Navigating the transition from family farm to international company has not been a smooth ride for the Turk family, which recently celebrated their 50th birthday in the poultry industry.

Turk's story began in 1952 when John Turk emigrated to Wellington from the Netherlands with nothing, not even the basics of English. John purchased his first poultry farm in Foxton in 1966 and through sheer hard work grew the farm from 2000 to 20,000 laying hens within six years.

For son Ron it was a natural progression to follow his father into the chicken business and at age 16 the young Turk left school to help on the farm, and under his father's direction, learnt every aspect of the business the old-fashioned way - hands-on experience.

When the business grew to 100,000 egg layers, the Turks branched into chicken meat production, building their first abattoir in the early 1990s.


The business grew quickly but later caused a clash in company vision and stress among the family.

"Dad had different ideas to me, and with my father having most of the shares we struggled with power and control, all the normal things family businesses go through," said Ron.

After John retired about 15 years ago the company went through some structural changes and is now run by a management team led by Ron.

"I am looking after Turk's, I care for the company and hope to leave it in a better place for the next generation," he said.

Under Ron's direction Turk's has become a serious contender in the meat market, employing 220 staff nationwide, including 180 in Foxton, making it one of Horowhenua's largest employers.

"Passion for what we do plays a big role in our success. If you don't believe in what you do you should not be doing it."

Struggling with dyslexia, Ron 're-educated' himself at age 30, including self-directed study at the Institute of Directors, learning finance, leadership and personality profiling and reading "hundreds of books" on creating successful businesses.

"The Turk's business way has changed. We look forward into the future, not back into the past, determined that whatever we did yesterday we are going to do it better tomorrow," Ron said, crediting the company's recent successes to training and educating staff, a strong board of directors and management team, and hiring the right people.

"It's not about our family so much anymore, it's about the community, a team effort and that makes me feel good to see our team succeeding. I bounce out of bed in the morning and can't wait to get to work. I want that to be the same for everyone in our company.

The future looks good, not only for me but also for Turk's. "

Ron said looking after his employees is their main ethos, including annual hearing tests and sending people to physio when needed.

"We do a lot more looking after people than we did in the past. Ten to 20 years ago we would have never dreamed of those kind of initiatives."

Turk's aim is to boast 100 per cent free range chicken in the future - currently it's 65 per cent.

"It will be a long time until we reach this goal because some existing farms aren't able to be converted, but all new builds will be free range," he said.

The company is phasing out egg production over the next couple of years to concentrate on chicken meat production.

"The future of chicken production is going to look quite different. The modern housewife is time poor, they want to have their product in different forms. "We will probably be seeing a lot more vacuumed packed individual chicken breasts, more sliced and diced products and pre-packed oven bags," said Ron.

Turks produce 40 tonnes of chicken meat per day, exporting some to the Pacific Islands and are currently looking at exporting to Asia.