Bob Neal updates customers on the goings on at his farm with The Turkey Times.

NEW SHARON (AP) – It has been nearly 15 years since Bob Neal left newspapering to devote full time to his free-range turkey farm, but journalism is not completely out of his blood.

Four times a year, Neal publishes The Turkey Times, a newsletter that chronicles the triumphs and setbacks of his business, The Turkey Farm, and keeps him in touch with customers on an array of subjects.

Readers learned, for example, that during this summer’s spell of hot weather, Neal spiked the birds’ automatic waterers with Gatorade to offset potassium loss that can lead to heat-related heart failure.

“We have no idea whether it helps,” he wrote, “but we lost no large toms during the heat.”

The newsletter, which serves as a marketing tool, updates readers on farm activities, turkey health and nutrition, and business-related issues. Like many publications, it is available in print and online.

A Missouri native, Neal worked as an editor for the Kansas City Star and the Montreal Gazette before ending his career in journalism at the Central Maine Morning Sentinel in Waterville. He also taught at the University of Maine and Miami University in Ohio.

His career switch in 1990 stemmed from a love of gardening that took root 14 years earlier when his sister gave him six tomato plants that he planted in his backyard.

At first, he tried his hand at market gardening. “I soon realized that I wouldn’t make a living raising radishes and lettuce, but people kept coming back for turkeys,” he said.

Aside from The Turkey Times, he doesn’t seem nostalgic for his old profession.

“I always wanted to be a publisher, and this is the best I’m going to be able to do,” he said.

As for former supervisors who may have given him a hard time?

“I like to say that I’d been working for turkeys all my life and now the turkeys have to work for me.”

But farming involves long hours and hard work, and Neal finds that he can’t tote 88-pound bags of grain as easily as he used to. He is looking at ways to cut back. And with the couple’s two grown sons uninterested in carrying on the business, its days are numbered.

“When I turn 70 – in 2010 – that’s the end of The Turkey Farm,” Neal said.

AP-ES-11-15-03 1150EST

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