Kisamores give thanks for friends, family while raising 1,000 turkeys

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The Kisamore family and their turkeys.
On their farm in Mogadore, Ohio, Mason and Stacy Kisamore raise sheep, chickens, a dairy cow and 1,000 turkeys, along with their sons, Emerson, 5, and Harland, 9. (Sarah Donaldson photo)

MOGADORE, Ohio — When she was young, Stacy Kisamore told her grandpa that one day she would marry a farmer. Her grandpa, who had some farming experience, forbid it. He told Stacy she would have a hard life if she married a farmer. But she knew what she wanted.

It started at the Randolph Fair in 2002. Stacy, then 16, was showing horses. Mason Kisamore, then 19, was showing pigs and cattle. He grew up on his family farm and always knew he wanted to be a farmer. He was the fair king that year.

A friend of Stacy’s needed a date for the fair dance that week, so she and Stacy decided to talk to any boy wearing a black cowboy hat.

Mason never wore black cowboy hats, but he had to as the fair king.

Stacy and her friend talked to him, but Stacy was the one who really hit it off with Mason. He was different from the boys she’d met before.

“He had manners. He was just very kind,” Stacy said.

Now, Mason and Stacy have been married for 11 years. So much has happened in 11 years. At their Mogadore, Ohio, home, they are raising their two sons, Harland, 9, and Emerson, 5, sheep and chickens, a dairy cow named Gabby and 1,000 free-range Thanksgiving turkeys.

Turkeys

The turkeys have their own barn and pasture on the farm. Some of them swarm the Kisamores when they open the gate. Harland tucks his hands into his overalls, away from the turkeys, who like to peck. Feathers are scattered on the grass, evidence of the other turkeys waiting in the barn the Kisamores head towards.

Mason Kisamore started raising turkeys in 4-H as buyer gifts: whoever bought his steer or hog would get a fresh turkey as a thank you. This year, Harland sold his first 4-H hog, who he cheerfully identified as “Chris P. Bacon,” to a man who used to buy Mason’s market projects.

“I think the turkey was a driving force in that,” Mason said.

Mason got to know the Duma family, who own Duma Meats, in Mogadore, through 4-H and school growing up. In 2015, the Kisamores teamed up with Duma Meats to raise Thanksgiving turkeys and sell them at the store. Since then, they’ve raised up to 1,000 turkeys each year.

The turkeys arrive in July.

“When the turkeys come, the whole world stops,” Stacy Kisamore said.

The first few weeks require constant baby sitting to make sure the temperature, bedding, food and water are just right. Once the turkeys are about eight weeks old, they go outside to the pasture.

By the end of October, the turkeys are almost full-sized. Some of them wander out of the barn towards the Kisamores as Harland and Emerson call the turkeys to them.

The week before Thanksgiving, the Kisamores send them to slaughter. Then, on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the Kisamores sell the turkeys in Duma Meats’ parking lot. Duma Meats helps the Kisamores promote the turkeys in the store and on social media. Some customers order turkeys in advance, but the Kisamores save some for walk-ins.

“The Duma family is such a blessing to us … they kind of walked us through the whole thing,” Stacy Kisamore said.

Starting out

Before the turkeys became such a hit, the Kisamores started out in Suffield, living on a five-acre plot in town. Mason worked with his dad on the family farm and Stacy was a hairstylist.

“I just wanted to work with him, but we had to have health insurance,” Stacy said.

In 2014, they got chickens so they could sell eggs. They started with about 25 chickens, but that number quickly grew to 400. They sell most of their eggs through Duma Meats, and the rest, along with meat from their cattle and pigs, at a farmers market in Kent.

By October 2014, they had a steady income.

“Crops are once a year. Turkeys are once a year. Eggs are every week,” Mason explained.

So, Stacy left her job to work full-time on the farm with Mason.

“We get to work together as a family pretty much all the time,” she said. “They [Harland and Emerson] get a lot of experiences that I think most kids don’t.”

Harland proudly shows off pictures of his 4-H projects, and leads the way to the sheep barn. He is excited to drive the combine Mason uses to harvest crops some day.

“Diversification: it’s the only thing that’s kept us going,” Mason said. “If crops are bad, we have eggs and turkeys to carry us through. If you have a bad crop of turkeys, hopefully crops are good … we’ve never had a year where everything makes money.”

Moving

The Kisamores had their eyes on a plot of land in Mogadore for years. They bought it in June 2018 when the owner finally decided to sell.

Over the next year, they built barns and fences, using lumber from pine trees growing on the property. Then, they started moving their animals in.

“This is the first time that everything other than the cows has been in one spot, and it is such a relief,” Stacy said.

They keep beef cattle at Mason’s dad’s farm.

Barn fire

The Kisamores used to keep the turkeys on Mason’s dad’s farm too. In 2015, a tractor battery cable started a fire in a small barn. With the wind blowing heavily that night, the fire spread to a larger barn nearby that housed the turkeys.

“I was scared to death,” Mason said. “But the turkeys were smart enough to go outside.”

The turkeys escaped to a lot next to the barn.

“The real problem was when the fire truck sprayed the barn,” Stacy said. “It all went down to the turkeys.”

The turkeys ended up stuck in the mud. Over a dozen family friends helped pull them out of the mud and passed them back in a line to a trailer.

Another friend kept the turkeys in their barn until it was time for them to go to the butcher a few days later. All of the turkeys survived.

Community

The Kisamores’ friends and family have also supported them in daily life.

“There’s just too much to do for just the two of us,” Stacy said. “We really couldn’t afford to do it if we didn’t have them.”

Stacy recalled one difficult season when she prayed with friends that God would send people to help and guide them.

“He has blessed that a hundred-fold,” she said.

Many of their friends helped them get their farm ready after they bought the property, building new barns, bringing water and electricity to the buildings and putting in fences. They also help with day-to-day tasks like feeding animals, washing eggs, baby sitting Harland and Emerson or catching up on housework.

Mason’s friends and family give him advice from their own farming experience and brainstorm plans for buying equipment and selling crops with him.

“We always have someone standing with us, and each of those people are worth their weight in gold,” Stacy said.

The Kisamores will sell their turkeys Nov. 25-27, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day, at Duma Meats, 857 Randolph Road, in Mogadore, Ohio. For more information, visit Mason Kisamore Family Farms LLC on Facebook, or call 330-354-4157.

(Reporter Sarah Donaldson can be reached at 800-837-3419 or sarah@farmanddairy.com.)

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Reporter Sarah Donkin is a former 4-Her and a Mount Union graduate from Columbiana County, Ohio. She enjoys playing and writing music, cooking, and storytelling in many forms. She can be reached at 800-837-3419 or sarah@farmanddairy.com.

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