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Diestel Turkey Ranch Sets Standards for Sustainability

November 15th, 2015 • by Sandy Zimmerman


Family Farm Founded in 1949 Embraces Traditional Methods with Innovative Techniques

turkey-dietsel-tky-readytoet-In an industry so often ruled by volume & efficiency; where quicker and cheaper is “better,” and where flavor, nutrition and quality are often overlooked, there is thankfully an exception to this norm. In the case of turkey, the anomaly is called the Diestel difference.

Diestsel Turkey Ranch is one of the last small, family-owned turkey grower-processors in the United States. On their beautiful ranch in the Sierra Foothills, the traditions of Great-Uncle Ernest, who started the farm, are continued. Each day, the Diestel family demonstrates new ways to sustain old-fashioned values, striving at the same time to maintain a small carbon footprint while producing high-quality product. With every choice made and technique used, the Diestel family hopes to lay a foundation for future farmers.

The popularity of the Diestel holiday birds is a direct result of the careful farming practices turkey-Diestelfamtkyrnch-ltwhttkys-

the family employs: Allowing the birds to roam free, giving them plenty of time to grow, offering the birds the highest-quality, all-natural food sources, and being meticulous about the finished product’s quality.

In fact, Diestel farmers walk the turkeys every day and pay close attention to their health, removing the need for antibiotics. The birds are fed a wholesome vegetarian diet of grains milled and mixed daily on the ranch. Diestel is proud to be one of the last turkey producers in the Western U.S. to mill its own feed. In addition, Diestel birds are raised almost twice as long and given three times as much space as conventional birds. Recognizing this effort, the Global Animal Partnership (GAP) awarded Diestel’s pasture raised birds its highest 5+ rating.

These are just a few of the Diestel “family secrets,” which have been passed down over four generations and are used as the basis for the entire Diestel farming system. The family keeps to the same high standards set in place when the ranch was founded in 1949, while simultaneously embracing innovation.

turkey-fam-lt-One of the progressive initiatives the Diestel family has implemented, is their use of composting. Composting eliminates the use of toxic chemicals, fertilizers, and inorganic substances and allows resources to be reused. The Organic Diestel Structured Compost created by Jason Diestel, director of sustainability, improves the farm’s soil fertility and reduces the greenhouse gas emissions of products that would normally be land-filled by approximately 70 percent. Diestel’s goal is not just to limit their footprint on the environment, but to eliminate it completely. For more information on Diestel’s sustainability plan, click here.

Shared Heidi Diestel, turkey farmer, “Most producers in our industry are dedicated to getting pounds to market as quickly as possible. Our approach is just the opposite. We have no desire to grow all the turkeys in the world; we just want to grow the best.”

The Diestel Turkey Ranch produces both holiday turkeys and year-round products. Visit www.diestelturkey.com for more information, and find the brand on Facebook.

How the Diestel family does Thanksgiving –
a Q&A with Heidi Diestel

Who attends the Diestel family dinner?
turkey-heirloom-heritage-m-hldg2tkys-LGR-The Diestel Thanksgiving is an intimate gathering, typically with just our immediate family. It’s simple that way and always wonderful to share time with the family. We’re very close.

What’s the Diestel Thanksgiving turkey of choice?
Each year, the bird we choose is different. Usually our family picks a large Diestel original turkey. Even though we typically only have about 10 to 15 people at our Thanksgiving table, we always roast a 30+ pound turkey. Only once a year do we roast a bird that big. That’s because our family loves to cook and loves Thanksgiving leftovers. They’re always gobbled up!

What’s the Diestel Thanksgiving meal look like? What accompanies the turkey?
Our family’s Thanksgiving meal is usually quite traditional. The turkey dressing and stuffing is our great-great grandmother’s famous recipe. While for some, stuffing the turkey has fallen out of favor, we find it to be the best way to have the most flavorful dressing around.

Our gravy is a long-time family favorite. We always say that the secret to a fabulous gravy is basting the bird with a hearty white wine about .5 – 3/4 of the way through the roasting time. The wine gives  turkey-Diestel Heirloom Birds P2-blk-lt- the gravy a fantastic base flavor. It is also a Diestel must to roast the neck in the pan with the whole bird for the gravy. The neck rarely makes it past cooking time onto anyone’s plate for dinner. It is one of the tastiest parts of the bird!

While the sides – garlic mashed potatoes, a fresh mixed green salad, and delicious homemade rolls – are a family-wide effort, Grandpa Jack, 88-years young, is no doubt the head chef on Thanksgiving. He preps the turkey, creates the stuffing, roasts the turkey, and make the gravy. Though we help him as sous chefs, Grandpa Jack is definitely the one running the show. After the turkey is pulled from the oven and rested, one of the Diestel boy’s, Tim, Jason or Garrett, begin the carving process. Then, everyone grabs a plate and the turkey is served straight off the bird. Gravy is on the stove and the rest of the sides are lined up buffet style. Our Aunt’s whiskey bread pudding, complete with creme fresh and whiskey sauce, is always one of the many tasty dessert options, and it’s soooo good the next day for breakfast!

What’s the Diestel family’s turkey roasting technique?
We use the same roasting technique every year for Thanksgiving. Create a paste of paprika, salt and olive oil or butter. Rub the entire bird with this paste, pour some water in the bottom of the roasting pan and place the turkey in the oven. We send these same roasting instructions home with every single turkey we sell. Though we try all sorts of roasting methods throughout the year, many of which are quite wonderful, at Thanksgiving, we always use this simple roasting style. We feel it puts the taste of the turkey front and center, and that’s what we want to taste on the big day. Maybe that’s our Italian heritage in full swing! Here’s a link to a video I made sharing our roasting tips: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIMySktu7SE

What does Thanksgiving Day look like for the Diestel family?
A traditional Thanksgiving Day on the Diestel Family Turkey Ranch is very simple, but the festivities start on Thanksgiving Eve. Thanksgiving Eve is very busy because many local folks are still coming out to pick up their turkey. We prepare for Thanksgiving all year long and take pride in producing the centerpiece of many family’s holiday celebrations. Turkey is a big part of what the holiday is about, and we want our birds to be perfect, every one of them.

We close the ranch at 4:30pm, toast our fantastic team to a job well done, and then close up the ranch’s salesroom. At this point, we head up to our Grandpa’s house, which is just up the road, and make sure the turkey is all soft and oven ready for the next day. After that, we head back to my parent’s house to spend time with family and some close friends. We gather to toast another wonderful Thanksgiving season at the Diestel Family Turkey Ranch. This “wild turkey” celebration is potluck style when it comes to the food. One of our close friends is a master gardener, so she usually brings over amazing vegetables we incorporate into the meal. She is a big fan of Diestel compost! It is a night filled with laughs, joy and giving thanks. At around 8pm, I jump on the phone and Diestel email to field any turkey hotline questions.

Thanksgiving morning starts bright and early, typically around 5AM. Joan and I get up and begin to field any turkey questions. While we are on the phone, the boys head up to Grandpa’s to get our large turkey in the oven. At about 8AM, we take a little break and head out for a family run through the apple orchards in our neighborhood. When we get back, we have a very casual breakfast, turn on the Thanksgiving Day parade, and head back to the phones and email. At this point, the boys usually head out to check on the ranch. They can be found working on their dirt bikes, welding, or just having guy time. At about 2pm, the turkey hotline callers are winding down, and we all get ready to head to Grandpa Jack’s house for dinner. From 3-8pm, we eat, we laugh, and then we eat some more. Thanksgiving Day with the Diestel family is simply wonderful. It’s always quality time shared with family I love and delicious food we enjoy together. By far, it’s one of my favorite days of the year!

- Heidi Diestel, turkey farmer

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