HURON, SD – The National Turkey Federation and the South Dakota Poultry Industries Association is proud to announce that for the first time, a South Dakota farm has been selected to raise the Presidential Turkey. The selection decision falls to the current Chairman of the National Turkey Federation, and this year that is Jeff Sveen, a South Dakotan.  One of the state’s most experienced turkey producers, Ruben Waldner, is raising the Presidential flock on a Beadle County farm, and one of the birds will meet President Trump in November.


Each year since 1947, the National Turkey Federation has presented the President of the US with a turkey for Thanksgiving. Since President George H. W. Bush in 1989, the turkeys have been granted a pardon by the President.


Currently, 49 of the colony’s best turkeys are living in a small air-conditioned barn and are being trained to be calm around people. Out of the 49 contenders, the two best turkeys will travel to DC and one will be chosen to meet the President.  Sveen states “we will select two birds that are calm, show good character and personality, and are good looking.”  Names of the birds will ultimately be selected by the President.


This November, Jeff Sveen, chairman of the board of both the National Turkey Federation and Dakota Provisions in Huron, and Ruben Waldner, the turkey boss at Riverside Colony, along with a small delegation from South Dakota will accompany the turkeys to Washington D.C.Once there, the turkeys will stay in their own room at the Willard Hotel in D.C., just a block away from the White House.


The ceremony often takes place in the rose garden at the White, where the turkeys have traditionally received an official pardon from the President. Sveenexplained, “The turkeys are pardoned and go to Gobbler’s Rest, which is an agricultural outreach and education facility at Virginia Tech University.”  Sveen also said, “We do this to show we are thankful for being in America, and it’s a fun thing for our country.”


“It truly is a great honor for our state,” said Dr. David Zeman, Executive Director of the South Dakota Poultry Industries Association (SDPIA). Each year, South Dakota farms produce more than five million turkeys, all of which are grown by 50 Hutterite colonies. Bob Drake, President of the SDPIA board says “Annually, SD turkeys consume close to 6 M bushels of corn and 82,500 tons of soybean meal, and that creates tremendous economic impact throughout the state.”  The turkey processing plant in Huron employs around 1,200 people.


The Presidential Turkey’s journey from South Dakota to Washington, D.C. is just beginning. Follow along on the road to the rose garden at www.presidentialturkey.com, Facebook, Twitterand Instagram.