On a cold and rainy November morning, farmers Mary Carpenter and Paul Dench-Layton waded arm-in-arm into the large soggy paddock that's home to their Broad Breasted Whites, nearly 250 gobbling, barking, and bumbling Thanksgiving turkeys.
The husband-and-wife team that owns and operates Violet Hill Farm, a 200-acre spread nestled in upstate New York's Mohawk Valley, began catching the birds by hand days ahead of the year's busiest market week. Together, with their two young children close by, they worked around the clock to slaughter and dress the animals before a four-hour drive south to Manhattan's Union Square Market. There, loyal customers eagerly awaited their organic, non-GMO fed gobblers. This year's lot sold out well before anyone thought to pre-heat their ovens.
The work is back-breaking and time is short, but for the farmers it is worth it.
"The market for me, that's my reset button, because it can get so stressful and overwhelming and exhausting," said Carpenter. "We go to the market and we have people who bring their families to come meet their farmers. It is like an extended family. It sounds cliche and hokey, but it really does become that. You know a lot about your customers and they show you pictures and they know your kids' names."
Buyers say knowing the people who grow their food makes a difference.
"When you shop at the same vendor for the same thing all the time, you start to develop a connection," said Karma Hara, one of Violet Hill's regular and enthusiastic customers.
"I get an email every year, three weeks before Thanksgiving. Mary has my email address, and many other people's too, but it feels personal, and she sends an email and it says `OK we're starting to take deposits for turkey now,' and I don't get that email from Whole Foods ... and I wouldn't give my email to Whole Foods."
But bottom line is the taste. Is fully-pastured fresh turkey really all that different?
"I originally tried one of their chickens and it was probably the best chicken I've had, ever, and so I started shopping for chicken from them and then they offered turkeys that first year. I ordered one, and the rest is history," said Hara. "I buy my turkey from them every year. Even if I travel for Thanksgiving, then I just cook Thanksgiving early on the Saturday before."
Opening text from AP news story, AP Photos: Turkey Farmers Connect With NYC Buyers, By John Minchillo
Lead Image Caption: In this Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, photo, Mary Carpenter, owner of Violet Hill Farm, butchers a turkey as it is harvested for Thanksgiving, in West Winfield, N.Y. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
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