Turkeys, not tornadoes

Published 10:30 am Thursday, November 24, 2011

Bob Wayne and Lisa Dunn are looking forward to having a quiet Thanksgiving with family and friends after finding a “new normal” after a tornado ripped through their farm on June 17, 2010. -- Kelli Lageson/Albert Lea Tribune

GENEVA — What do turkey farmers eat for Thanksgiving? It’s not a trick question. Of course, they eat turkey.

“We usually cook it in the oven, but this year I might try brining it by submerging it in water and salt,” Lisa Dunn said.

Lisa and her husband, Bob Wayne, are turkey farmers — as well as crop farmers — west of Geneva. They’ve been working to find a “new normal” after their farm was ravaged by a tornado on June 17, 2010. They lost bins, two sheds and trees and had considerable damage to their home and turkey barn.

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“’We’re thankful we’re still here,” Bob said.

They recently had photos printed from that summer and said it brought everything back and helped them realize how far they’ve come since the tornado. They credit help from friends and neighbors for how they’ve been able to clean up and start working again.

“I’d still be picking boards up,” Lisa said with a laugh.

They’re both thankful they’ve had two good years of farming but said the stress and extra energy definitely took a toll.

“Last Thanksgiving we were still in the adrenaline stage,” Bob said.

This year they hope to have a quiet Thanksgiving at home and with neighbors and then spend time with family this weekend.

“We have no complaints — we’re just thankful,” Lisa said.

In many ways their farm has been updated. With the house damaged, they got a new roof, windows, carpet and siding. They now have three new bins and a combination machine shed and shop. The turkey barn was worked on right away by owners Jennie-O Turkey Store, a Hormel Foods subsidiary.

“Things could have been worse,” Lisa said. “We’re thankful our precious mementos are still here.”

While a lot of big projects have been completed, there are still many small reminders of the tornado. In the shed are buckets filled with random items people helped clean up that need to be organized.

“The trees look a little funny, but you get used to it,” Bob said.

Lisa is also thankful for her workplace, Rural Community Insurance Services, for allowing her to take so much time off to help with the farm. They got right back to farming corn and soybeans and caring for the turkeys.

“We take it as a personal challenge to keep safe food on the table,” Bob said.

Bob and Lisa said they strive to keep the best environment possible for the birds on their farm, a statement echoed by owners Jennie-O.

“Jennie-O Turkey Store provides safe, healthy and great-tasting turkey products to consumers across the country,” said Pat A. Solheid, vice president of human resources and administration at Jennie-O Turkey Store. “We provide a variety of products, including turkey burgers, deli meats, whole turkeys and breakfast sausages.”

While Bob and Lisa eat all kinds of meats, they enjoy trying all turkey products including ground turkey, turkey bacon and others. They’re glad their farm is up and running again but said they don’t know if they could have done it alone.

They’re both so thankful for friends and family for all the help they received after the tornado. Lisa feels like she’s a stronger person from the ordeal, but Bob thinks it may have aged him from all the stress.

“It was so overwhelming,” Lisa said. “Your initial reaction is ‘We’re destroyed,’ yet you find you can just start working with the help of others.”