Thank you for signing up for Elmwood Stock Farm's newsletter! Mac shares some thoughts about the turkey on the table, find a seasonal sweet potato recipe, and read about caring for heritage breeds of poultry.

NEW! Elmwood's organic, pasture-raised pork is back in full stock! Ordering details are below. Also see Elmwood's new online store to order your holiday turkey.


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Thanksgiving Misgivings?
The Big Bird Says It All

Many of you eat as much organic food as you can and wish you were eating it when you aren’t. You may be evangelistic about it, like we are, and share what you know with friends and family. Some of you eat organic foods when it is convenient, like to read these postings, and are beginning to understand the real value of organic foods but find it hard to explain to others just what the difference is. With the coming together of families and friends for the Thanksgiving holiday, this may be a good time to let the big bird say it for you.

Delicate Conversation
Before we get into the specifics about what the big bird has to say, let’s consider the audience. Family members may be cut from the same cloth but be of a different ilk about food, nutrition, and personal health. Some people are adamant about one food issue that's most important, so start with them there. If you come on too strong with some big attitude about organic, the word will become a lightning rod into the conversation, so ease into it with each person or household based on their position in life. Parents with young children will be concerned about pesticides and preservatives; the over 50s are confused about good and bad fats, labeling, and what it means to vote with their wallet. Many people of all ages have wildly skewed ideas about “good food” based on the misleading advertising on TV and everywhere else. (Remember, “natural” on a turkey label means nothing was added after processing, but it means nothing about what happened to the bird before it was sent to processing.) Work to educate your friends and family a little at a time, and they will thank you later.

Family get togethers usually have a food component to them, but none compares to the Thanksgiving day feast: traditional dishes, old family recipes, and a big to-do about carving a turkey at the head of the table, as everyone anxiously looks on (while the chef is worried that everything, mostly the big bird, is done and not overcooked). With all this fanfare, there is usually more conversation about the bird, from whence it came, cooking techniques, and lore of birds past. Just taking a wild guess, I would think that for 99.999% of the turkeys cooked this November, the response to “Where did it come from,” will be the name of a big box mega-super-giant-national food retailer, with no consideration about where that store got it. Alarmingly for most people celebrating Thanksgiving this year, turkey is turkey, and the one in the oven seemed like a real bargain, which ends the story of the origin of the bird. Put some of Aunt Bee’s gravy and plenty of dressing on there, and no one will notice the lack of flavor among the heap of food that smothers it.

You can be one of the few to use this opportunity to enlighten those around you that not all turkeys are created equal. Offer to bring the Thanksgiving turkey and a good story to your gathering. This may be the best opportunity of the year, since so much attention is focused on the food and you do not seem like a weirdo for having done your homework ahead of time. Around our table, we discuss the lineage and seasonal differences in flock behavior. The herding-turkeys-into-the-trailer stories are legendary, and the awesome fat flavor and color from the beta-carotene in the clover always come up, plus whatever else inquisitive nieces, nephews, and grandchildren want to know. We also cut up our big bird before putting it into the oven for ease of cooking and then slice and trim the meat in the kitchen, avoiding the stress of carving in front of a crowd.

Getting Turkey to the Table
Just like we are what we eat, so is the big bird. A big-box store 20-pound dressed turkey ate about 75 pounds of feed. With a little over-simplification, somewhere in Iowa or Illinois or who knows where, a patch of earth the size of the great room in your house was planted with corn and soybeans, using genetically modified seed technology and its related chemical cocktails. The grain farmer would get about $3 for the corn and $4 for the soybeans, much of which will go back to buy more toxic chemicals to spray next year. The grain to feed the millions of birds grown for this holiday is moved around in rail cars or barges to be combined with all the special additives at feed mills owned by the turkey-farming giants.

Turkey farmers are integrated into a grow-process-sell business model. The number of players in this industry continues to be consolidated into a relative few farmers with a handful of barns in which hundreds of thousands of birds live their entire life in “optimum” conditions. Uncle Tony and I have this ongoing debate about what optimum means. Farmers are forced by the big-box retailers to improve their efficiencies to drive down costs and stay in business, causing them to use every tool in the box, to be more “optimum.” Dialed-in vitamin and mineral feed supplementation, individual amino-acid balancing, daily nutrient-density adjustments, and strict flock-health protocols are followed to a T. Automatic feeders are programmed to come on at certain intervals, triggering a Pavlov’s dogs response for the turkeys to eat more in a day.

It is a true marvel of efficiency, but I also know the turkeys never see the light of day, and ammonia buildup is a real concern. You can’t go into the barn to see the turkeys, and if they did let you in, you would have to don a Tyvek suit, cover your shoes (which you would want to anyway), put a face mask over your mouth and nose, wear a hair net, and sign a form saying you have not been around poultry for 72 hours—and all this is to keep you from harming the birds! I cannot fathom how they make it work, but retailers are telling them it’s ok to raise birds this way, because they will handle the marketing and advertising.

Did you ever stop to consider how the big-box stores magically have tens of millions of fresh turkeys all of a sudden, just a few days before the fourth Thursday of November? It’s my understanding that the USDA allows turkey processors to hold the packaged birds at 26 degrees for who knows how long, and still call them “fresh.” A 26-degree bird would be hard as a rock! The stores simply thaw them for you, just in the nick of time. There is nothing wrong with freezing turkeys—all of ours are—rather this is just an example of the insidious misrepresentation that we have to contend with. Cutesy labels are purposely misleading.

Elmwood's Turkey Story
Now for that good story that you're bringing to accompany your turkey, we raise our turkeys a different way. Each poult (that's a turkey hatchling) is raised in a safe, warm place—called a brooder house—with others their same size, with individual attention, if need be. We manage the temperature and ventilation, and we read the collective body language of the birds to inform our decision making. The hardwood shavings we use for bedding is topped off twice a day to keep a high carbon-to-nitrogen (C:N) ratio as a method to control disease and parasites. The little plastic watering buckets are cleaned and refilled twice a day, as well.

When big enough to regulate their own body temperature, the young turkeys go out to the field pens where they can run around, flapping their wings and climbing around on their mobile shade/rain/predator-protection house. They quickly find the feed trough and watering system and settle in for a good time. Every few days, the temporary electric-net fencing and house is moved through the pasture, the birds run all around the field, chasing bugs or just looking for some kind of trouble, only to return to the security of their home in it’s new, clean spot. (It’s still a C:N thing.) The body condition of the bird is enhanced by their athletic movement and playfulness.

It takes us a few weeks longer than the industrial producers to get our birds up to mature weight, since we don’t do all that fancy dietary manipulation of a basic grain ration. John grows much of the corn here on the farm without a drop of synthetic toxic chemicals, and organic always equals NO GMOs allowed. The rest of the feed ration comes from an organic-only feed mill in Western Kentucky. The kelp and botanically based vitamin and mineral supplements—along with clover, grass, and insects—add to the turkey's true flavor. The birds get excited and run all around us when we feed and are a real joy to interact with.

Your Thanksgiving Decision
So, it boils down to this. Are you comfortable knowing your food dollars are used to purchase and apply GMO seeds and chemicals out on the land so you can buy a cheap turkey? Are you ok knowing the turkey before you never saw the light of day and ate who-only-knows what so you can have a cheap turkey? Do you buy the cheapest car on the market, the cheapest clothes, the cheapest TV? Or would you rather be assured that your big bird had a chance to chase insects and fly around in a field while it ate responsibly raised feed?

When the turkeys “gobble gobble,” talking back to our farm-tour goers, it is always the highlight of the tour—as it should be. Because when raised this way, these big birds are magnificent. When the response to “Where did the turkey come from” is “Elmwood Stock Farm” rather than “the big-box store,” know that we are proud of the story behind our big birds with nothing to hide. Help your friends and families understand the value of sharing a local, organic, pasture-raised big bird this Thanksgiving holiday. They will thank you later, the more they think about it. —Mac Stone
Pre-Order an Elmwood Organic Turkey
Elmwood's Heritage Turkey Breeding Flock

A flock of turkeys has a definite pecking order. It's a sight to behold the toms (the male turkeys) strut around, scraping their wings along the ground, tail flared, bright blue and red pigmentation about their head and neck, making a low-deep thumping sound. The hens scurry around the toms all the while, ready to preen their feathers and acknowledge their authority. The toms will be the first to take on an ill-advised intrusion by a hawk or owl. Often, a hen will be the predator-lookout scout and will give a sharp bark if danger is near. All heads pop up and all turkeys stand dead still, so collectively they are looking 365 degrees around the flock. If any one sees a problem and heads for the house, all the others will follow suit, while the big toms go toward the direction the scout indicated, standing their ground.

We maintain a breeding flock of heritage turkeys, too, which fell far from favor with the advent of the modern broad-breasted birds at the grocery store. In fact, the The Livestock Conservancy asked farmers like us to raise some of these heritage turkeys to help save them from literal extinction. (There were just a few thousand hens nationwide!) We told them that if they let us sell the heritage birds for food, we will raise a lot of them, so in effect, you our customers are bringing back these magnificent birds. This may seem counterintuitive, but 10 or so years ago, we were able to get our hands on just 10 to 12 poults, and now we have hundreds. We hatch the eggs each spring, as they are seasonal layers, like their wild cousins, and care for them for you. The biggest and best toms and hens are kept for breeding.
Elmwood's organic, pasture-raised pork is back in stock!
Pork Chops, Tenderloin, and Bacon will go quickly, place your order here.

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Bacon, Blue Cheese, Dried Cranberries and Pecans in Warm Bacon-Herb Vinaigrette

2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
Canola oil
Black pepper
12 ounces (about 10 strips) bacon, cooked crisp and chopped, with 2 tablespoons of the drippings reserved
½ c. dried cranberries
½ c. blue cheese crumbles
¼ c. chopped pecans
1 T. chopped flat-leaf parsley or celery leaves
Warm Bacon-Herb Vinaigrette (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 400°. Toss the cubed sweet potatoes with a couple of drizzles of the oil, plus a couple of pinches of salt and black pepper, and roast for about 20 minutes, or until tender; allow to cool slightly until warm.

Turn the roasted sweet potatoes out into a large bowl, and add in the chopped bacon, cranberries, blue cheese, pecans and parsley; drizzle in some of the Warm Bacon-Herb Vinaigrette, toss to coat, and check to see if any additional salt and pepper is needed. Serve warm as a sweet potato side dish.

Warm Bacon-Herb Vinaigrette:
¼ c. apple cider vinegar
2 T. heaping, honey
2 T. reserved bacon drippings
1 t. Dijon mustard
1 t. Italian seasoning
½ t. salt
¼ t. black pepper
½ c. canola oil
Add all of the ingredients up to and including the black pepper to the bowl of a food processor, and process until blended; with the processor running, drizzle in the oil until complete blended and emulsified. When ready to serve, pour the vinaigrette into a small sauce pan and very gently heat for about 30 seconds or so, just until warm; then, drizzle as much as you’d like over the sweet potato salad.

recipe adapted from The Cozy Apron
Farmers Market finds this weekend...
Ginger, Turmeric & Spinach

Additional all-organic offerings: carrots, radish, turnips, celery, fall squash, salad mix, baby kale, Swiss chard, potatoes, sweet potatoes, herbs, beef, chicken, pork, turkey, farm fresh eggs, pantry goods, and much more! Give us 48 hours notice, and we'll set aside a special order for you to be sure we don't run out of your favorite items!

Lexington: Downtown at Cheapside Pavilion, 8am - 1pm
Cincinnati: Hyde Park Winter Market at Clark Montessori, 10am - 1pm

For Thanksgiving Meal Recipes and Ideas...

Read Stella Park's, award-winning pastry chef and author of newly released New York Times bestseller BraveTart, blog post on Elmwood's heritage turkeys here to find these photos and much more. Also find her blog post on Thankgiving heritage and the recipes and ingredients that accompany.
Contact Elmwood Stock Farm
(859) 621-0755

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Elmwood Stock Farm · Scott County · Georgetown, KY 40324 · USA

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