Holiday planning starts early for Bailey Newton of Triple B Farm. About 75 turkey chicks arrive at his farm in June, and the countdown to November begins.
By the time Thanksgiving rolls around, the birds are full-grown turkeys sold at the Wake Forest Winter Farmers’ Market, and they become the centerpiece at holiday dinners.
Triple B Farm, near Virginia, and Walk Ahead Farms in Youngsville sell locally raised birds at the Wake Forest winter market. Walk Ahead also sells the turkeys at the Midtown Farmers’ Market in North Hills in Raleigh.
Both farms wrapped up one of their most successful years in the last few weeks, thanks to consumers who have become more thoughtful about where their holiday bird comes from and how it was raised.
More and more people want to know the history behind their food, and the trend is helping farms that have always been conscious of how poultry is raised, said Taylor Farley of Walk Ahead Farms.
Last year, when Walk Ahead started selling holiday birds, she expected to sell more turkeys at the Raleigh market. But it’s been evenly split between the Raleigh and Wake Forest markets.
“I think people are just finally realizing how the commercial houses are raising birds,” she said.
Farley and her parents have sold about 150 turkeys at the Wake Forest and Midtown markets this year. It’s a steep increase from the 17 birds the family sold last holiday season.
Newton said he and his assistant, Phyllis Blackwell, are selling about 25 birds. They’ve sold 75 in the past, but that was too much work to manage. The 25 birds this year were claimed quickly, Newton said.
Newton and Farley said a turkey raised on a small farm can taste better than a bird raised in a factory setting.
Birds from large companies are often fed food that makes them bigger but isn’t necessarily nutritious. Store-bought birds are often pumped with antibiotics and hormones.
The owners of Triple B and Walk Ahead farms raise the turkeys as naturally as possible.
“They live like a normal turkey,” Newton said of his birds.
Turkeys at both farms mostly roam free, except at night when they’re put in a coop to protect them from predators.
At Triple B, the birds eat grass. Walk Ahead supplements a grass diet with special grain. If a turkey gets sick, Farley and her parents use garlic or apple cider vinegar as treatment instead of antibiotics.
Both farms will deliver their turkeys at a special Wake Forest market on Tuesday. By then, farmers like Farley and Newton will start thinking about next year’s birds.