Turns Out I Love to Talk Turkey

My name is Lara and I have a confession to make: I had no idea I would be passionate about advocating for agriculture – and especially poultry farming – until I started working 20 years ago for the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association.

Lara at Oakdale Farms - cropped

Don’t get me wrong. I am a born and raised farm girl from southwestern Minnesota. My parents and now my brother and nephew still farm and raise corn and soybeans. I grew up on the farm and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

But when I was 18, I wanted off the farm and sought out a life in the big city (that would be Minneapolis) as a journalism student at the University of Minnesota. Writing was – and still is – my passion and I truly was happy to leave the farming to my dad and brother.

I didn’t know at the time (you have to remember this was the late 1980s) that FFA could really be for girls too, and that there would be career opportunities in agriculture communications. No one ever talked to me about that, and it didn’t even cross my mind. I often tell people that if I was 18 today, I would still likely head to the big city for college but I’d be camped out at the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Sciences at the University of Minnesota, learning about how I my writing passion could be put to use for agriculture.

Lara at Meschke Farm (2)

Which is, of course, exactly what I have been doing for 20 years. After college, I spent a few years honing my reporting, editing, graphic design, writing, and photography skills at a weekly newspaper. One day, though, I answered a tiny little newspaper ad for a nonprofit association looking to hire a communications person with a farm background.

Pick me, I thought! And just like that, they did, which started my two decades of advocating for turkey, chicken, and egg farmers in Minnesota – and around the U.S.

I have learned so much through the years about poultry, and I have had the pleasure to get to know many farmers and their families along the way. Poultry production often gets an unjustified bad wrap for being “big ag” or “industrial” or “corporate” because of the large branded companies that are involved. But I have found that behind those large food companies are farmers – often multi-generational – whose families have raised turkeys for decades and who love caring for their flocks because farming – and especially poultry farming – is in their blood.

Lara with Presidential Turkeys 2013

I feel so blessed to have found this career opportunity that takes the best of what I love to do and let me share my knowledge about turkey, chicken, and egg farmers. Amazingly, I’ve even been all the way to the White House to witness the annual National Thanksgiving Turkey pardon in 2013, when the turkeys hailed from Minnesota. And I am super proud to be a contributor to Ask The Farmers – it’s an amazing group of knowledgeable people who believe, like me, that the world needs all kinds of farmers.

As a teenager, I couldn’t have foreseen this path I took, but as an adult, I know I wouldn’t have it any other way. It may sound cheesy, but I truly think I was meant to be doing what I do – and I am grateful for any chance I get to talk turkey (or chicken or eggs) with anyone who will listen.

About Lara Durben

Lara is a farm girl from Minnesota - her parents, brother and nephew run the family's corn and soybean farm. She actually works off the farm full-time and has dedicated 20 years of her career to poultry farmers. Lara is the communications director for the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association and the Chicken and Egg Association of Minnesota - so even though she doesn't raise her own poultry, she knows farmers from all over the U.S. who do. She has her own blog that often covers poultry topics while also writing about family life, gardening, recipes, and the family's pug dog, Earl. Lara is a regular contributor on Agriculture.com via its Women in Ag blog series. Lara is married to a teacher (7th grade social studies!) and they have one son. She loves to garden and has several beds of perennials, annuals and vegetables at her home. She looks forward to your questions and sharing the poultry knowledge she has gleaned over the past two decades!

Comments

  1. Hi Lara,

    There’s been a commercial on tv lately from a certain large chicken company in which the head of the company claims that his chickens are raised without using any antibiotics ever. This implies that other chicken companies do use antibiotics. I was under the assumption that they are used only when the animals are sick or as a preventive measure. So if he doesn’t use the antibiotics what is used on sick poultry?

    Thanks!

    • Hi Aileen,

      Thanks for your question. The use of antibiotics can be confusing, especially with all the marketing you hear out there. The company you saw on TV has flocks that are raised “without antibiotics ever.” However, that doesn’t mean sick birds aren’t treated. Typically what happens is that if birds get sick in a flock that is not using antibiotics ever, the birds are moved to a different flock, check out thoroughly, and given medication as needed under the guidance of a veterinarian in order to make them well again. Those birds can never be marketed under the “no antibiotics ever” claim, of course. They are just marketed under a different label.

      In terms of antibiotics and poultry production, farmers and poultry companies that choose to use antibiotics do so only when birds are sick – or as a preventative measure. You are correct about that.

      I hope this helps clarify things – don’t hesitate to ask further questions if you need clarification!

      Lara

  2. Cindy Stegbauer says:

    Hi Lara,

    I have been having a facebbok discussion with a friend about chicken being shipped to China for processing. Do you have any information or links to what is really happening to poultry raised in the US? Thank you in advance.

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