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Nellie Helps Proclaim Arkansas Turkey Week

Press Shop | 11.20.2018

LITTLE ROCK – Neither the cameras nor the crowd ruffled the feathers of the guest of honor, which is saying something considering that she is a turkey with plenty of feathers to ruffle.

          Nellie the Turkey sat calmly in her red wagon on Monday to pose for pictures with Governor Asa Hutchinson, Agriculture Commissioner Wes Ward, her teenage owners, and more than sixty students, parents, and teachers from Atkins Elementary School. As Arkansas's honorary state turkey, Nellie was in town for the official proclamation of Arkansas Turkey Week.

       Nellie arrived in Little Rock in the company of her owners, sisters Victoria and Kristin Lehmann, who had nurtured Nellie since the turkey arrived at their home in July.

          Victoria, 17, and Kristin, 14, are members of the Future Farmers of America at Nemo-Vista High School. They also are members of the Conway County 4-H Club. They raise sheep and dairy goats for fun. And they raise turkeys. Nellie was one of ten turkeys that Butterball gave to the sisters in July, and she was top of their crop.

          So they showed Nellie at the county fair, where she won a fourth-place ribbon. On Monday, the Lehmann sisters pulled the 26-pound Nellie in her red wagon onto the front steps of the capitol, where Governor Hutchinson read Arkansas Turkey Week proclamation declaring this as . For a day, Nellie was the state's top turkey.

          Victoria and Kristin are veterans of this Take a Turkey to Town project. They supplied the turkey for last year’s event as well. Their escorts to the capitol were their ag teacher, Seth Taylor, and Alicia Hugen of the Conway County Co-operative Extension Service. Alicia grew up on a cattle farm and raised show hogs. Seth raised show hogs, also.

          Victoria and Kristin don’t just turn their livestock loose in the barnyard and water and feed them. Through the 4-H club, they take a course in biosecurity in order to protect their animals from disease and to prevent the spread of any disease that might pop up.

          So rest assured that Nellie, their broad-breasted white turkey, is healthy and free of disease.

          Nellie is one in a million, or to be accurate, she is one in 26 million, which is how many turkeys Arkansas produces a year. Arkansas produces 11 percent of the turkeys in the United States. Turkeys add $341 million to the Arkansas economy.

          Every Butterball turkey sold in the United States is from Arkansas, but Nellie won’t be among them. After her debut into polite society, Nellie returned home with Victoria and Kristin. She joined Penny, the governor’s guest of honor last year, in a disease-free life of leisure, pampered by the Lehmann sisters.

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