Pardon me: Ohio farm to present presidential turkey

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This barn built outside Cole Cooper's house is home to the Presidential turkey, and is a mini version of a Cooper landmark. (Photo: Cooper Farms)

COLUMBUS — A 76-year-old family-owned Ohio farm is raising the National Thanksgiving Turkey that’s expected to be presented to President Barack Obama in just a few weeks.

The presentation of the National Thanksgiving Turkey to the president is bestowed each year upon the individual serving as chairman of the National Turkey Federation (NTF).

This year, the presidential flock is being raised by Cooper Farms in Fort Recovery, Ohio.

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“The Cooper family is proud to have the opportunity to be part of this time-honored tradition,” said Gary Cooper, chief operating officer of Cooper Farms and chairman of the NTF.

“As a family-owned farm, we take great pride in the turkeys we raise.” Gary Cooper’s youngest son, Cole, has been raising a flock of approximately 20 birds in a custom-built red barn at his home in Mercer County, Ohio, since July, when the turkeys were hatched.

The barn was designed as a smaller version of one of the original farms owned by Virgil Cooper, founder of Cooper Farms and Gary Cooper’s father.

Family affair

The “family” essence is a quintessential part of Cooper Farms and very important to the Cooper family. Raising the turkeys has truly been a family affair, involving not only the Coopers, but also much of the company’s team.

“It was a great honor for my dad to ask me to raise the presidential turkey flock,” said Cole Cooper. “This is my heritage. It is what my grandpa started and is what I grew up with, as I watched my dad, aunt and uncle expand Cooper Farms into what it is today.”

Cooper Farms will hand-select two tom turkeys for the special national honor. One will serve as the National Thanksgiving Turkey and the second as an alternate.

Four different breeds of turkeys are represented in the presidential flock to celebrate NTF’s 75th anniversary and Cooper Farms being in business for just more than 75 years.

Education

The variety of birds has also offered a unique opportunity for Cooper Farms to educate elementary students from across Ohio.

Since October, Cooper Farms has hosted and visited more than 3,000 students from the local community.

These visits have helped get the turkeys accustomed to large audiences and have let students meet the soon-to-be famous presidential flock.

Submit a name

Americans are invited to submit name suggestions for the two turkeys during a national naming contest. Ideas may be submitted by visiting: OhioPoultry.org/NameTheTurkey.

The final decision on names for the National Thanksgiving Turkey and an alternate will be made by President Obama, his family and the White House staff.

Individuals are also encouraged to follow #PresidentialTurkey14 on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest to see photos and videos of the turkeys as they grow and prepare for their trip to Washington, D.C.

In Ohio, turkey farming is an important part of the state’s agricultural economy. The Buckeye state ranks ninth nationally in turkey farming, producing more than 219 million pounds of turkey each year, valued at more than $158 million.

Turkey farming is responsible for the creation of 2,183 jobs and $71 million in earnings.

“Ohio is a major turkey farming state, and we are pleased to be raising this year’s presidential turkey flock,” said Jim Chakeres, executive vice president of the Ohio Poultry Association. “Ohio’s turkey farmers are firmly committed to providing safe, affordable food for consumers and to caring for their flocks and the environment. It’s our responsibility, and it’s the right thing to do — and Cooper Farms is a great example.”

Tradition

The presentation of the National Thanksgiving Turkey to the President of the U.S. is an annual White House tradition that occurs the week of Thanksgiving.

The presentation of the National Thanksgiving Turkey began when President Harry Truman received a turkey as a gift from NTF. In 1989, President George H.W. Bush remarked that he was “pardoning” the turkey, beginning a custom followed by presidents at the end of each presentation ceremony.

Learn more about Cooper Farms, where the presidential flock is being raised, at CooperFarms.com. To find out more about turkey farming in Ohio, including how farmers care for their animals and the environment and provide safe, healthy food, visit OhioPoultry.org.

Past turkeys

Names of the pardoned National Thanksgiving Turkeys and their alternates throughout the years have included:

2013: Popcorn (official) and Caramel (alternate), pardoned by President Barack Obama

2012: Cobbler (official) and Gobbler (alternate), pardoned by President Barack Obama

2011: Liberty (official) and Peace (alternate), pardoned by President Barack Obama

2010: Apple (official) and Cider (alternate), pardoned by President Barack Obama

2009: Courage (official) and Carolina (alternate), pardoned by President Barack Obama

2008: Pecan (official) and Pumpkin (alternate), the alternate, Pumpkin was pardoned by President George W. Bush during the official ceremony because Pecan became ill during the preceding night.

2007: May (official) and Flower (alternate), pardoned by President George W. Bush

2006: Flyer (official) and Fryer (alternate), pardoned by President George W. Bush

2005: Marshmallow (official) and Yam (alternate), pardoned by President George W. Bush

2004: Biscuits (official) and Gravy (alternate), pardoned by President George W. Bush

2003: Stars (official) and Stripes (alternate), pardoned by President George W. Bush

2002: Katie (official) and Zack (alternate), pardoned by President George W. Bush (Katie and Zack were named after the Chairman of the National Turkey Federation Ron Prestage’s children.)

2001: Liberty (official) and Freedom (alternate), pardoned by President George W. Bush

2000: Jerry (official), pardoned by President Bill Clinton

1999: Harry (official), pardoned by President Bill Clinton

 

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