The Vineyard Gazette – Martha’s Vineyard News

Extract from the November 27, 1981 edition of the Gazette:

Raising turkeys until the turkey farm was established in 1932 was seen as a losing proposition from the start. For generations, attempts to breed the curious bird in large numbers proved disastrous, until Joseph S. Bettencourt and Oscar M. Burke, both of Edgartown, established the farm and changed the history of the island.

In 1932, Mr. Bettencourt, then keeper of the Burke farm in Edgartown, took over the farm. At that time there were only three turkeys.

From that moment the stock of turkeys was increased, with great success. The following story appeared in the Vineyard Gazette for December 1, 1939:

“The Gazette canceled an ad this week. The advertisement was for the Burke Farms, which was due to run for another six weeks, and it was canceled because the farms no longer have turkeys. All have been sold – four or five hundred of them, it is estimated – and no further orders can be taken, even with Christmas yet to come. . . “

At the end of the year, it was announced that five acres of land on the farm had been cleared for the construction of “brooder houses,” heated enclosures for raising more turkeys.

In an article dated February 13, 1942, it was reported that the farm had added “465 square feet of ground floor space, which does not include the second floors of some of the buildings.” . .

“Four thousand eggs are now hatching on the farm, and an average of 1,400 more eggs are added each week. The spring turkey crop is already sizable, including one-week-old chicks this five-pound size ready for the pan. And the ancients used to say that turkeys could not be successfully bred on Martha’s Vineyard.

Already, the farm was recognized throughout New England.

By 1944 the farm was exporting both adult turkeys and the hatchling version for shipment to other turkey farms.

Extract from an article of February 2, 1948:

“Joe was sending batches of poults off the island to producers on the mainland. But due to the irregular service of the boats, this practice had to be abandoned. Now all the chicks born on the farm are raised there to maturity.

In this article, which describes in detail the production of these birds, attention is paid to the problems associated with keeping turkeys:

“A turkey farmer has to be like a psychologist to understand the mental makeup of his pets. They can be trampled by a strange noise. Thunder or lightning, the passage of an airplane, a little waving paper, can put them into hysteria. Joe said the turkey farmer’s problems multiply with the size of his clutch.

Mr. Bettencourt had sufficient success with the farm that he was able to purchase the establishment in 1952, after 20 years of management.

And for 12 years, Mr. Bettencourt operated the farm until it was sold to George J. Schwab Jr., former manager, president and treasurer of Heathland Farm, a poultry farm located at Martha’s Vineyard Airport. .

The farm was later renamed Vineyard Poultry Farm and continued as a thriving business.

The Gazette published an article on June 17, 1966 about a damaged egg that Mr. and Mrs. George J. Schwab Jr. found in a gutter on the Lobsterville road. The story wasn’t really about the egg but what the egg became, or rather the seagull that came out of the egg.

“Mr. and Mrs. Schwab are the owners of the Vineyard Poultry Farm, and what better place could there have been for an egg, rather a baby gull, to have landed. The Schwabs know all about eggs and the things that go with it. come out of it, and what is more important for the contents of the eggs, the Schwabs know how to feed them i.e. young birds, not eggs; eggs do not eat.

“So on a diet of mashed turkey, the baby gull thrived. . .

“There was no end to the talk and the worry that he would grow up thinking he was a turkey instead of a seagull, in the Ugly Duckling story repeat, but luckily it did. was not the case … At least Mr. and Mrs. Schwab thinks he thinks he is a seagull because, with a few irregularities, he behaves as such.

“His wings, after their careful training, are now showing great signs of efficiency and he goes after gulls daily (turkeys don’t go anywhere) and comes back at dinner time. The condition of the little gull’s legs led the Schwabs to believe that the gull discovered water, not as something to drink, but as something to paddle and fish, but there is just enough turkey in it. the little guy for wanting to be fed all the Turkish delicacies on the turkey farm. So in the evening when he’s hungry and tired after being a seagull all day, it’s nice to come home and play turkey. However, this turkey game could prove to be a dangerous luxury at certain times of the year, especially around Thanksgiving. “

The turkey farm continued, serving the winemakers celebrating Thanksgiving both off and on the island.

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox

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