Valley Center, CA
March 25, 2023

Valley Center carved its place in history

For a period of about 20 years starting in the early 1940’s, if a family gathered for Thanksgiving dinner, chances are the turkey they enjoyed came from Valley Center. And that family could have been in North Carolina, Oregon or Michigan.
Mizpah Turkey Ranch on Lilac Road, operated by brothers Steve and James Compas, raised, processed and delivered 200,000 turkeys a year. One freezer could hold 40,000 pounds of turkey. According to documentation at the Valley Center Historical Society, it was claimed to be the largest turkey farm in the country.
To highlight the Mizpah’s place in history, the Valley Center History Museum has set up a Thanksgiving exhibit featuring an original plastic Mizpah package that wrapped the turkeys, and a cardboard box in which the turkeys were delivered by refrigerated trucks. An historic photo of hundreds of turkeys surrounding one of the Compas brothers is also featured.
The turkey story starts in the 1930’s when the Compas brothers began acquiring parcels of land along Lilac Road. Their turkey empire eventually reached 2,189 acres including a secondary farm on Lake Wohlford Road. The mammoth operation consisted of hatcheries, brooders, a feed mill, processing plant, and freezers.
Off Lilac Road, a 2.5-acre lake was created that attracted ducks, geese and aquatic birds of all kind. Today, the lake is the centerpiece of a mobile home park called Hide-Away Lake, a development of 135 homes. Some of the original buildings were converted into retail space that operates as Harvest Farms Village.
So highly respected was the Compas and Mizpah names, that retailers regularly featured the names in the ads. A November 1958 issue of La Jolla Village News for Henry’s Meats advertises, “world famous Mizpah Rancho turkeys.” The names were also regularly seen in grocery ads across the country.
To view the Thanksgiving exhibit, visit the Valley Center History Museum at 29200 Cole Grade Road. Hours are noon to 4 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays. For more information, e-mail or call 760-749-2993.

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