize a “typical” farmer. This dynamo is an active participant in the agriculture community who regularly offers her day-to-day experiences as a mom and farmer with her readers. In each blog, Katie shares her experiences as a way to connect with others, chronicle her life and highlight some of the many places food comes from.
Katie’s posts are entertaining, but, as a former teacher, she’s able to weave in education – even in posts like Does Antibiotic Use on Farms Affect Your Health? Katie also frequently blogs about her children and the trials and triumphs of owning a farmhouse built in 1907.
What inspired you to become a blogger?
The year I started blogging, I'd gone through a lot of major life changes. New job, new baby, new (old) house, new farm...I wanted to document those changes and share my life with others who might think it was interesting.
Tell us about your family:
We have been married for almost 8 years. We have two crazy little boys: Adam is 5 and Isaac is 3. My husband is a 3rd generation turkey farmer and we decided to start our own farm when I was pregnant with our first son. We wanted to give our children the same life on the farm that my husband was lucky enough to experience. We built five brand new barns in 2009. With the help of our little boys (and one part-time employee) my husband cares for over 100,000 turkeys annually! Our boys love working side-by-side with their dad on the farm.
What are the questions you get about farming most often?
Our turkeys are almost 45 pounds when they go to market, and people have a lot of questions about that. "Why do you raise them so big? How do they get so big?" I think they're concerned that the turkeys' large size might negatively affect the birds' health or human health. But we would never do anything to jeopardize either of those.
We raise male turkeys that are mostly used for lunch meat. These aren't your Thanksgiving birds! And their size? Well, that comes from traditional breeding (big momma turkey plus a big daddy turkey equals big baby turkeys!) and better nutrition. Although many people assume those big turkey breasts are a result of hormones, there are no added steroids or hormones used in poultry or pork farming in the United States.
People also wonder why we raise turkeys in barns instead of outside, or free range. We want our turkeys to be safe and healthy, and raising them indoors helps us protect them. When my husband's grandfather raised turkeys outdoors, he had problems with predators, severe weather, and disease. Our climate-controlled barns ensure that the turkeys aren't stressed due to extreme weather (like this past winter!), aren't killed by predators, and aren't exposed to germs that other birds spread.
What is one misconception you commonly hear as a farmer that you would like to clear up?
When people see my barns or hear how many turkeys we raise, they often can't believe that this is a "family farm." But, 97% of farms in the U.S. are family farms, and many of them have big barns (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations – CAFOs) like ours. But big barns don’t define us – our goal of constantly trying to improve does. We strive to provide better animal care, use natural resources more efficiently, and produce a safer food product for our fellow turkey lovers!
The quote you live by:
I have always loved the lyric, "If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it," from Willy Wonka. I like to stay positive and I truly believe that there are amazing things happening around us all the time. We just need to train ourselves to see those amazing things. Keep an eye out, and you will view paradise!
How do you decide what content to post on your blog?
1. Parenting & my kids: Obviously, this is a huge part of my life. I love sharing parenting ideas that have worked for me and documenting my family's life.
2. DIY Home Decor: Creating beautiful spaces is my favorite way to spend my free time, so it's natural that I would blog about that!
3. The farm: The farm is such a big part of our lives, there's no way I could leave it out!
One piece of advice you would give to beginning bloggers?
Be yourself! Readers love to get to know you and they want to feel like your friend. So blog about the same things you would tell your best friend, and your readers will quickly connect with you.
Favorite non-ag activity?
I love anything creative! Writing, photography, painting, building furniture...but my favorite part of the day is bedtime, when I snuggle and read with my two favorite little boys!
What is the hobby you don’t get to do nearly enough?
I'd like to run a 5k this year, so I've started the Couch to 5K running program five times without finishing it. As a busy mom with my own business, I find it hard to make time to workout. But I WILL run a 5k this year! Slowly but surely, I'll get there!