Many of our customers had the good fortune to get in an early order for one of our holiday turkeys this year. We are pleased that we could offer the highest quality we could possibly produce – food we’re proud to eat ourselves and feed to our friends and family – to our wonderful customers. But, we also had some folks who missed out on the opportunity. I’d like to write a little about how our process works, and why, and hopefully it will help everyone understand when they see our signs (and those of other farmers) advertising holiday turkeys at the farmers’ markets… in April.
Here at Hock Newberry Farm, we place our order for poults (that’s baby turkeys) with the hatchery in April, in order to provide our beautiful birds for Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts. We take a chance and guess how many we think we will be able to sell (usually based on prior years’ sales and verbal interest), and order the appropriate number of poults. Like any enterprise involving livestock, there’s a significant cost up front to raise the animals, which won’t be recouped for months, once the birds are finally ready for sale. To slightly offset our costs, and to be able to guarantee our customers a bird if they want one, we start taking deposits on our turkeys as soon as our market stalls open up for the season. This allows us plenty of time to do several things. First, we have to make sure we’ll have enough turkeys to raise to meet the demand. If we’re swamped with reservations early in the season, we give ourselves the opportunity to bring in additional poults in order to meet demand. Second, we give our customers an opportunity that most other farms don’t offer – we allow them to specify the weight they want, and the bird gets processed at the appropriate time to meet the customer’s needs. Generally speaking, farmers process their birds, and it’s first-come, first-served to get the size you’re hoping for. With our system, if you are able to plan ahead, we can guarantee you a bird that’s just the size you’re looking for. And last, but not least, pre-orders take a little bit of the risk out of farming. When we have a list of customers that have made a commitment to purchase an animal from us, we have a group of friends who have made a monetary contribution to ensuring our success. We don’t have to spend extra money on marketing, and we don’t have to worry about whether or not we’ll get back the money we have invested in the birds, since they’ve already been spoken for.
Traditionally, farmers raising livestock for market (and even for personal use) plan breedings so that births occur at the appropriate times of the year, allowing the young animals the right amount of time to live and grow in their optimum conditions prior to being processed for our tables. This requires a lot of planning on the part of the farmer, and it means that we often undertake this planning for our customers, too. We’re happy to help make sure you’ll have the Thanksgiving turkey of your dreams… but we need your help!
The earlier you can put your order in, the better. That’s it, plain and simple! We know that it can be difficult to make plans in advance, but if you know you’re hosting turkey day at your place, let us know in the summer instead of waiting until November… it will be much less stressful for you, for us, and you’ll get the size you’re looking for! The worst that could happen is, you’d put in your order and then find out you’re not hosting Thanksgiving! What to do with a turkey? Well, there’s always Christmas… or if you let us know before the turkey is processed, we can even cut it up and pack it into individual (breast, leg, thigh, wing) packages instead.
This applies to chickens too – we buy our chicks so that we have just the right amount to process each week for market, and enough for us to eat too. But we also budget our chicken stores (we know we eat around 3 chickens a week) so that we put up just the right amount to be able to enjoy it year-round, even in February when the fields are covered in snow and there’s no chickens out in the pasture. We’d like to be able to help you with that too. We only process from May through October, so for the other six months we can’t guarantee we’ll have anything available. BUT, you could put in a pre-order with us (and if it’s big enough you’ll even get a discount, yay!) and have your chicken needs fulfilled for the year. All you have to do is contact us and let us know how many birds you want for the season, and set up a pickup schedule. For example, if your family eats 2 chickens a week, you’d want to order 4 chickens per week (two for eating, and two for you to store for the winter). We’re happy to accommodate pickups weekly or even monthly – you just have to ask! We ask for a deposit of $5/bird to reserve chickens, and your deposit is credited toward your total.
Now that I’m done telling you all about how OUR farm works, I do want to mention that we’re not the only ones that would appreciate pre-orders. I know quite a few other farmers that produce small livestock, and we all love the security of knowing someone wants what we’re producing.
Hopefully this post helped you all understand a little better why we do things the way we do. Feel free to leave questions/comments below!