California Supplies Thanksgiving

California Feeds the Nation on Thanksgiving!

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

California ranks #8 in turkey production in the United States (2016), and we supply most of the western states from our poultry farms located in several areas in the state.

The famous Mrs. Cubbison’s Stuffing or “Dressing” originated from a ç, born in 1890 in the San Marcos area of San Diego County. In short, Cubbison graduated from California Polytechnical University in May 1920 with a degree in Home Economics having paid her way through school with the money she earned feeding the farm workers.

Cubbison created her popular stuffing in 1948 using broken pieces of the popular Melba toast and various seasonings. The factory in Commerce, California churns it out in mass quantities this time of year.

California farmers produce almonds, raisins, walnuts, prunes, figs, dates, apricots, pistachios, and pomegranates, right on up the food line.

These are all celebrated Thanksgiving foods.

Celery from the Oxnard and Ventura area completes the stuffing mix. Nutrient-dense carrots, lettuce and fresh spinach from Salinas now arrive, pre-washed and bagged, in your local produce department. Your Thanksgiving traditional green beans come from California growers.

An ample supply of freshly harvested oranges and kiwi fruit, table grapes, strawberries, and raspberries are shipped from many areas in the state. Seasonal features include sweet potatoes from the Merced, about an hour north of Fresno, plus all kinds and colors of potatoes and tomatoes, parsley, onions, and garlic—all crops are raised in California.

Nearly all the fruits, vegetables and nuts that are part of America’s Thanksgiving are sourced from California.

Don’t forget about the great varieties of wine grapes grown in the No. 1 agricultural state that are deftly crafted into delectable California wines.

Or the thirst-quenching Martinelli sparkling apple or grape cider from Watsonville California, near the Monterey Bay area. Local growers provide the tree-ripened fruit to the award-winning company that is still family-owned after almost 150 years and is managed by the founder’s grandson and great-grandson. Here’s something to discuss at your Thanksgiving meal:  the company won its first Gold Medal at the 1890 California State Fair in  Sacramento.

How about those heirloom and new apple varieties, plus those small round watermelons that we snack on or toss into a dessert fruit salad, topped with California pomegranate arils?

Of course, we raise poultry, and even California lamb, if you want to go that way. Here is a Did-you-know? challenge for your holiday meal:  What are the most recent Presidental Thanksgiving Turkeys from California pardoned by United States presidents? (Answers are below.)

And by the way, you know that food-safety pop-up turkey timer that indicates when the turkey has reached the correct internal temperature? Public relations genius Leo Pearlstein and a turkey producer in Turlock, a small town north of Fresno in Stanislaus County, invented this Thanksgiving fixture.

Back in the 1960s, they were sitting in a room trying to solve the undercooked poultry challenge, when they looked up and noticed ceiling fire sprinklers. The sprinklers sprayed water when the room temperature became hot enough to melt a tiny piece of metal alloy in the mechanism. This innovative team of two applied the same concept to the pop-up timer!

With the exception of cranberries, our national day of giving thanks for a bountiful harvest is really a California Thanksgiving.

Here are some friendly topics for discussion at your Thanksgiving Table:

  • What is the name of the famous Thanksgiving stuffing that originated in California?
  • What beverage company that is still operating won its first Gold Medal at the 1890 California State Fair?
  • How was the pop-up timer invented and by whom?
  • How does high does California rank in U.S. turkey production?
  • What are the most recent Presidental Thanksgiving Turkeys from California pardoned by United States presidents?

In 2010, President Obama pardoned Apple, a 45-pound turkey from Modesto, California-based Foster Farms; and alternate bird Cider. 

In 2015, President Obama pardoned Apple, a 45-pound turkey and an alternate 43-pound bird named Honest, again from Foster Farms.

The Presidential Turkey flock are Nicholas White turkeys, which originated in California’s Sonoma Valley in 1957. Today, the Nicholas White is the industry standard. (Foster Farms)

Zacky Back in Poultry Business

Zacky Back in Poultry Business

By Kyle Buchoff, Assistant Editor

Lillian Zacky, a very familiar name in the Central Valley poultry industry, told an interesting story about the family’s business, “My father-in-law, Samuel Zacky, started this business in 1928. He would go into the country, which is now a metropolis, pick up chickens, take them back to his market—Sam’s Poultry Market in Los Angelesand process them there. He thought that was the future; there would always be a corner poultry market. But my husband [Robert Zacky] said, ‘This is not going to be forever, and I don’t want to do this forever. So let’s sell to a supermarket because they are going to have packages of poultry in there.’ My father-in-law would not believe that. But anyway, it worked out.”

Sam's Poultry Market (Photo Source: The Zacky Farms Story,
Sam’s Poultry Market (Photo Source: The Zacky Farms Story)

Zacky Farms flourished. Lillian Zacky recalled, “We started with chickens, we did turkeys at Thanksgiving, and now we are doing turkeys all year-round.”

In 2001, the family sold their chicken business to Foster Farms, Zacky explained, “with a non-compete for 10 years. Now that the non-compete is over, we are back in the chicken business because it is our passion, our family passion.”

The buyout terms also dictated the “Zacky” name could never appear on trade-packed chicken, but they could put Zacky on their other products, including Zacky Farms chicken franks and lunch meat. “But, anyway,” Zacky said, “for the chicken, it is now ‘Lillian Z’ because we wanted to put that ‘Z’ at the end.”

Lillian views the poultry business is a way of life. “It is not just a business,” she explained. “It is something we enjoy, plus we bring quality and health to the public. I feel what we produce for the consumer is what we would have for our own family.”


Investigators with the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office Ag Task Force are asking for the public’s help in identifying the suspects responsible for a Foster Farms facility burglary and hundreds of Foster Farms chickens slaughtered.

On September 20, shortly before 8:30am, deputies responded to the facility located at 3691 W Swanson Ave in Caruthers regarding the burglary.

The investigation revealed the suspects pulled back a portion of the fence and entered the chicken shed. Once inside, the suspects used a golf club, and possibly another similar type instrument, to slaughter the birds.

Foster Farms officials advised nine hundred twenty chickens were killed during the incident. They put the loss at approximately five thousand dollars.

Foster Farms is now offering a reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the persons responsible for the crime. Anyone with information on this investigation is asked to contact Ag Task Force detectives at 559-600-8150, the Sheriff’s Office at 559-600-3111, or CrimeStoppers at 559-498-STOP(7867).

The Fresno Sheriff’s Ag Task Force’s primary focus is to investigate and suppress all agriculture-related and all metal theft-related crimes in Fresno County, its secondary objective is to prevent ag crime through education and communication with partners in the ag industry. ACTION Network Ag Crime

The  Fresno Sheriff’s Ag Task Force also participates in ACTION (Ag Crimes Technology Information & Organization Network), an association of 13 central California counties that regularly share information, support and technology to battle Ag and rural crime. Ag criminals often freely move from one County to the next, and this association has been very effective in bring criminals to justice who live in one County and commit crimes in another County.

You’ll find useful anti-Ag-crime tips on the Office of the District Attorney County of Tulare website and information about the Owner Applied Number (OAN) Program.

Another great resource is the California Rural Crimes Prevention Task Force website.