NTF Chairman Presents President with the National Thanksgiving Turkey
President Barack Obama today “pardoned” the National Thanksgiving Turkey in a White House Ceremony, as he and National Turkey Federation (NTF) Chairman Richard Huisinga celebrated the 64th anniversary of the National Thanksgiving Turkey presentation.
Huisinga presented President Obama with “Liberty,” a 19-week old, 45-pound tom. The names of the turkeys were chosen from more than 100 submissions to the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association’s website that highlighted the National Thanksgiving Turkey. Many of the submissions came from Minneapolis and St. Paul school children who learned this year about the importance of agriculture to the world food supply and to our local economies.
Huisinga’s wife, Randi, and children, Brianna, Aaron and Austin, also joined Obama at the White House Rose Garden for the annual Thanksgiving presentation.
“Tomorrow is one of the best days of the year to be an American. It’s a day to count our blessings, spend time with the ones we love, and enjoy some good food and some great company,” said President Obama. “I want to thank Richard Huisinga, the Chairman of the National Turkey Federation, and his wonderful family for donating this year’s turkey from his farm in Willmar, Minnesota.”
After his remarks, President Obama “pardoned” the National Thanksgiving Turkey and its alternate, “Peace.” Both birds were raised on a Willmar Poultry Company farm in Willmar, Minn., under Huisinga’s supervision. Peter Gruhl, Hybrid Turkeys, handled the turkey during the ceremony. In partnership with Willmar Poultry Company and the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association, four Willmar-area FFA (formerly Future Farmers of America) students were chosen by their high school agriculture teacher to provide the birds extra attention and human interaction in preparation for the ceremony.
“Raising the National Thanksgiving Turkey is an honor and a privilege,” said Huisinga. “Making it even more special was having four students who are part of FFA raise and prepare the turkey for presentation to the President of the United States.”
Huisinga is president and COO of Willmar Poultry Company, Inc., based in Willmar, Minn. Since 1945, Willmar Poultry Company has been a leader in turkey poult production, hatching and breeding techniques. Its focus on innovation, research and development, and advancements in agriculture has been recognized industry-wide, and the company is currently the largest producer of turkey poults in the world.
The night before the presentation, “Liberty” and “Peace” stayed in a room at the W Hotel. After the pardoning, they were driven to George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate Museum and Gardens. The National Thanksgiving Turkey will be on display for visitors during “Christmas at Mount Vernon,” a special program through Jan. 6. After the holidays, the National Thanksgiving Turkey and its alternate will live in a custom-made enclosure at Mount Vernon’s nationally recognized livestock facility.
Jaindl’s Turkey Farm in Orefield, Pa., gave President Obama’s family two dressed turkeys that will be donated to the Capital Area Food Bank.