ERLANGER, Ky. — Raising thousands of turkeys for customers to feed their families on Thanksgiving takes a lot of hard work, and also requires that a lot of things go right. This year, that includes protecting the flock from Avian Flu.

One northern Kentucky farm is preparing for its busiest time of year with that added challenge, which could also affect how much people pay at the register for their Thanksgiving shopping.

What You Need To Know

  • Tewes Farm in Erlanger is the only fresh turkey farm in Northern Kentucky

  • Generations of the Tewes family come together to help raise about 3,000 turkeys for customers to bring home and feed their families

  • Besides the normal yearly challenges of keeping the flock healthy and safe, Avian Flu, which has spread in the U.S., threatens their flocks

  • Tewes has been successful so far in keeping its flock isolated

Stephanie Tewes has come a long way from being terrified of turkeys as a little girl. Not learning to embrace them, and how to farm them, was never much of an option in her family. She and two of her sisters work at the farm part time, while her brother and another sister have full-time jobs.

“We’ve been born and raised here hanging out at the farm,” Tewes said. “We are still doing what we started years and years ago. There’s a lot of us that all come back here to help at Thanksgiving time, and throughout the year.”

Last year, Spectrum News 1 talked to Stephanie’s father, Dan Tewes. Getting free help on the farm and delegating interview responsibilities, he found out, are both benefits of having many children.

John Tewes, who started Tewes Farm in Northern Kentucky, had 18 children. (Tewes Farm)

That’s something Stephanie’s grandfather John Tewes, who started Tewes Farm, must have known as well. John Tewes originally settled in Edgewood. The farm’s current location is in Erlanger.

“He actually nickeled and dimed and quartered his way up to having property that he could have his family on. And they had 18 children, which is good for us now, because we have lots of aunts and uncles and cousins to help us around this time of year when things are crazy,” Tewes said.

The farm needs all of those family members to get its roughly 3,000 turkeys ready for customers to take home and prepare for their families.

“Around Thanksgiving, it’s all hands on deck. This is the main focus, is to help out Dad,” Stephanie Tewes said. “This is really what we’ve been doing all year, is to get ready for this. So he gets baby turkeys in July for the point of knowing everything that goes in and out of them. So he’s only going to have them for about six months. Because you want to have the freshest turkey.”

Tewes is the only fresh turkey farm in northern Kentucky. Customers can order online by describing the size range of the turkey they’re looking for. Then they come pick the bird up, fully processed and ready to pop in the oven. It doesn’t get much fresher, Tewes said.

“Some people think that you can actually come pick out your turkey and say, ‘I’d like that one.’ And that seems weird to me,” she said, laughing. “I can tell you the one you picked out, if that’s your kind of thing.”

Keeping the flock healthy and out of harm’s way is a challenge every year, as potential predators loom outside of the farm’s fences.

The current Avian Flu outbreak only adds to that challenge. The mere mention of it gives Tewes pause.

Tewes Farm says it has been successful so far in avoiding Avian Flu. (Spectrum News 1/Sam Knef)

“Well, that’s a word that we don’t like to use. Because we do not want to be affected by that,” Tewes said.

Kentucky is one of 42 states where Avian Flu has spread, according to the USDA. Farmers have culled over 47 million birds during the outbreak.

It’s primarily spread by migratory waterfowl. While the meat and eggs are safe to eat if properly prepared, according to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, any positive cases found at a farm mean the farm must be quarantined, and can’t sell any products.

“We really want them to step up their biosecurity levels, no matter what size operation, whether they have five chickens or thousands of chickens,” said Keith Rogers, Chief of Staff for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.

Tewes Farm has so far been successful in keeping Avian Flu away from its flock.

“That’s part of the reason that we have all the scarecrow looking things out there, trying to keep anything away from our turkeys, so that it doesn’t get spread, and doesn’t get into our population. So we have another month to make it, and I’m hoping and praying,” Tewes said.

According to the USDA, the outbreak has contributed to elevated egg prices and increasing poultry prices.

Over the past three months, inflation has plateaued at just above 8%. Food at home has done the same at 13%. In Sept. 2021, inflation was 5.4%. Likewise, inflation for food was lower at 4.5%.

“Whether prices will continue to moderate is an open question. At present, inflation remains well above the two percent target set by the Federal Reserve,” said Northern Kentucky University Economist Janet Harrah.

With inflation in mind, Harrah said most Americans will likely change the way they plan for Thanksgiving.

“Shoppers are likely to focus on purchasing ingredients for a few key dishes such as the turkey and mashed potatoes while foregoing other side dishes such as rolls and green bean casserole,” Harrah said.

Tewes Farm has already had to raise its prices from about $3.50 a pound for a turkey last year, to $4.50 a pound this year in order to keep up with inflation.

“We hate to do that, but really as everyone knows that’s been to the grocery store anywhere lately, the price of everything has gone up,” Tewes said.

The price of the food to feed the turkeys going up is one contributing factor. Tewes said the farm spends $10,000 on food for turkeys every week. Straw and hay prices have gone up as well.

Anyone who plans to order from Tewes Farm should do so early, Tewes said.

“This is what we have. We’re not getting anymore,” she said. “There is the potential of a shortage, but I mean, we can’t keep up with what Kroger’s doing, or how many they’re going to end up with.”

Learn more on Tewes Farm’s website, or by emailing

Are you outside of northern Kentucky? Other fresh turkey farms around the state include Elmwood Stock Farm in Georgetown, Star Farm in Hardyville and Cedar Hill Homestead in Carlisle.