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Why Aren’t There Any Turkeys at the DanvilleTurkey Festival?
Commentary by Howard L. Sacks
http://dx.doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2010.011.003, pp. 7–13
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.
Howard L. Sacks teaches sociology at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, where he has also served as senior advisor to the president and provost. As director of the RuralLifeCenter, Dr. Sacks coordinates educational, scholarly, and public projects to ensure the vitality of local rural life. In addition to two books, his publications have appeared in a wide variety of scholarly journals, magazines, and newspapers. Dr. Sacks has served on panels of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and he regularly consults with organizations and communities nationwide on rural development and culture. He is the recipient of over 40 grants and fellowships for scholarly research and public programs, for which he has received numerous state and national awards. Dr. Sacks currently serves on the governor’s Ohio Food Policy Advisory Council to build an indigenous agricultural system that addresses the food needs of all Ohio residents. He raises sheep with his wife, Judy, on their farm in Gambier. For more information on the Rural Life center, visit http://rurallife.kenyon.edu.
Banner photos include a Cape Cod cranberry bog; a cranberry “screen house” used to grade fresh cranberries; farmland near Lake Placid, NY, in the Adirondack Mountains; Montmorency cherry trees on the Mission Peninsula of northern Michigan; the historic Round Barn in the South Mountain Apple Belt of Adams County, Pennsylvania; the “Sea of Grapes” district of the Lake Erie Concord Grape Belt, near Erie, Penn; a field of cabbages near Shortsville, NY, home to one of the world’s largest sauerkraut factories. All photos copyright by Duncan Hilchey.