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One of my first goals when we moved to our farm was to grow our own Thanksgiving dinner.
That would include the turkey, white and sweet potatoes, green beans, corn, cranberries and pumpkin. I mean, how hard could it be??!! (Famous last words around here!)
Reality quickly taught me that I probably wouldn’t accomplish this in my first year, maybe not even in my second year. But as time went on, and I got a little experience under my belt, I was growing corn, beans, potatoes, broccoli and all sorts of goodness like a boss. Canning was a skill that I already had, and for the most part, I could fill the pantry every fall.
I will say that a few years back, I stopped growing corn. Yes, you already know why, don’t you? The deer. Oh lord, the deer. You know, I’m cool with “planting enough to share”, so to speak. I expect some loss, that’s just the way it is. But with corn, what the deer don’t eat, they completely stomp out. Not to mention the other crops they traipse all over! I finally decided that it wasn’t worth the loss to plant corn anymore, and the deer went elsewhere.
But, let’s talk about the bird. For the last few years, we’ve enjoyed fabulous turkey for Thanksgiving that came from our farm. Completely free-range, our birds enjoyed a nice life eating bugs and hanging out with the other chickens. But there are some years, that for some reason, the turkey doesn’t work out.
One year, when Sophie, our 125 pound Great Pyrenees, “accidently” played a bit too rough with the turkey and…well, yeah. It happens.
When “those years” happen, I have a back-up plan. There is a local family who is well-known for their poultry farm and processing services. They grow their birds outside in the fresh air, and as natural as possible. Working regular jobs in addition to this poultry business at their home, these are some hard-working people. I am glad to be able to buy from them, even though it’s a long drive. Yes, local, but when you live out in the country, the next town might be 30 minutes away.
But here’s the deal with buying local and directly from farmers…
You won’t see any “loss leader” deals for turkey at .49 cents per pound. Nope.
Raising your own meat will teach you lessons about food that you would never understand otherwise.
You can’t raise any animal sustainably and compete with super-mega store prices. Now that I’ve done it myself, for several years now, it can COST $10 or so to raise a #5 chicken! COST! Now, to have any profit whatsoever, many farmers would price themselves right out of the market.
There are so many variables with the raising of meat animals. The price of feed varies tremendously at times, depending upon weather and grain availability. Disease can affect availability of birds, or even wipe out an entire flock. There’s no insurance for that. You could have a fox or coyote destroy your flock in one evening! (Yep, that happened to me once!)
Then there’s a fee to “process” your bird, if you choose to have someone do it. But even if you do it yourself, there’s a need for the right equipment and usually some type of fuel (propane) to boil your water out-of-doors. Nothing is free or easy, you need stuff and time.
People have no idea how hard it is to raise food. It wasn’t until I began to do it myself that I began to appreciate, I mean realllllly appreciate all the work and expertise that went into raising that meat, as well as the life that was given so that I could eat.
Due to a “bird flu” outbreak earlier this year, turkey chicks weren’t as readily available as they normally would be. Frankly, I couldn’t find even one! I had resigned myself to buying a turkey from my farmer friends this year. But, one day while at the farm store in June, I saw turkey pullets!! Woot, woot!!! I stood there, counting the weeks on my fingers trying to decide if I could get one of these birds to size by Thanksgiving……it would be tight. I decided to take the chance and bought 2.
Suffice to say, the turkeys aren’t big enough. Rats. Maybe Easter.
So, today I made the long, but scenic drive to buy 2 locally raised turkeys from my farmer buds. I paid $3.15 per pound. Yes, I’ll say it again. I paid $3.15 per pound, and did it with a smile on my face. Knowing what I do about raising poultry, I felt it was a reasonable price. Very reasonable.
So, this year I am especially grateful to know folks like my farmer friend. I’m also grateful that there are hard-working families that continue the tradition of raising food, despite the low profit margins. I’m grateful for the gorgeous rural scenery, and I’m grateful for the life that was given so that we could have nourishment.