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A Brockport turkey farmer and Alfred University provide a Thanksgiving gift

Alfred University campus in Allegany County.

A local turkey farmer and Alfred University have combined forces to make Thanksgiving a little brighter for staff at that Southern Tier college.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted many of us in different ways, and for Travis Mattison, who owns Ridgecrest Turkey Farm in Brockport, it has put a deep dent in what would normally be one of the busiest times of the year.

Mattison spoke recently with reporters for NPR’s Planet Money podcast, and told them the pandemic has put a big crimp in sales.

“So right now we should be almost sold out, and normally the phone is ringing like 40 times, 50 times a day, where this case, this year, we’re probably 30% behind where we should be for sales. We’ve never had a year that we’re going to see this year,” Mattison said.

So what to do with all of the leftover turkeys? Mattison sells fresh turkey, and he said that foodbanks are looking for frozen birds. He would normally donate some of the turkeys to local shelters, but with COVID, plans for that kind of arrangement are uncertain this year.

Enter Mark Zupan, the former University of Rochester business school dean who is now president of Alfred University and heard about Travis’s plight while listening to NPR’s Planet Money Podcast.

Alfred usually does an annual holiday luncheon to thank faculty and staff for all their work, and that’s especially important this year, Zupan said, because of the way they’ve been able to keep the university running during the pandemic.

Very soon after he heard the turkey farm story on NPR, Zupan got an email from Alfred’s Chief Financial Officer suggesting that maybe since Alfred couldn’t hold a big party for the staff, maybe they could give all the employees a turkey, ham or vegan option for Thanksgiving.

Zupan said that Alfred got in touch with Mattison at his turkey farm.

“He was willing to give us a volume discount, we set in motion how we can offer each of our faculty and staff a turkey or a ham, and then the beautiful thing was when our board leadership, our board trustees heard about it, they said we’ll completely underwrite this.”  Zupan said the trustees not only paid for the cost of the 200 or so turkeys from that Brockport farm, they also kicked in some extra money to buy additional turkeys, hams and vegan items so that they have enough to distribute to the more than 550 employees this week.

And the Alfred University President said he wanted to thank Mattison for working with them to help their employees, so Zupan will have a Thanksgiving gift for the turkey farmer as well.

“He likes prime rib for Thanksgiving so hope to connect with him this weekend and drop off a gift card to make the prime rib possible, we’re just immensely grateful for him to be willing to participate with us to make this special gift possible for our employees,” Zupan said.