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Local grocers, farmers, food pantries talk Thanksgiving turkey

JANESVILLE

This Thanksgiving, Rock County residents might find it harder and more expensive to get ingredients for side dishes and desserts.

But a feared turkey shortage that has made headlines across the U.S. has not seemed to manifest itself here.

National news reports and federal agricultural authorities for weeks have sounded the alarm over fears that supply chain breakdowns continue to leave some regions of the U.S. short on poultry and other meats.

Analysts have been warning since this summer that supply chain bottlenecks, driven in large part by the pandemic’s effect on production and shipping, could lead to shortages and price hikes for frozen turkeys this holiday.

The crisis is real, and while national analysts say it has led to recent jumps in prices on certain items, the exact effects vary from one local market to the next.

Bob Kellner, store manager at Daniel’s Sentry on Janesville’s west side, said he hasn’t seen any shortfalls recently in the amount of frozen turkeys shipped to his store.

But he said shoppers were more aggressive earlier in the fall in buying up the broad-chested birds. Normally, the Thanksgiving Day buying frenzy doesn’t heat up until mid-November, Kellner said.

This year, he said, shoppers began buying turkeys in force starting in late October.

“The whole freezer bin full will just empty the same day they come in,” Kellner said, but he noted that his supermarket this month has continued to “almost fully capitalize” on its frozen turkey orders from suppliers.

Kellner said the same can’t be said for another popular holiday meat: canned and packaged hams. Also in short supply this fall, Kellner said, is one popular fresh herb many use in recipes for Thanksgiving stuffing: sage.

Talk of turkey shortages has one local farmer scratching his head, too.

For years, town of Darien farmer Dale Wheelock has sold some of the turkeys he raises on his small family farm to customers who relish farm-to-table Thanksgiving birds.

Wheelock said he is already sold out of Thanksgiving birds this year, but that’s partially because he only raises about half as many for sale as the 50 or 60 birds he used to raise.

Wheelock said he doesn’t think there’s a major shortfall in the number of turkeys being raised on farms small or large.

His main business in birds is selling baby turkeys to other farm operators. Even during the past few pandemic years, Wheelock said he has not seen much change in the number of young turkeys he sold.

For farms large and small, one challenge is finding meat processors who can handle the work.

Wheelock said some local meat lockers are booked well into next year on processing beef and pork. It has left fewer local butchers this year able to deal with locally grown turkeys.

Some area butchers, he said, simply went out of business since the pandemic hit, leaving fewer options for small-scale farmers to process their meat and get it to market.

At least one viral social media post falsely suggested it might be cheaper to illegally hunt turkeys and incur a fine than to buy a bird from a supermarket. Such claims seem to fall apart under closer inspection of some actual turkey prices at local supermarkets.

National averages for frozen turkeys are now at about $1.40 a pound, according to USDA data. That’s a 25% increase in costs. That is jarring and it’s prompting some to buy smaller turkeys, but when applied to 15- or 20-pound turkeys, it still adds up to less than the $83 one such post claimed as the cost of a store-bought turkey.

Also, USDA analysts say, some grocers this holiday might mark down frozen whole turkeys at prices near or even below their own cost.

The turkey then becomes something of a bargaining chip to lure consumers to shell out more for other canned, boxed or baked goods for their Thanksgiving dinners. Those types of products are also susceptible to the whims of the supply chain, analysts say.

One local chain grocery store where Wheelock shops showed abrupt price cuts recently on frozen turkey, with the cost of big birds slashed from an earlier price of $1.60 per pound earlier this fall to 89 cents a pound, he said.

Jessica Locher, director of Janesville-based nonprofit food pantry ECHO, said the organization this year has more clients seeking food benefits who describe themselves as multifamily households.

It is one trend in an ongoing crunch in affordable housing and also an indication that food and housing, two costs that are often linked, are beginning to become more unattainable for some.

She said fears over supply chain disruptions prompted her agency to order frozen turkeys and other food items for ECHO’s annual Thanksgiving basket drive two months earlier than usual.

ECHO worked with Daniel’s Sentry, which Locher said gives the agency a discounted rate.

The grocer was able to supply the agency’s order for 600 frozen turkeys—one for each family that signed up for a holiday food basket.

But there was one kink with the baskets’ dessert: a pumpkin pie shortfall.

Kellner, the Sentry manager, said his store was only able to get ECHO about half the 600 pumpkin pies the nonprofit ordered. Kellner said a pie supplier got bogged down this fall amid rolling shortages in common ingredients and a labor crunch.

Locher said the solution was simple. She found a source of 300 apple pies to plug the gap.

Kellner called the pie shortfall a “blessing” for the store. It helped him take stock of where some of the true fault lines lay in a supply chain crisis Kellner thinks will continue to roll out through the food-heavy holiday season.

“The pie problem helped us do our due diligence early. It’s all become more and more complicated,” Kellner said. But now we can make sure we place orders properly to get product like pies here when they’re in biggest demand.”


Business
centerpiece
Adams Publishing Group names new regional executive editor

Jim Ferolie has been named regional executive editor of APG Media of Southern Wisconsin, effective Monday, Nov. 15. The position was most recently staffed by Sid Schwartz, who retired in April.

A native of Rockford, Illinois, Ferolie comes to APG after spending more than half his career leading news teams in small community papers in the Madison suburbs under both Woodward Communications Inc. and O’Rourke Media Group. A self-proclaimed word-efficiency expert and leadership nerd, Ferolie is at heart a teacher, a skill garnered from his father, who was an elementary school teacher.

In his new role at Adams, Ferolie will oversee a collection of products that includes four five-day-a-week papers, two three-day papers, nine weeklies, 20-plus websites, 38 newsletters and 200-plus special sections. This role will be instrumental in determining the next iteration of content creation and subscriber engagement for both the printed and digital products across southcentral Wisconsin.

Ferolie plans to work with reporters and editors on multiple levels, enhancing their skills in writing, editing, and digital and social media awareness while creating a culture of collaboration and teamwork.

“It’s a big job, and I can’t wait to dig in,” Ferolie said. “The journalism industry is under a tremendous amount of pressure to continue to enhance how we connect with readers in print and online. My goal is to make this evolution as seamless and painless as possible for our news teams and readers.”

The 1994 University of Arizona graduate spent 13 years in Tucson, Arizona, before getting his first full-time job in the journalism industry, in Oregon. After two years as a sports reporter there and five years as a sports copy editor for the Quad-City Times in Davenport, Iowa, Ferolie moved to the news side in 2005 as editor of the Macomb (Illinois) Eagle. In 2006, he relocated to Verona to take charge of the Verona Press.

In 2010, he became team leader for Unified Newspaper Group, which also included the Oregon Observer, Stoughton Courier Hub and three weeklies, plus the Fitchburg Star website, a product he would help return to print as a monthly.

He proudly led his team to more than 18 awards from the Wisconsin Newspaper Association each year, dominating categories such as photography, local government and education coverage. His teams also consistently produced fresh, young talent, placing four straight years in the WNA Rookie Reporter of the Year category and seeing alumni land jobs in larger newsrooms around the state.

As the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, Ferolie added leading the UNG sales team to his duties and later became general manager, enhancing his experience across non-news fronts. In July 2021, O’Rourke Media purchased the UNG properties from Woodward Communications and put Ferolie back in charge of the news team there while rebuilding a struggling newsroom in Vermont.

“Our goal is to connect the energy and experience of our extensive newsroom talent under the guidance of an action-oriented leader who is as much a student of leadership as he is an operator and use this collaboration as a keystone element in our growth,” said Orestes Baez, regional president for APG Media of Southern Wisconsin. “Jim is a doer and has executed the jobs he is overseeing. We are incredibly excited for the opportunity to have Jim join our Adams and Wisconsin team.”

Ferolie lives in Verona with his wife, Shari, and his son Parker. They are building their dream home on the south side of Verona.


National
AP
In gun debate, Rittenhouse verdict unlikely to be last word

Kyle Rittenhouse walked the streets of Kenosha, a rifle slung around his chest and shoulder.

The weapon was supposed to be for hunting on a friend’s property up north, the friend says. But on that night in August 2020, Rittenhouse says he took the Smith & Wesson AR-style semi-automatic with him as he volunteered to protect property damaged during protests the previous evening. Before midnight, he used it to shoot three people, killing two.

After a roughly two-week trial, a jury will soon deliberate whether Rittenhouse is guilty of charges, including murder, that could send him to prison for life. Was the then-17-year-old forced to act in self-defense while trying to deter crime, as he and his defense attorneys say? Or did Rittenhouse—the only person in a well-armed crowd to shoot anyone—provoke people with his weapon, instigating the bloodshed, as prosecutors argue?

It’s a similar debate to what has played out across the country around the use of guns, particularly at protests like the one in Kenosha over the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by a white police officer or in other cities over pandemic-related restrictions. In Rittenhouse, some see a patriot defending an American city from destruction when police were unwilling or too overwhelmed to do so. Others see an irresponsible kid in over his head, enamored with brandishing a firearm, or someone looking for trouble or people to shoot.

On the streets of Kenosha that night, Rittenhouse was notable to some for his apparent youthfulness. But, for a while anyway, he was just another person with a gun.

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The Kenosha protest was one of many that year to draw armed militias or counterprotesters. Protesters, too, were armed, Kenosha Police Officer Pep Moretti and others testified.

“We were surrounded all night,” Moretti said, adding “there was probably more people armed with weapons than not.”

The shooting occurred as the coronavirus pandemic raged in the U.S. and three months after the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis prompted protests—some violent—in cities big and small. The election between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden was heating up, with an increase in homicides and calls to “defund the police” a major focus.

All of those factors, experts say, led to a historic spike in the number of background checks to buy or possess a firearm, a key barometer of gun sales. In 2020, the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System database reported almost 39.7 million background checks for gun purchases—more than double the 14.4 million in 2010.

Rittenhouse wasn’t old enough to buy a firearm. But in May 2020 he gave money to his sister’s boyfriend, Dominick Black, with whom he had gone shooting in northern Wisconsin, and Black bought the Smith & Wesson for him. The gun was supposed to remain in a safe at the home of Black’s stepfather, Black testified.

Then on Aug. 23, a white Kenosha police officer responding to a domestic disturbance call shot Blake, who investigators said was armed with a knife. The shooting sparked the protests where people damaged buildings and started fires, at one point burning more than 100 vehicles in the lot of a car dealership.

Black said that was when his stepfather got the guns out of his safe in the garage and brought them into the house.

On Aug. 25, Rittenhouse traveled to Kenosha from his home in Illinois. He and Black helped clean up businesses damaged in the unrest and then went back to Black’s house. When they left again for the scene of the protests, they both took their guns.

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Richie McGinniss, the chief video director for The Daily Caller, a conservative news site, arrived in Kenosha after working at other protests around the country. This protest was different because Wisconsin law allows some people to openly carry weapons, and he testified that as he followed Rittenhouse through the night, he sensed something bad could happen.

Ryan Balch said he carried an AR-style rifle that night and wore body armor to protect himself from protesters who were armed. The former Army infantryman said he patrolled streets with Rittenhouse, who told Balch he was 19 and an EMT, and thought he seemed like “a young and impressionable kid and ”a little underequipped and underexperienced.”

Gaige Grosskreutz, a protester and volunteer medic, carried a loaded pistol. A supporter of the Second Amendment right to bear arms, he said it was the same as any other day: “It’s keys, phone, wallet, gun.”

Grosskreutz became the third person shot by Rittenhouse that night. He testified that he drew his weapon because he believed Rittenhouse, who had already fatally shot Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, was an active shooter. He said Rittenhouse shot him in the arm right after Grosskreutz unintentionally pointed his pistol toward the 17-year-old.

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Rittenhouse, who faces a misdemeanor charge of possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18 in addition to homicide charges, testified he did nothing wrong and was defending himself when he fired his rifle. Prosecutors say the former police youth cadet who liked to play video shooting games was taking those fantasies to the streets.

For a lot of people, Rittenhouse is the face of gun owners in America, said David Yamane, a sociology professor at Wake Forest University who studies gun culture.

But that is a misconception, he said. In Kenosha, the more typical gun owner was the father who took weapons out of a safe amid unrest, or Grosskreutz, who carried a concealed pistol as a matter of course.

And while Rittenhouse’s core supporters believe he did nothing wrong from start to finish, a much larger group of gun owners “are somewhere in between,” Yamane said. While they support Rittenhouse’s right to defend himself in the moment, they also think he had no business being there, and that “two people died and one person was injured for no good reason.”

Former gun industry executive Ryan Busse, now senior policy adviser to the gun-safety group Giffords, calls Rittenhouse the “avatar” of a customer the NRA and gun companies have been appealing to, including by marketing and selling products with names like the Ultimate Arms Warmonger.

Among much of society, whether Rittenhouse is guilty or not guilty won’t change anyone’s minds about guns, he said.

“What’s dangerous is he’s going to become a mascot or a martyr,” Busse added. “Every time there’s a Rittenhouse, it moves the window of what’s acceptable. I think Rittenhouse has moved the window.”


Obituaries and death notices for Nov. 15, 2021

Michael J. Condon IV

Thomas Engler

Edward J. “Ed” Enright

Wesley “Wes” Erskine

Joseph M. Hodge

Katherine M. Jentz

Bradley Kaderly

Claudia Ann Klund

Doris Elaine McCaslin

David Moronez

Joanne C. (Goetz) Stuart

Ruth Ann (Knull) Taylor

Silas Wam

Melissa Anne “Missy” (Collins) Winchell


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