Owners of state's last turkey hatchery to call it quits

November 22, 1990|By Kim Clark

The Schramms, the blunt-talking Pasadena farm family who have raised and sold turkeys to two generations of Marylanders, will never sell another Thanksgiving turkey. And the Schramms are thankful the tradition is over.

"They are tired," explained Evelyn Schramm, whose three children run Maryland's last turkey hatchery.

"Raising turkeys is too much hard work. . . . And they can't get no help," Mrs. Schramm said of William, 65, Louis, 64, and Emma, 62, who operate the business with their cousin Evelyn, 45.

Since they started raising turkeys in 1944, the family has hired neighborhood kids to help them feed, kill and dress the approximately 10,000 turkeys they sell annually. But recently they haven't been able to find enough workers to do the hard, messy work, Mrs. Schramm said.

"These damn kids are too lazy to help out," she said.

The Schramms will sell all the fresh turkeys they can between now and New Year's Day. Any birds left over will be frozen and sold later, she said. "After these, we are going out of the turkey business," Mrs. Schramm said.

The end of the Schramms' business doesn't mean the family will leave the home they share, Mrs. Schramm said in a telephone interview yesterday. Nor will they sell their land to the developers who have built homes near their 213-acre farm, she said.

On the farm purchased in 1908 by a grandfather of William, Louis and Emma, the family will continue to grow Christmas trees, flowers, pumpkins and vegetables, Mrs. Schramm said.

State agricultural officials said yesterday that they were saddened, but not surprised, to hear of the Schramms' decision to quit raising turkeys.

"They are getting well on in years and they have worked like Trojans all their lives," said Tony Evans, a spokesman for the state Department of Agriculture.

"They don't make people like that anymore. They are crusty as hell, but they run a wonderful country farm. And they raise a superior turkey," he said.

The Schramms eschew the supermarket variety, called "white" turkeys, and instead breed their own "bronze" turkeys, a big bird that is similar to a wild turkey, he said. The Schramm family farm was one of only six in the nation that raised the more traditional bird.

Mr. Evans, who said he has been one of the thousands of Marylanders who have crowded the Schramms' quarter-mile driveway off Route 177 in order to pick up a freshly slaughtered and dressed bird, says the bronze turkey "is delicious."

There are several other farmers in Maryland who raise and sell fresh turkeys, but the Schramms were the only ones to breed and hatch their own birds.

The Schramms are dedicated to farming even though they could probably make a lot of money by selling their land, Mr. Evans said.

Although the brothers and sister were too busy filling last-minute holiday orders yesterday to talk about their decision, they have said in the past that they will stick to farming, even though that might not be the best financial move.

Emma Schramm once told a reporter: "I just say that it takes a good farmer to tell a real estate man to go jump in the lake when you could earn more in interest than you can make on farming."

Her brother Louis was quoted as saying: "The only thing dumber than a turkey is the man who raises them."

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