Move over ham- It’s Turkey Time!

One of the things I have learned in my discovery of food so far is that, people who are passionate about good quality ingredients are more than enthusiastic about expressing this passion and filling you up with information.  Gerry McEvoy, who runs his farm of 800 free range bronze turkey’s is absolutely no different.  We were introduced via the magic of twitter last week when I tweeted asking whether anyone knew of a turkey farmer.  Within a matter of hours the meeting was set and the following day I was all set to head up to the farm to see all those turkeys!

I arrived at Gerry’s house in Sallins in Co. Kildare on a beautiful bright winter morning and was greeted first by his 3 dogs and then by the man himself.  Not wasting anytime, after our brief introduction and a quick chat about our fine feathered friends, we got straight down to business!  Before I could even say “turkey” I was decked out in my very own pair of wellies and we were heading towards the field.

Now to be honest growing up I wasn’t exactly the most outdoorsy kid and wouldn’t have ever dreamt of standing in a field full of turkeys had I not been dragged in kicking and screaming!  I have over the years, of course,  become a little more adaptable and so although a tiny bit of apprehension may have been running through my mind I was following Gerry through the gate and into the field.

Turkey Farm Time

The moment the gate was closed they came for me!  I think they sensed my fear, either that or it could have been that Gerry was throwing a bucket of food for them.  Either way I was surrounded by these highly inquisitive birds who were not afraid of me in the slightest!  The first thing you notice close to the field is the sheer noise of the birds, just to have a normal conversation we were practically shouting across to each other! The beauty I learnt of allowing the birds to roam the fields meant they had a somewhat varied diet, Gerry told me that the birds have a major love for nettles and one of his fields which had been completely covered in them had been devoured in a matter of weeks.

Although I was taking in all this brilliant information and we were having a great chat, I was very conscious that there was about 400 turkeys around me and some of them were getting a bit cheeky, even giving my legs a peck!  Gerry told me that the birds are attracted to bright colours and red was their favourite, which did not bode well as my camera comes with a bright red strap, which explained their interest in me!  Walking through the field, Gerry was able to tell me the weight of each bird just by looking at it and although he offered for me to hold one I had to say no, but that didn’t stop him picking up a 12 pounder to show me the quality of their amazing feathers.  There is an oil in the feathers which allows the rain to run right off!

As I got a bit more relaxed I got busy snapping photos of the birds.  They very diligently posed for shots and some even hopped up onto a bail of hay for the perfect picture. Gerry has them well trained!  Apart from the slightly smaller female birds, the massive males were incredibly dramatic looking with strange droopy bits of skin falling from above their beaks.  The kind of deformity which would have made for a fantastic Disney film’s evil bad guy!  While I was snapping away, all of a sudden an eerie silence came over the field and all the turkeys loud gobbling reduced to silent murmur.  I looked to Gerry to ask what was going on and he pointed to the sky where a airplane was flying overhead, he filled me in telling me that they are very perceptive and there silence in the presence of “bigger birds” was a regular occurrence!

We headed towards what I christened the “turkey house” which was a large building at the top of the field where the turkeys could roam in and out of.  Gerry showed me the wheat which he fed the turkeys and the huge machine which ground it, so it was easier for the birds to digest.  Inside the building he showed me where the birds slept and the brilliant watering system that refilled itself when it was empty.  The other interesting thing he pointed out was the chains he had hung from the ceiling which are said to keep the birds brains active!  Gerry said the minute he turns off the lights at night the birds go completely silent and head straight off to sleep.  Just in case you were wondering what radio station the birds groove to during the day, KFM is played on the little radio which is perched on the wall.  I like to think they are all big fans of Industry!

Now I do apologise if I have lulled you into some sort of pleasant denial, here is where it gets messy.  The turkeys are picked up on the 18th of December ahead of their Christmas dinner date with many Irish families across the country and are taken to be prepared for pick up.  Gerry mostly sells the birds from the farm itself and over a three day period sets up shop for people to pick up their purchase ahead of the big day.  I was so impressed with the birds our family have ordered two 12 pounders which I have named Francoise and Hernrietta and I will be calling live from Sweden to check how they go down.

If you want to read more about Gerry and his free range bronze turkeys check out his website here.  As far as I know he is still taking orders so give him a shout and he will sort you out for Christmas dinner!  Sure he’s your only man! 🙂