Dirt Rich

Revisited: Pastured Turkeys

November 24, 2021

(Originally released October 28, 2020)

Kathy Zeman pasture-raises a veritable menagerie: goats, sheep, pigs, ducks, geese, turkeys, broilers, hens, meat rabbits, and honeybees graze her twenty acres at Simple Harvest Farm Organics. She grew up farming, and first got started on poultry with her brother for a 4-H project. “Nick’s Eggs” continues today, available at the Just Food Co-op in Northfield. 

The array of animals she raises now ensures she never has to buy fertilizer--the manure production keeps pastures lush, and is a piece of her vision of resiliency and being self-sustaining. In fact, Kathy says that the grass actually grows back thicker and healthier behind a well-paced turkey tractor. Her Bourbon Red and Broad Breasted White turkeys happily graze in cattle panel hoop tractors, enjoying fresh grass once or twice a day safe from predators.

Kathy built her farm business on her values. She’s certified organic, and raises a heritage breed in part to keep the genetic diversity going. They’re “spendy,” but her customers are willing to pay for that fresher turkey flavor and the value of the environmental stewardship that the birds provide. “I always tell people when they buy from us, they’re really protecting these 20 acres. These little 20 acres on this planet are going to be no soil erosion, no water pollution, we’re not building antibiotic-resisting bacteria. That’s what they’re supporting.”

In addition to farming, Kathy Zeman is also the executive director of the Minnesota Farmers’ Market Association. That work aligns with her values, too. MFMA has been able to advance policy important to local foods. She describes farmers markets as the place “where community eats and meets.” They shorten food miles and keep money circulating locally. The community of people surrounding farmers markets are her crowd, too--resilient, boots-on-the-ground folks.

Host Jared Luhman’s conversation with Kathy Zeman naturally branches out from pastured turkey production and into thoughts about farm/land/life sustainability, pricing and food access, and the need for more BIPOC voices at the agricultural table. Listen in for comical stories, seasoned advice, and reflections on topics that are top-of-mind for many growers these days.


Kathy Zeman, Simple Harvest Farm OrganicsMinnesota Farmers’ Market Association

Jared Luhman, Soil Health Lead of SFA

The viewpoints of the speakers expressed within or outside of this episode do not necessarily reflect the goals and mission of SFA.

Dirt Rich is produced by the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota.

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