Serving Minnesota and Northern Iowa.

Langmo tells turkey production's story

By Carol Stender
cstender@agrinews.com

Date Modified: 12/06/2012 2:35 PM

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EDEN VALLEY, Minn. — Mike Langmo isn't skittish when it comes to talking turkey.

Langmo, who raises turkeys near Eden Valley, tells his story through Facebook and the Provider Pals program.

Getting that message out is important, he says.

"There is a disconnect out there," said Langmo. "There's a connotation that exists that every farmer abuses their animals. I want humane treatment and I don't tolerate anyone abusing animals. We want the best for our animals. We provide them an environment that's safe."

Langmo's father, Jim, and Jim's brother, Keith, started Langmo Farms in the 1960s. The older Langmos both graduated from the University of Minnesota with ag degrees. Jim worked for Supersweet Feeds and Keith with Biolabs before deciding to start a joint turkey production venture.

They inked their first turkey contract in 1965. They bought a farm with a turkey barn near Spicer and had poults for just three days when it was all destroyed by fire. Despite the devastating loss, they purchased more farms and got new contracts.

Production centered on raising poults in the barn and finishing the turkeys on range with the barns often empty over winter. Year-round production later became the norm.

Keith was the ag instructor at Litchfield from the mid-1960s to early 1970s. He checked turkey barns in the morning and again after the school day.

Raising birds outdoors was a challenge, Langmo said. The Halloween blizzard of 1991 was a turkey producers' nightmare. Langmo Farms had 100,000 turkeys on range ready to go to market. They lost about 75 percent of the flock.

The loss was demoralizing, he said.

Besides weather challenges, wild birds carrying disease like avian influenza could easily infect the outdoor flocks, he said.

Langmo Farms re-evaluated and quit raising birds on range.

Langmo and his cousin Greg represent the second generation of turkey producers in their family. Langmo and his wife, Deb, own and operate Lakewood Farm, which includes a brooder barn and two finishing barns. Greg oversees the other sites. They are among the 250 independent turkey producers in Minnesota.

Langmo Farms manages six farms. With high feed costs and other factors, margins are tight. He's not sure what the future may hold for independent turkey production.

For now, he's readying the barns for new poults. Another flock is expected just before Thanksgiving.

Langmo takes pictures often during the process and posts them on Facebook and will use some in a powerpoint presentation he plans to do through the Provider Pals program.

Provider Pals was started by Montana logger Bruce Vincent, who wanted to provide a bridge between industry and people who don't have contact with a rural way of life. Through the program, the provider pal, people in farming, coal mining, logging, fishermen and more, keep in contact with school children about their day-to-day activities. The pals write letters and send photos.