Responsibility and Thanksgiving don’t always go together, but an entrepreneurial Concordia graduate put local, vegetarian-fed, free range turkeys on plates in Dining Services at the annual Thanksgiving dinner last Thursday, Nov. 11.

Kelsey Velo, a 2009 graduate of Concordia College, and her family have a commercial turkey farm in Rothsay, Minnesota. Eddie Velo, Kelsey’s brother and a 2007 Concordia alumnus, runs most of the operation. Kelsey, Eddie and sister Alanna Velo had been thinking about trying free-range for a few years, Kelsey said.

Their grandfather’s generation raised turkeys outside, Alanna said, but the risks of predators and weather eventually forced the birds inside. While the majority of the Velo’s birds roam inside barns, there is an obvious change of behavior when they are let out to roam, Alanna said.

All-natural and vegetarian-fed free-range turkeys are happier and healthier, and the process is more ethical and sustainable, Kelsey said. She remembers her first environmental science class at Concordia and thinking of ways her family could implement new ideas on their farm.

“Sometimes it’s maybe just a small difference,” she said. “But it’s still doing something, trying to make the world a little bit better.”

As a communications major, Kelsey was also responsible for finding a good processor, communicating with customers, and marketing. She sent out e-mails and made phone calls to spread the word.

Janet Paul Rice, the associate director of Dining Services, tries to find a locally grown turkey for her family each year, and she purchased one of the Velos’ turkeys for this Thanksgiving. When Kelsey delivered the turkey, Rice learned there were still turkeys available for sale, and Rice thought it was a great opportunity for the school and Velo, she said.

Concordia hadn’t used whole turkeys in a few years, because of the high demand for white meat. Even the carving turkeys were boneless and were primarily white meat. They adjusted the amount of supplemental turkey and ordered the 12 remaining turkeys from the Velos.

Only 50 birds were grown this year to test out the idea, and all of them were sold. Next year the Velos hope to double or triple the amount, but pre-orders will influence their ability. Kelsey’s plans for next year also include setting up a Web site and making business cards.

Kelsey was among the guest carvers at Concordia College Dining Services’ annual Thanksgiving dinner. It was great to see the turkeys after they were cooked, because it’s something that farmers don’t often experience, she said.

“They looked so good,” she said. “[They looked] just like a commercial.”

Carrie Johansen

I am a senior majoring in political science and journalism, and I am minoring in music. Next year, I will study law at the University of St. Thomas, and I can't believe my time at Concordia has gone so quickly.

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