Frank Reese is considered the God Father of American poultry. His farm is called Good Shepherd Turkey Ranch. Frank has been "hanging out" with turkeys as long as he can remember. He is a fourth generation poultry farmer from Lindsborg, Kansas who now farms with his business partner Brian Anselmo. Frank joined 4-H at an early age and began keeping his own turkeys at about age five, winning his first Kansas State Turkey Championship in 1955 and his first National Turkey Championship in 1974.
For nearly all his life, Frank has maintained a keen interest in American Heritage Turkeys, with an avowed objective of preventing their extinction. Frank is a founding member of the All-American Turkey Growers' Association and a lifetime member of the National Poultry Association. He is also the only licensed turkey judge for the American Poultry Association. His operation has been certified by the National Poultry Improvement Program since 1974. His turkey farm is the first turkey farm to be certified by the prestigious Animal Welfare Institute (AWI). Robert F. Kennedy Jr. says AWI is “The gold standard for how farm animals should be taken care of.”
The New York Times’ Kim Severson writes of Frank: “Only someone with a trained eye can pick the best toms and hens to breed and Mr. Reese is considered the best of the few people in the country who can do it. He is also the only one with a flock whose genetic line can be traced back to the late 1800s.”
In that same November 7th, 2007 article Severson writes:
“Although these breeds make up far less than one percent of the 265 million turkeys produced in America last year, many chefs consider them the best thing to eat on Thanksgiving. Turkeys like Mr. Reese’s take much longer to grow than mass-produced ones. Thus, they develop more fat and a robust flavor.”
Frank has brought together a group of neighboring farmers to help him raise his birds including Danny Williamson of Windmill Ranch, Doug Metzger of Metzger Farm and Ron Tommy, whose farm is located just outside Wichita, Kansas. Each spring Frank sells his cherished poults to the members of his network under the condition that they sell the grown turkeys back to him just before Thanksgiving. In this way, Frank has been able to significantly increase population counts of Heritage Turkeys. The Bourbon Red turkey, for instance, was upgraded from "rare" to "watch" status by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.
A heritage turkey is defined as:
- A true heritage turkey is reproduced and genetically maintained through self-breeding;
- A true heritage turkey has a long productive lifespan. Breeding hens are commonly productive for 8-9 years and breeding toms for 3-5 years;
- -A true heritage turkey has a slower rate of growth. Today's heritage turkeys reach a marketable weight in 26-28 weeks.
Frank has benefited from the mentorship of some of the leading American Heritage Turkey producers he met over the years at turkey shows and meetings. He counts among his most treasured teachers the late Norman Kardosh, as well as Sadie Lloyd, Agnes Trow, Bill Cawley and Hy Patton. For years, Frank pursued his hobby and "labor of love" with financing from his job: he is a licensed nurse anesthetist practicing in the Lindsborg and Salina area of Kansas State.
In addition to turkeys, Good Shepherd also owns some of the rarest genetics in the waterfowl segment of the poultry industry. For example, its American Buff and Toulouse geese are bred to produce the highest quality meat in the world.