Monday, November 21, 2011

Living The Turkey's Dream

I got up early, dressed in several layers of clothes and gathered my large cooler, homemade ice and large baggies before heading out to the LTD Farm. I gave myself plenty of time to get there on the icy roads. I drove east on 94 to Baldwin, WI and took a left. After making several left and right hand turns on a dozen slippery and hilly dirt roads I found myself in front of a home being greeted by a dog. Parking in a very small driveway I got out on the foreign soil of a Wisconsin farm. Khaiti came out of her house. Seeing her photograph several times reassured me I was at the right place.

We made introductions and Khaiti brought me out back where I met Andrew who was hard at work. She gave me a quick overview of the farm and brought me over to meet the turkeys I have been watching grow on facebook. The turkeys were broad breasted white turkeys, a common domesticated turkey grown for Thanksgiving.

Khaiti and I talked about their 39 acre farm, while Andrew fought with the water hose in 20 degree weather. I wanted to take in as much in as I could, asking questions about what the animals ate and how the harvesting process worked. I knew how the basics worked. I saw an awesome video of turkey harvesting at LTD Farm done by The Perennial Plate in 2010. The way things went that day was very similar to the video.

I was able to choose a turkey, I got one of the black ones and it was a boy. Khaiti covered the bird with a heavy paper bag that had a small hole cut at the bottom so the head could stick out. She walked it over to a small patch of hay started to lay the turkey down, calming it. She didn't give me a choice in cutting the turkeys neck and I didn't ask to do it. I was able to hold the turkey. Khaiti held the turkey's head and very calmly and respectfully cut its neck. Khaiti continued to hold the turkey's head and I held the very powerful bird until all the life went from its body.

Andrew then brought the turkey over to a small building and hung the turkey up by its feet so we could all pluck the feathers. I was the only customer there the whole time, which was such a treat. I was able to ask questions and get to know the couple a little bit. I let them know I'd love to have a small farm like what they had; they were very encouraging. Plucking the feathers was a long process. By the end we were standing in a large pile of the dark feathers.

Andrew then took the bird down so they could gut it. They asked if I wanted to, and I hesitantly said sure. They were ready to go, having done this several times. I quickly said they could do it and they got to work, showing me what was what in the turkey. Khaiti pulled the heart out in about two seconds and put it in a bowl. Andrew took off the head, leaving the neck. Khaiti then pulled out the liver showing me how healthy it was from the vegetables and organic feed the turkey ate.

I helped wash off the turkey and put it in a cooler to lower its temperature. I grabbed my good innards and put them in a baggie along with the turkey's feet for stock.

While the turkey cooled down Khaiti took me to see the rest of their animals. They have goats for milk, ducks for eggs, pigs for meat and the turkeys. I have rarely been on a farm and it was nice for me to watch the animals. I couldn't help but to smile when Khaiti and I walked up to the pigs and they got really excited to see her. The pigs were pretty young and the looked really cute and cuddly. The pig's 'pen' was very clean and littered with large holes the pigs were taking turns digging.

Khaiti and Andrew are trying to be as self sufficient as they can be. They have vegetables and perennial plants they give to their CSA share holders. What they don't use themselves goes to the animals. Then the entire farm's waste is composted and put back into the soil. All their animals looked very happy and had plenty of room to be animals.

Khaiti and Andrew are a young couple living the dream. They are both hardworking and they have a passion for what they do. They have a respect for their land and a love for their animals. It was an absolute pleasure to be able to see their farm.

Khaiti helped me load my turkey into my car. I shook both of their hands when I said goodbye and left the farm with a very quiet spirit.

On the way to the farm I couldn't stop questioning our culture's view on food. On the way home my questions were silenced. I felt at peace. I understood that what I have been longing for is a connection with ethical small businesses. I have been fighting the Monsanto's and the Purdue's in my head. It was time for me to see people live my ideals I only hope to achieve someday.

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