Sunday, November 16, 2008

Talking Turkey

Were we out of our minds to drive 150 miles each way in the rain to pick up a couple of turkeys? Probably. But my friend KC and I did it anyway. Having recently read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, it seemed like the perfect Thanksgiving to celebrate with turkeys raised humanely on a grass farm like Polyface.

There were a limited number of turkeys this year. They did not make it easy to get one. We had to show up in person at Polyface Farm either this Saturday or next to claim our birds.

It rained steadily as we traveled out I-66 in the early morning. It was still raining as we went south on I-81 headed toward Staunton. It was just after we crossed I-64 that the fun of going down more country roads that we could count started.

We pulled into the parking lot and were welcomed by 3 honking geese. That was about the point where we realized that we were supposed to have made an appointment to pick up the turkeys. By then the rain had let up so we got out of the car to walk around in the mud. There were black chickens and these mottled chickens. They all looked quite happy.

Here is one of the portable chicken coops they move all around the farm to allow the chickens to fertilize the grass and clean up the insects in the cow pies, of which there were quite a few.

Just as we were about to despair that no one was home, we spotted some guys dealing with new cows. One of them headed up to give up a quick tour of the chickens and rabbits before going in search of our turkeys.

We couldn’t pass up other temptations like bacon, sausage links, and strip steaks. After throwing everything in the cooler, we started to go out exploring the farm once again. Just then a sheet of rain fell from the sky, utterly drenching us.

We made a dash for the car and headed off in search of Staunton, which we found with some instinct and a little difficulty. Homemade tomato soup, a small piece of quiche, and hot coffee were the perfect lunch for us. We were eating at Cranberry’s, one of the fine establishments using Polyface meat.

After lunch we indulged in a different kind of grass – wheat grass put through an extractor to produce a bright green drink, served with a hunk of orange as a chaser.

It was only as we neared home on I-66 almost 8 hours after leaving home on this adventure that the sun came out and we saw multiple rainbows.

It remains to be seen if these will be the turkeys that rise above all others. But even if not, it was an adventure into rural Virginia, a part of the state that moves just a little slower than life in the Washington suburbs.


Blogger Kellyann Brown said...

Totally kewl, Barbara!

10:49 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kellyann -- Some people (including my son) think I must be a lunatic to spend 6 hours in a car going a total of 300 miles for less than 30 pounds of grass-farmed turkey. But I could think of many worse ways to spend my Saturday. Besides I had the company of my good friend KC all day long and we talked and talked and talked. Even the rain was an important part of the experience!

11:45 AM  
Blogger avocadoinparadise said...

What an awesome-sounding trip! Sounds like an amazing lunch. I'd love to go to that farm and see how the "happy" animals live! We can only hope that all of the food we play extra for to be organic free range is living in similar circumstances. I'm so glad there are places like that farm!!

5:14 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Avocado -- I found an good explanation of grass farming. This is the model for the small multi-purpose farm that is a thing of the past of the most part. It works well because the land is used for multiple purposes, thereby not requiring the commercial fertilizers and antibiotics that are necessary otherwise.

5:24 PM  
Blogger media concepts said...

That sounds like quite an adventure! But I have to wonder about the ethics of raising turkeys "humanely" just to kill them anyway. Wouldn't the humane thing be not to kill and eat them at all? Maybe we should have a vegan Thanksgiving, with wheat grass juice and tofurkey.

6:30 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

MC -- I'm not ready to give up my meat altogether. But I am ready to see animals raised in a way that beef cattle are not standing in their shit all day long in small pens while they grow fat and chickens don't need their beaks clipped or pigs their tails docked so they don't injure each other in close quarters. None of these animals is born with the slightest inkling of what awaits them at the end. I would like to think that their days while alive are not stressful or uncomfortable and their deaths are quick and painless.

I will not eat tofurky ever!

7:22 PM  
Blogger Cyndy said...

That sounds like a fun day! I saw the double rainbow too, but didn't catch it with my camera in time. I wonder how the flavor of the grass-raised turkey will compare with the usual butterball turkey.

8:43 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Cyndy -- I will report on how the Polyface turkey actually tastes!

9:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

heh-- the comment about your son-- is he the one in Germany now??

We live in the South. There are NO mountains in the South. My family and I visited our family in Germany this past summer. I told my cousin I (my family) wanted to see the Alps! My cousin said "Can't you just go see the Rockies?? They are mountains, too?" Well Hello??? 4hours from you, vs 48 hrs from the South?? HUMMM???

I don't think that the Europeans have such a "scale" that we have. EVERYTHING is SO CLOSE TOGETHER!!!!!! So, I think that's where he is getting his mindset from-- 6 hrs!!hell--HE could go to freakin' Spain or Turkey!! or Italy-Greece!! Where-ever! Just think about it?? Tina

2:28 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

Ha! MC's question was mine too. I'm not a vegetarian, but I do wrestle with it constantly and try to minimize my meat intake. I think full vegetarianism is in my future!

1:20 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Tina -- Yes, Europe is on a completely different scale than the US! And yes, that is my lawyer son who is teaching English in Hamburg.

Steve -- I did ask the intern who was showing us around the farm how anyone could possibly slaughter those cute little bunnies. He said he had given up many a pet as a kid on his parents' farm, so he had no problem with doing in a rabbit. I would never want to be around on a day when any of those happy animals was killed, even if it was done humanely!

1:30 PM  
Anonymous Tim said...

You did the right thing making the effort to get the turkey from Polyface. We've all become too disconnected from our food, and it's great to see that you made such an effort to not only buy locally, but from farmers who raise their animals as naturally and humanely as possible.

Regarding the taste, I think you'll find all pastured poultry (chicken and turkeys) taste much "cleaner" than anything in the store. Unlike Polyface, we raise heritage turkeys which DEFINITELY taste much different than your standard butterball. If you can find a farmer raising those in your area, you should try one next year.

Nature's Harmony Farm
Elberton, GA

7:46 AM  
Blogger Kristin said...

Looks like a great trip. I'm with kellyann brown. Totally kewl.

8:58 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Tim -- We had a "cleaner" tasting Polyface chicken just last night. That is such a good way to describe the difference. Will be on the lookout for a heritage turkey!

Kristin -- I love road trips, even in the rain!

9:21 AM  

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