Thanksgiving won't be the same for the thousands of customers of a popular poultry farm in Butler County.
For the first time in 60 years, Ifft's Poultry Farm on Pioneer Road in Evans City has not produced any birds for this year's holiday tables.
The patriarch of the Ifft family, Omar Ifft, was seriously injured in a January accident and was unable to raise the turkeys and chickens he usually produces.
"He's doing better than the doctors thought he would be doing, but there was no way to keep the farm going as usual," said his wife, DeAnn Ifft.
The details of the Jan. 10 accident are unclear. Mr. Ifft was using farm equipment to spread gravel when something happened -- he doesn't remember what. What is certain is that he broke his neck and was paralyzed from his shoulders down. He was found unresponsive by his son.
After three months of hospitalization followed by therapy, the 54-year-old is relearning to walk. Therapy sessions are held three times weekly.
But, since he's the lead worker on the family farm -- a third-generation operation -- there was no way the farm could proceed with the annual flock this year.
"We usually get our hatchlings in July. We order how many eggs we want set and we had to know in the spring. There's no way we could do it, so we went ahead and said no," Mrs. Ifft said, noting her husband was discharged from the hospital April 1.
Normally, the farm sells between 2,600 and 2,700 turkeys and 400 chickens at Thanksgiving.
"There are people we've had as customers for 60 years. But, everybody is being really good, and our customers are rallying behind him," Mrs. Ifft said. "Really, we're just thankful he lived."
The Iffts are hopeful things will return to normal next year.
Karen Kane: firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-772-9180.