CYNTHIANA — Turkeys are not nature's most charming creatures.
This flock of 46 black and white birds babbles and chirps in its enclosure on the farm used by Harrison County middle and high school agriculture classes, unaware that the end is approaching.
On Nov. 20, they will be taken to Kentucky State University for processing and sold to customers in time for Thanksgiving.
The students in those classes — which include classroom instruction, as well as farm work — have been with these turkeys since early July, when they were hatched, their little balls of fluff, called poults.
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The students taught them — remember, turkeys are not big on brainpower — to eat, drink and get grit into their diets. They clipped their wings to make sure they did not fly away. They provided them with clean bedding and made sure they stayed safe from roaming coyotes.
Student Kaylie Lemons described the clipping as "just like getting a haircut" and said the birds didn't feel any pain during the procedure.
"As long as you're calm around them, they're calm around you," Lemons said.
Last year, the class donated 19 birds to a food pantry.
But this year, the students have gone into the business of selling them, since their teachers want them to learn not just farm skills but how to best present and package the resulting product and become entrepreneurs. The animal science class has been in charge of doing market research and marketing the birds, including Facebook pages and other social media.
The turkeys are priced at $60 each, about $3.50 a pound, which teacher Savannah Robin says is a good price for a free-range Thanksgiving protein centerpiece. The turkeys will be an average of 17 to 20 pounds.
Harrison County's middle and high schools have a vigorous agriculture program, and plenty of space for practical experience on a nearby livestock and grain farm that is more than 80 acres, The farm is owned by the school system and is used to raise anything from pumpkins to cattle.
The students don't romanticize the turkeys: They are food products, not pets.
But occasionally a bird stands out.
Isaac Miller, a seventh-grader, says he became attached to one of the smaller turkeys. He named it Phil after the school snake.
There's also the matter of giving respect where respect is due to a creature with a beak and an occasionally difficult temperament. Sixth-grader Kayla Moses said tending to the turkeys "is fun as long as they don't try to eat you."
Gracie Furnish, who is active in Harrison County's Future Farmers of America, said that students, such as her younger brother Jakob, "learn how to actually properly care for them."
During the rest of the school year, the students work with cows and calves in addition to raising garden crops.
Three of the seniors involved with the farm plan to pursue careers related to agriculture. Zach Day hopes to study beef embryology. Gracie Furnish plans to study career and technical education in college, a path she hopes might lead her to work at the Department of Agriculture. Kaylie Lemons hopes to become a family and consumer science extension agent.
Robin, their teacher, is in her second year at Harrison County, after growing up in the rural part of Jefferson County. But she didn't get the combination of academic and on-farm experience that her students are getting: "I didn't even know in high school that you could have an agriculture class."
The lessons learned on the farm — from turkey marketing to cow insemination — are used by teachers "as a way to enhance what we do in the classroom. ... It shows the importance of agriculture in our society and communities."
There's also competition among students to earn the right to have their project implemented at the farm.
After the turkeys are processed, the farm won't be without poultry noise for long. Come spring, students will be raising broiler chickens.