Thanksgiving may be two months away, but time is running out to order farm-fresh turkeys in New Hampshire. Arthur Mountain starts raising his turkeys in late June to prepare for the holiday, and the cut-off time for orders usually falls around mid-October, he said.
“It’s once a year, so it’s kind of like Christmas. You go all out on Christmas, so you go all out on Thanksgiving with a good fresh turkey,” Mountain said.
The turkeys raised at Mountain Farm are free-range and spend most of their time outdoors. They clean pasture but are also fed a diet of grain and even garden vegetables.
“They eat you out of house and home, and they’re very expensive to raise,” Mountain said. “They actually do a better job than any animal I have for cleaning pasture. Where the fence is, you don’t have to weed whack — they clean it all. … I throw string beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, and they like beets. Once they learn you throw something in, they go for it.”
As part of the farm-to-table movement, more consumers are selecting organic, naturally raised and free-range meats from local farmers instead of buying meat from stores.
“We’re seeing a lot of increased demand for locally raised meat, beef and poultry,” New Hampshire Commissioner of Agriculture Lorraine Merrill said. “More farms are doing it because it’s getting to be increasingly popular.”
Turkeys are no exception, with local farmers getting in on the movement.
“We have some that specialize in heritage breeds and others that are raising the modern broad breasted turkeys,” Merrill said. “If people haven't had locally raised turkey, I recommend they try it. … It gives you a story at your family Thanksgiving table as well.”
“I might not be the biggest farm around [but] I go for the quality. That means more to me than anything. I take a lot of pride in my product,” Mountain said. “We don’t raise them like you do in the huge turkey farms [where] they’re all in a building. … There’s no hormones or antibiotics. They’re raised with a lot of care.”
Mountain has been raising animals full time for the past seven years but has done so on and off for over 30 years.
“I started to get back into it for myself, and I had people ask if I could raise things for them. I enjoy it a lot,” he said..Mountain also raises and breeds pigs, chickens for eggs and poultry and cattle for beef.
This year, Mountain said he currently has about 100 turkeys and wants to raise them to an average of 21 pounds each.
“Some [farmers] get them too early and then you get 40-plus pound birds,” he said. “Last year, I averaged about 28 pounds out of 200 [turkeys].”
Thanksgiving turkeys are available to be picked up the weekend before the holiday.
“Somebody who’s never had fresh stuff before, it’s a whole new taste for them,” Mountain said. “Sometimes you got to give it a chance. Some people don’t like it because they’re so accustomed to store-bought.”
Customers can place an order online, over the phone or by visiting Mountain at the farmers market.