From the Nov. 27, 1981 edition of the Gazette:

Raising turkeys up until the establishment of the Turkey Farm in 1932 was considered a losing proposition from the start. For generations, attempts to raise the curious bird in large numbers had proven disastrous, until Joseph S. Bettencourt and Oscar M. Burke, both of Edgartown, created the farm and changed Island history.

In 1932 Mr. Bettencourt, then caretaker of the Burke homestead in Edgartown, took over the farm. At that time, there were only three turkeys.

From that time on, the stock of turkeys was increased, with much success. The following story appeared in the Vineyard Gazette of Dec. 1, 1939:

“The Gazette had an advertisement cancelled this week. The advertisement was that of the Burke Farms, scheduled to run six more weeks, and it was cancelled because the farms have no more turkeys left. All have been sold — four or five hundred of them, it is estimated — and no more orders can be taken, even with Christmas still ahead . . .”

At the end of the year it was announced in that five acres of land at the farm were being cleared for the construction of “brooder houses,” heated enclosures for the raising of more turkeys.

In an article dated Feb. 13, 1942 it was reported that the farm had added “465 square feet of ground floor space, which does not include the second floors in some of the buildings . . .

“Four thousand eggs are now in the process of hatching at the farm, and an average of 1,400 more are being added each week. The crop of spring turkeys is already considerable, including chicks a week old and from that size to five-pounders, ready for the pan. And the old-timers used to say that turkeys could not be raised successfully on Martha’s Vineyard.”

Already the farm was recognized across New England.

By 1944 the farm was exporting both fully grown turkeys and the new-born version for shipment to other turkey farms.

From a Feb. 2, 1948 article:

“Joe used to send batches of poults off-Island to growers on the mainland. But because of the irregular boat service, this practice had to be discontinued. Now all the chicks born on the farm are raised there until maturity.”

In that article, which extensively describes the production of these birds, attention is given to the problems associated with turkey farming:

“A turkey grower has to be something of a psychologist to understand the mental make-up of his pets. They can be stampeded by a strange noise. Thunder or lightning, a passing airplane, a bit of flapping paper, can send them into hysterics. Joe said that the turkey farmer’s problems multiply with the size of his brood.”

Mr. Bettencourt was successful enough with the farm that he was able to purchase the establishment in 1952, after 20 years of managing it.

And for 12 years Mr. Bettencourt operated the farm until it was sold to George J. Schwab Jr., a former manager, president and treasurer at Heathland Farm, a poultry farm at the Martha’s Vineyard airport.

The farm was later renamed Vineyard Poultry Farm and continued as a thriving business.

The Gazette carried a story in June 17, 1966 about a damaged egg that Mr. and Mrs. George J. Schwab Jr. found in a gutter on the Lobsterville road. The story really wasn’t about the egg but what the egg turned into, or rather about the seagull that came out of the egg.

“Mr. and Mrs. Schwab are the proprietors of the Vineyard Poultry Farm, and what better place could there have been for an egg, rather a baby gull, to have landed. The Schwabs know all about eggs and the things that come out of them, and what is more important to the contents of the eggs, the Schwabs know how to feed them, young birds that is, not eggs; eggs don’t eat.

“So, on a diet of turkey mash, the baby gull thrived . . .

“There was no end of talk and concern that he would grow up thinking he was a turkey instead of a seagull, in repetition of the Ugly Duckling story, but fortunately this has not been the case...At least Mr. and Mrs. Schwab feel he thinks he is a seagull because barring a few irregularities, he behaves like one.

“His wings, after their careful training, now show great signs of efficiency and off he goes daily in the pursuits of whatever gulls pursue (the turkeys don’t go anywhere) and back he comes at dinner time. The condition of the little gull’s feet have led the Schwabs to believe that the gull had discovered water, not as a thing to drink, but as something to paddle on and fish from, but there’s just enough turkey in the little fellow to want to be fed all the turkish delights at the turkey farm. So in the evening when he’s hungry and tired after being a seagull all day, it’s nice to come home and play turkey. However, this playing turkey could prove a dangerous luxury at certain times of the year, especially around Thanksgiving.”

The Turkey Farm continued, servicing Vineyarders celebrating Thanksgiving both off-Island and on.

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox