Are you ready for Thanksgiving yet? Me neither. Although there are always lots of things keeping us busy here on the farm, right now seems especially hectic. We have only 3 more days where the stand will be open- tomorrow and next Saturday, along with special Tuesday hours. As the season is short and Thanksgiving is near, I have lots of orders to organize. Christmas hams are being picked up now. Also, our last day coincides with an influx of visitors to the area coming up for deer hunting season, and I've already got orders for that as well. Keeping track of who is picking what (and how much of it) when is more complicated right now than it has been all season long, but it's a good problem to have. Thank goodness for post-it notes and colorful markers for color coding! And somewhere amid all this madness, I also need to find the time to make the 4-hour drive to Harrisburg to see my own family for the holiday, including meeting my brother's baby boy for the very first time!
We processed the first of our turkeys yesterday, with more to be done today & Monday. Turkeys are not my favorite meat to process, and I'm thankful we only offer them once a year. While the chickens start out just as cute and fluffy as the turkeys in the beginning, they quickly turn into mindless eating machines, and ones that will eat themselves into a heart attack or a broken leg if not properly cared for. They have no personalities, unlike my other birds, and while it's never fun to kill anything, the chickens don't really bother me much anymore. I know they literally wouldn't survive into an old age. I do feel a bit bad about the turkeys- they are funny, adventurous, and beautiful. The breeding stock is long-lived. Unlike the hybrid meat chickens or the industrail turkeys most folks serve up, they can reproduce naturally. (The Cornish-rock chickens are industrial hybrids, and broad-breasted turkeys used by Butterball and all the other industrial producers literally grow too much white meat to breed- every single egg must be artificially inseminated.)
But before I get too upset about these turkeys' fate, I remember that this is why we raise them. I couldn't afford to feed the flock year-round only for their beauty. And not only am I offering my customers healthy meat that's been raised on grass and forage, without hormones or antibiotics or chemicals to enhance growth, I'm also giving them a chance to support the comeback of a heritage breed, the Bourbon Red. The paradox of endangered farm animal breeds is that they are in danger of extinction because they are no longer as valuable economically as some of the industrial creations. To save these breeds, and the genetic diversity that they represent, they need to be more than just beautiful or intelligent or capable of rearing their own young...they also need to be of use financially to the farms that raise them. Thus, we need to eat them to save them. Hopefully, my customers will appreciate the flavor and history as a part of their holiday meals, and seek out heritage breeds again in the future.
Although plucking turkeys by hand is a royal pain, I take pride in doing it well, knowing that I'm preparing something that will be the centerpiece of a feast devoted to friends, family, and thankfulness. We'll be closing the farm stand next week because the cold makes it too hard to continue to offer much produce without drastically altering our farming methods, and it's nice to have our weekends back for a time. But it's also a fitting end to our season, marking the end of another great year on the farm by offering turkeys, squash, potatoes, and other farm-fresh products to help make many Thanksgiving meals more healthy and sustainable for both the eaters and the environment. While I don't take for granted the job of producing quality, wholesome food, it seems especially important when you know it's going to be a meal shared with many, the kind of day where food is not just eaten on the go, but savored. A day where food shares the stage with family, friends, memories and thanks.
We send out our warmest wishes to our friends, customers, and blog followers for a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!