By Sylvia Blair
While grocery stores stock up on frozen turkeys for the Thanksgiving rush, local farmers are seeing increased repeat business from shoppers who want fresh turkeys as an alternative to frozen. One advantage of “fresh from the farm” is that farmers are available to answer questions about how their turkeys are raised. Farmers say that their customers look forward to enjoying a flavor and texture that are better than store-bought meat.
K.L. Lemmon and Son, a Manchester farm that sells fresh turkeys, in addition to hay, straw and cattle, raises free-range birds. They have access to the outdoors in a fenced-in area. Thanksgiving turkeys are sold at the family-run farm, and they range in size from 12 to 40 pounds, with a cost of $3.25 per pound. Customers can pick up at the farm one to two days before Thanksgiving.Owner Kendall Lemmon says that he serves many repeat customers who have been buying from the farm for 10 years.
“The advantage of buying a fresh turkey is that people can visit the farm where the turkey was grown. They can pick it up, take it home, and be proud to make it the centerpiece of their table,” says Lemmon. “Buying from a local farm takes the mystery out of the process. Customers love to chat with us, something they don’t usually get from the meat department at a grocery store.”
Cyndy Howes, market manager at Baugher’s Orchard and Farm in Westminster, sells fresh turkeys, but does not raise them; they come from a local farm. Baugher’s takes orders up to four days before Thanksgiving Day, and as early as Nov. 1. Turkeys range between 10 to 16 pounds, though some can weigh up to 30 pounds. Customers can pick them up on Tuesday or Wednesday before Thanksgiving for refrigeration at home until the day of cooking.
Whispering Breeze Farm in Taneytown raises and sells pasture turkeys, which eat fresh grass and drink fresh water daily, and live in structures that are protected from the heat. They also sell turkey legs and breasts, ground turkey, chicken, beef and eggs. The farm announces ordering availability online each year, and recommends ordering well in advance of the holiday. The farm delivers and also has a few local pick-up areas. Turkey prices vary by season.
“The difference between fresh and frozen is that we do not add anything to the bird,” says Katelin Brower, a member of the family farm. “When you freeze a turkey, it changes the texture of the meat and makes it grainy. The texture of the cooked fresh meat is nice and juicy, and leftovers stay fresh longer. I literally just put the turkey in the roaster pan to cook it, without any extra steps.
“It means so much to us when customers come back year after year,” says Brower. “Buying turkeys from the farm supports local farmers and we can, in turn, support the community.”
For more information about local farms that raise and sell fresh turkeys, go to www.carrollgrown.org.