Biehl’s Turkey Farm Brings Fresh, Local Flavor to Michigan Tables for Thanksgiving

"We get some of the same customers coming back year after year." - James Biehl

Your Thanksgiving dinner could have a local flavor this year, if you’re a fan of fresh, local turkey. A Northern Michigan family farm is going on more than 60 years strong. Biehl’s Turkey Farm near Mancelona is fast-approaching their busiest week of the year. Biehls Turkey Farm

James Biehl has been a turkey farmer his entire life. “We moved here to the farm in 1960, which I guess is 62 years ago,” he says. His father put him to work at a young age. “I guess he gave us jobs when we were five or six years old so we could understand how to make money and work.” James took over running the farm back in in 1977. And 45 years later they’re still going strong, raising thousands of turkeys for Michigan families and their Thanksgiving dinners.

Biehl’s does have an off-season but things really get going in the summer months: July and August when the chicks are hatched.

“We’re very busy in the beginning when we start them out as chicks. Basically around the clock you’re taking care of the turkeys, watching over them. Feeding, bed and watering them,” James says. “We typically get around 4,000. This year we started with 3,800.”

Biehls Turkey 1The birds have three to four months to grow to full size. The week before Thanksgiving is when things really ramp up, as you place your order for Thanksgiving dinner. “We’ll process all of those birds the week prior to Thanksgiving and sell them all out fresh,” he says. “All these birds here are going to be 14 ½ weeks or younger. So it doesn’t take long for the birds, and obviously it makes them nice and tender too not to have an old bird.”

At Biehl’s, it’s a family affair most of the year. But come November they can’t do it alone.

“The week prior to Thanksgiving we hire a workforce of probably 35 to 40 people to help us process. We do experience shortages of labor. You know they can make $1,000 in that 6 or 7 (day) work period.  A $1000 paycheck,” he says.

With food prices rising faster than inflation, Biehl says they’re proud to keep price hikes to a minimum. “We’re up about 5%, not a whole lot compared to a lot of people. We try to keep our prices as competitive as we can. Because we’re a specialty market selling free-range all-natural turkey, we get a really good price out of it and we get really happy customers.” Biehls Turkey 2

Your fresh local turkey will cost $4.25 a pound, up from $4 last year.  As for size? “They should go between 12-25 pounds. We might have some 28 pounders this year. You just never know until you butcher them,” he says.

Biehl’s wife helps out at the farm, where they hope their son will flock to the career as well.

“I have a good time, it’s a blessing. I enjoy it every day,” Anelyn Biehl says.

As for their young son EJ, Anelyn says “We want him to understand how hard, how hard (it is) on the farm and how hard you need to work for it. Hopefully he can learn. He might grow a turkey farm, who knows?”

To place an order online, you can click here to visit their website. You can also call or text 231-587-9580, although text messages are preferred over phone calls (please send your name).

You can also use the same website or phone number to inquire about seasonal work. Biehl says workers are most needed from Nov. 14-21.