About Frank Reese &
The Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch

 

The Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch is a 160-acre farmstead in Lindsborg, Kansas on which Frank Reese maintains the oldest continuously bred flock of heritage turkeys in America according to standards set by the American Livestock Conservancy. Every decision that Frank makes on his farm considers animal welfare, genetic biodiversity, and ecological resilience, and he is one of the only farmers in the country who has been certified by the USDA to sell heritage poultry.

Under Frank’s stewardship for the past 40 years, the Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch has developed into a singular example of the systemic well being created when animal health is considered inextricably linked to the health of everything else - to the health of the planet, the health of the farmer, the health of the consumer, and the health of the economy.

 
 Photo by Jim Richardson

Photo by Jim Richardson

The importance of biodiversity in poultry genetics

"Chickens have several serious welfare problems that come from bad genetics and can be fixed only with good genetics. The biggest problem in many intensively raised animals is pushing the animal’s biology for more and more production. Breeders choose the most productive animals — the fastest growing, the heaviest, the best egg layers, and so on — and selectively breed just those animals. Bad things always happen when an animal is overselected for any single trait. Nature will give you a nasty surprise.
...
This is why it’s important to preserve the old breeds of animals and poultry. Keeping the classic breeds alive is the only way to preserve genetic diversity and to save animals that have valuable genetic traits breeders may want to breed back into commercial lines in the future. The meat from some of the old breeds is more tender and better quality than meat from animals bred for rapid growth, and the chickens are hardier, too. They perform better in pasture-based or organic farms. They are beautiful, unique animals that shouldn’t be destroyed by commercial breeding. Fortunately, many of the older breeds of poultry and livestock are being raised by local farmers and sold in farmer’s markets or to gourmet restaurants. If a serious disease ever kills commercial broilers or layers, the entire world will be thanking the small producers and hobbyists who have kept the old breeds of chickens from becoming extinct."

- Excerpt from Animals Make Us Human by Temple Grandin

 Photo by Caitlin Taylor

Photo by Caitlin Taylor

Frank's REFLECTIONS

"My name is Frank Reese and I am a poultry farmer. It's what I've given my whole life to. I don't know where that comes from. I went to a little one-room country school. Mother said of the first things I wrote was a story titled "Me and My Turkeys."
I just love the beauty of them, the majesticness. I like how they strut. I don't know know how to explain it. I just love their feather patterns. I've always loved the personality of them. They're so curious, so playful, so friendly and full of life.
I can sit in the house at night, and I can hear them, and I can tell if they're in trouble or not. Having been around turkeys for almost sixty years, I know their vocabulary.  I know the sound they make if it's just two turkeys fighting or if there's a possum in the barn. There's a sound they make when they're petrified and the sound they make when they're excited over something new. The mother turkey is amazing to listen to. She has a tremendous vocal range when she's speaking to her babies. And the little babies understand. She can tell them, "Run and jump and hide under me," or "Move from here to here." Turkeys know what's going on and can communicate it - in their world, in their language. I'm not trying to give them human characteristics, 'cause they're not humans, they're turkeys. I'm only telling you what they are.
A lot of people slow down when they pass my farm. Get a lot of schools and churches and 4-H kids. I get kids asking me how a turkey got in my trees or on my roof. I tell 'em, "He flew there!" And they don't believe me! Turkeys used to be raised out on fields like this by the millions in America. This kind of turkey is what everybody had on their farms for hundreds of years, and what everybody ate. And now mine are the only ones left, and I'm the only one doing it this way."

- Excerpt from Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer