Plymouth Meeting Farm Feathers Its Nest by Supplying Organic Thanksgiving Turkeys
Roasted turkey is as much a part of the Thanksgiving table as sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie. But not all turkeys are created equal.
For traditionalists, nothing beats the flavor of a fresh turkey as the centerpiece to a traditional celebration of the season's bounty. But given the encroachment of 21st century life, isn't it difficult to find a farm-raised turkey?
Not in Montgomery County.
Maple Acres Farm in Plymouth Meeting is one of a number of local working farms that raises and sells fresh turkeys each November.
"We get them as chicks in late summer," says Kim Butler, manager. "They come from a poultry farm in Quakertown, weighing about half a pound each." She cups her hands, as if she's holding a baseball to indicate the approximate size.
Some 14 weeks later, it's tough to imagine the strutting toms and hens being that little. They're now an average of 30 pounds apiece, calmly spending a mild, fall afternoon in the sun.
"They're very curious," Butler says as we approach. "I'm surprised they're not running down here to see who you are."
Butler, whose family harkens back to the family for whom Butler Pike was named, says that farm owner Gary McKeown and his family have been raising produce and meat at this location for three generations, going back 100 years.
As we chat, McKeown rolls up on his tractor. "When my father raised turkeys," he says, "he did start with the eggs. We don't do that now. It was very labor-intensive; so much so, that raising turkeys was more expensive back in those days than it is today."
As McKeown drives off to attend to his chores, Butler invites me into the turkey pen. "We usually put a chicken in there to live with them," she says. "Turkeys learn by example. So they watch the chicken, and it helps them figure out when it's time to sleep, when it's time to eat."
"A chicken-tutor," I comment.
"Yes," she laughs. "Turkeys aren't the smartest birds."
They're also not overly aggressive, I learn. My entry into their enclosure met with either indifference or mild curiosity. After a few stares, the brood continues sunbathing.
Around them are pumpkin hulls, naked corn cobs and other vegetable bits. "Part of farming is to use everything to its maximum value. Nothing gets wasted," Butler says, explaining the Jack-O'-Lantern remnants. "But we do supplement their diets." The turkeys get nutritionally sound feed that does not compromise the farm's commitment to wholly organic poultry, meat and vegetables.
The birds are routinely checked to ensure good health. And Butler is diligent about their safety, taking particular care in protecting them against threats that include invading foxes.
These easy fall days of leisure for the plump poultry are, sadly, numbered. "The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, we will take them to a butcher in Cheltenham. Most of them are picked up immediately afterward by the buyers."
"So," I ask. "What do you eat for Thanksgiving dinner?"
"Not these," she quickly responds. "I get too attached to these guys."
The number of turkeys at Maple Hill Farm is limited; purchasers should call ahead to inquire about stock. Elsewhere in Montgomery County, Quarry Hill Farm, Harleysville, also offers live turkeys, but again, it is best to ask how many remain for sale, especially this close to Thanksgiving.
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