The Bullitt County History Museum

Raymond Nute's "Turkeys and Fruit Pay"

James Speed, a reporter for The Courier-Journal in 1934, wrote the following article about Raymond Nute's turkey farm. Alice Nute kept the original article in a scrapbook, and this transcription is taken from it.

Turkeys and Fruit Pay
by James Speed
The Courier-Journal, Feb 1934

"HAVE YOU SEEN R. E. NUTE'S TURKEYS?" a friend asked me a few days before Christmas. "If you haven't you'd better ride out into the hills behind Medora, Kentucky, with your camera and take a look. They're well worth your time."

Naturally I made the trip to the orchards from which Nute has been marketing choice peaches for many years. It was in these orchards that I found the hundreds of bronze birds to which my friend had directed me. At one of the big fruit sheds, the orchardist and three other men were dressing thirty-eight fat hens and loading a truck with crates of live birds.

"When did you get into this game?" I asked the smiling farmer. "Yes, and I'd like to know how many turkeys these orchards have produced this year."

"This is the first year I've raised many," he replied as he put a crate into the truck. "I didn't jump into the growing of turkeys. Knew I had to know how to do things and when to do them to make a success of handling turkeys. So I've been busy learning how for the past ten years. Began with a few birds and kept increasing the number as I gained new knowledge.

Just educated myself by reading and through personal experience. Of course, in the beginning of my education I didn't use an incubator. Let my hens handle their broods in the good old-fashioned way. But I did learn to know turkeys most intimately."

"No," the turkey raiser acknowledged, "no, I have not answered your question as to how many were hatched this year and how many I hoped to market. Yesterday I shipped into Louisville 1,000 live birds for the holiday trade. Today we're dressing thirty-eight fat young hens that have been ordered by individuals in the city. Two hundred more live birds are being loaded onto this truck for the regular trade.

"This season I've hatched something like 4,000 eggs in an incubator. Out of that hatch I'll market somewhere between 2,500 and 3,000 fat turkeys. I should have explained that I'm not striving to market all of these birds during the holiday season as the farmer's wife usually does. I began selling birds in October and I'1l be still marketing them in April. I find there is a steady demand for turkeys over this long period to hotels and fine restaurants."

"Yes," the fruit grower replied to a question of mine, "yes, the price for even the best turkeys is quite low. But then, you must realize that what I get in dollars and cents doesn't represent everything I get from this great number of birds running in the peach and apple orchards on this farm. Think of the manure they scatter evenly over the orchards as I move their feeding troughs about. Besides I find the turkeys holding down insect pests for me. No dropped fruit lies about as breeding places for diseases or for dangerous insects. The birds clean the orchards more perfectly than any man could.

"And don't forget for a moment," the orchardist continued, "the value of the manure they leave in the orchards. Roosting in my fruit trees means that a lot of the manure is dropped immediately about the trees at a time when the autumn and winter rains carry the fertilizer into the ground exactly where it is needed. You'd hardly believe it but the droppings of my turkeys will save me the buying of at least $1,000 worth of nitrate of soda for this spring's fertilization of my fruit trees. That's the amount of money I've spent each year. So you can understand why I say the price I get per pound for turkeys isn't what they are worth to me and the farm. That's why I spent ten years learning how to handle turkeys on a large scale."

"Certainly," the man replied to still another question, "all of these turkeys were hatched in incubators and they were started in brooders, or rather what might be called brooder houses. If you'll come with me over into another orchard, I can show you just how the birds were handled while they were young and very tender."

As we walked, he continued, "During the breeding season I have to keep a good-sized flock. Usually have 300 hens and 25 toms. These, of course, are pure-bred bronze birds. Get something like 50 eggs per hen in a season and use from 30 to 35 of these in the incubator. The first batch of poults came out of the egg in April last year. Other lots came off until about the first of July, thus allowing me to have fat young birds for sale from October until again this spring."

In the orchard I found a number of inexpensive, homemade brooder houses. Opening the door of one, Nute stated, "From 150 to 200 poults are put into one of these houses. You can see in the center of the house a brick stove with a plain pipe stuck through the roof. The bricks in that crude little stove are held together with heavy red clay mixed with salt and water( That mortar is strong enough to hold the stove together; but when the brooder house must be moved, it can be knocked to pieces and remade with a little labor. The fuel for these plain heaters is green wood cut in the hills on the farm. It doesn't cost anything but labor in getting it out and handling it. The green wood, of course, makes a fire which will burn slowly and steadily over a long period.

"Please notice that the pen in which the poults run is built out from one corner of the house. That allows me to move the pen into four positions before the brooder house itself must be moved. This keeps the poults on clean ground at all times. By the way, I should have told you that the young turkeys run in a pen for 30 days. Then the pen is moved. Four moves about the brooder house keeps the house in place for 120 days."

On the way back to my motor, the busy orchardist and poultryman announced, "At the present I have to buy much of my feed for my flocks. That is because this hill farm has been developed into orchards. In the future I'm planning to rent land near by in the valley so that some of my feed may be produced by the labor and live stock on the place."

As I climbed into the car, the farmer cautioned me by saying, "Don't give the fellow who reads the story the idea that the turkey business is easy. It isn't, My advice to any one starting along this line is to go slow. Begin in a small way and increase as experience is gained."

Follow this link to the main Raymond Nute article.

The Bullitt County History Museum, a service of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is located in the county courthouse at 300 South Buckman Street (Highway 61) in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. The museum, along with its research room, is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday. Admission is free. The museum, as part of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization and is classified as a 509(a)2 public charity. Contributions and bequests are deductible under section 2055, 2106, or 2522 of the Internal Revenue Code. Page last modified: 27 Jan 2021 . Page URL: