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The Founding of the Turkey Farm

This is a reach back to the beginning of time, which is generally synonymous with the beginnings of Neve Ilan. It is to bring forth the real truth on how things got started here.
The foundation of the turkey farm at Neve Ilan was our answer to the eternal question of how to pose a non-agricultural settlement as an agricultural settlement. Garin HaMagshimim was billing itself as the first non-agricultural Moshav Shitufi. In order for it to get the benefits that the Jewish Agency and the government gave to settlements, it had to register itself as agricultural: hence it was a non-agricultural - agricultural settlement. The turkeys gave us the posture of agriculture without actually making us into farmers. They also gave us the means of accepting the help that the Jewish Agency was willing to offer without knowing how to apply it to us, and give us a branch with some cash potential at the same time.
We were offered by the Jewish Agency the funds we would need to start a pilot project. Harvey Wein, Rafi Minkin and I were chosen to train to raise turkeys. Kibbutz Tzora agreed for one of us to train there, and Kibbutz Hatzor Ashdod agreed for us to send someone as well.
After a period of training, we went into full gear at turning the existing little poultry house south of the road into a turkey farm for receiving day old to 6 weeks old poults.
We decided on a budget (otherwise known as a shoe string) of 12,000 lirot, which was about $3,000. The building chosen had been used by the old Kibbutz which existed between 1946-56, as a receiving house for 1 day old chicks. We had used it as a plant nursery and therefore had graciously removed several sections of irreplaceable asbestos roofing to let the sunlight in. The standard size for the roofing had changed in those 20 years and we never had a roof that was totally rain tight after that, but it does bring back pictures of a half dozen Neve Ilan ladies, all pregnant, painting stands for flowers and having a white line across their mid sections where their abdomens reached their work before the rest of them could avoid it.
Our shoe string budget accounted for:
• A single line of feeder running the length of the house to provide feed from a new feed tank, with great hope numbered 1, 2.
• Brand new hanging waterers that had to stay out of the way until the turkey poults were old enough to drink from them without drowning, and provided a sort of water hazards for anyone working with the little birds. Keep your heads down and your eyes up.
• Three kerosene heaters with rectangular space covers to keep the young turkeys warm, sort of surrogate mothers until the birds feathered over.
• An incinerator for burning dead birds, thought to be the most important piece of equipment by some, before we started.
• Assorted small feeders and waterers and hand tools necessary for running the turkey run.
What it did not provide was
1. Feeders for big turkeys. They were made by cutting 20 gallon oil drums in half along the middle, welding legs on one end and putting a tin cornice on top and a tin barrel on the bottom to catch the feed and hold it so that the turkeys could eat it. This contraption looked sort of like a pointy-headed R2D2 robot with a straw coming out of it. It started out on the floor and was raised onto cinder blocks according to the age of the turkey - 7 cm blocks on their side for 6 week olds, 20 cm blocks flat for 10 week olds, 20 cm blocks standing on end for mature bids.
a. Problem #1 was where to find 15 oil drums lying around. Paz Oil Company and Hamashbir Co-op gave us a few. Any junkyard, storage area or dump was not too dirty, too dangerous or too cheap to miss.
b. Problem # 2 was how to cut them in half. Al Robins refused to use a welding torch or a cutting disk until they were washed inside, and they had to be cut before they could be washed. In the end I spent many unhappy hours with a hammer, a metal chisel, and a banged up left hand hacking away around an approximate middle of an oil drum making the most dangerous obstacle know to man, a chisel cut turkey feeder.
2. Chicken wire that could be used for fixing the fencing. We tried to use the old fencing with mixed results. One night we were visited by a viper, and a running battle ensued. Harvey Wein and Dan Milan vs. the SNAKE. In the end the snake killed two little turkeys. Harvey killed the snake, Danny lost his voice shouting “Kill it, kill it”, and they managed to step on 4 more unfortunately curious little turkeys.
3. Window glass: Windows were covered with plastic sheeting to keep in the heat when the poults were still young and then to keep out the heat, or keep out the cold, depending on the weather. This was only partially successful. The windows were wooden and warped in more places than STAR TREK. Each day was a fight between the forces of warm and cold to see which could destroy profits and resolve faster.
In May 1972 the first 1,200 turkey poults reached our proud old-new turkey house. The first visitor was Zvi Weinenger, the director of the Jerusalemoffice of the Settlement Department who showed up at 6:30 a.m. the next day to see if the investment would succeed, and got thrown out before he could contaminate us.
I guess that it did succeed for by the end of that cycle when we were supposed to have room for 1,000 birds, and instead of losing the anticipated 10% to normal mortality, or the 20% that Azi Teller, the Business Manager of Neve Ilan, suggested we take into consideration because of a first run, we had lost under 6% and had well over the average weight for the birds. In short we were knee deep in turkeys and had to take another adjacent building, also bereft of roof (this time because Harvey Wein had sold it to people who couldn’t get old style asbestos roof panels). From that first cycle we gained permission to plan the entire turkey complex to the south of the road, and to start building.
In case you don’t know, turkey feed itches inside a shirt,
and smells as bad as turkeys.
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