Turkeys and Giving Thanks

We are so proud and grateful to be offering thanksgiving turkeys this year from our friends at Wrong Direction Farm, who raise excellent Pasture Raised Organic Turkeys. Our goal was to have the turkeys here and ready for sale starting October 1st, but the logistics of moving a pallet of frozen turkeys has taken me some time to figure out. With the help of Adam Hainer (Juniper Hill Farm) the turkeys will ride back to the farm on a return trip from JHF deliveries to central NY. Once the turkeys are here we will list them on our website and you can place your order.

Turkeys have always been one of our favorite animals. In our first year in business we raised 30 turkeys for Thanksgiving and they were a joy and a challenge. Turkeys, we learned, are not stupid like the old wives tales tell. In fact, our experience was that they were not only quite intelligent, but also curious and occasionally showed a sense of humor:) We wondered if they got their reputation for stupidity because they are a tender and slow growing bird. Whereas our chickens more than triple in size in three weeks and are ready to go to pasture, turkeys need temperature management and care for 7-8 weeks. Stupid is different than in experienced, and there is much a young turkey doesn’t know, like how to stay warm and dry.

We developed a theory, that is completely un-proven and based on no more than our observation: modern breeds of turkeys are much closer to their wild counter parts than a modern chicken. Wild turkeys are raised all spring and summer by their mother hen, who teaches them what and where to eat and drink, how to call when you’re lost and who to trust and who to fear. What this means for the farmer, is they need a little guidance. Some farmers we know raise chickens or ducks with their turkey flock to begin with and they show them how to eat and peck, and where to drink. In our first year the turkeys had Racey.

I have a vivid memory of Racey moving the turkeys in our scrubby pastures north of our barn. The turkeys are still young and the sunlight is that vivid brightness of June. We had a series of electric fence netting we used to keep them contained and keep the passing fox or coyote out. This fencing is easily tangled, and not easy or quick to move. My experience with the turkeys was a frustrating race to amoeba the fence to fresh pasture while keeping the turkeys from escaping. Racey took a different approach.

I watched in amazement as Racey quickly took down the entire fence and let the turkeys roam free. They chirped and chattered to each other as they foraged about and Racey collected the fencing and feeder and began setting it up in the next fresh paddock for the day. All the while keeping an eye on her brood like a mother hen. When the fence was up and water and feed properly situated, Race opened one side of the fence. Looking out to her flock she began walking and calling to the turkeys with a turkey sounding call. They all perked up when she called to them and they began to follow her into the fence. Just like that, let them roam about, setup the new fence and call them back in. They just needed a mother hen.

In the subsequent years we enjoyed raising turkeys for their excellent use of pasture, and engaging personalities. However they are a seasonal product, and very temping prey for foxes, coyotes, skunks, raccoons and other creatures so we also struggled with their production. In 2017 with the birth of our second child, Lovett, we decided some enterprises had to go and we stopped raising turkeys.

There is a proud piece of me that is ashamed to sell a turkey that we did not raise and process ourselves. However, on the eve of turning 40 I am learning that I cannot do everything, nor do I want to. I know Dave and his family at Wrong Direction Farm and he has been a mentor to me in the pastured poultry world. Dave loves raising turkeys and I was asking him lots of questions about getting back into raising turkeys and how to set things up. Perhaps we could purchase started poults from him…and Dave politely asked if we would consider purchasing finished turkeys from him. He was looking to grow his turkey flock and perhaps Reber Rock customers would be interested in Wrong Direction Farm turkeys.

Wrong Direction Farm Turkeys are Certified Organic and raised on pasture. This means that they are fed Organic Feed, they have never received any form of hormone, antibiotic, or such, and as soon as weather and development allow they are on fresh grass every day or few days. Very similar in quality and management to the way we raise our own animals here at Reber Rock Farm. If you would like to learn more about how Dave raises his turkeys and a short video on how he moves them check out his blog post about turkeys. Thank you Dave for your care and commitment to raising turkeys the way you do.

Stay tuned for when we open ordering for turkeys next week!

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