Sunday, October 25, 2015

Get Fresh Turkeys Right in New York State

Turkeys enjoy the sunshine at Violet Hill Farm in Herkimer County.
By Debra J. Groom
Empire Farm & Dairy 

New York doesn’t rank in the top 10 in turkey-producing states, but several farms here still raise and process fresh gobblers. 

Although most are small operations, they have devoted followers, take reservations for birds early in the year, and sell out quickly.

One such turkey producer is Mary Carpenter, who runs Violet Hill Farm in West Winfield in southern Herkimer County.

Carpenter said she didn’t plan on being a farmer. She was a makeup artist working in New York City, but one day, she went to the farmers market with a friend and met a farmer named Paul Densch-Layton, who was selling meat from his farm.

“He and I became friends,” Carpenter said. “He was ready to bow out of the farm, and he asked me if I wanted to help him out during lambing season.”

As she says on the Violet Hill Farm website, “the rest is history.”

Mary and Paul still are a couple, are raising five children, and they’re running a farm complete with turkeys, chickens, lambs, pigs, rabbits, geese, eggs, wild mushrooms, medicinal herbs and fruits. 

Mary also sells skin-care products, soaps, lip balms, deodorants and herbal tinctures.

This year, she has 300 turkeys ready to go for Thanksgiving; they range in weight from 10 to 25 pounds. (To order a turkey, go to

Carpenter and other turkey producers in New York said this year has been challenging due to the Avian (bird) flu problem in the Midwest.

While the bird flu hasn’t shown up in New York, the poultry industry has taken stringent precautions to ensure the strain stays away from the Empire State. Among the precautions: prohibiting poultry shows at any county fair or at the New York State Fair this year. 

“Some producers had a difficult time getting poults this year,” Carpenter said.

A poult is a turkey only 1 or 2 days old that producers buy and then raise for the Thanksgiving or Christmas season.

Some farmers, such as Ortensi Farms in Richfield Springs, Otsego County, usually sell turkeys but have none this year. Burl Creek Farm in Clyde, Wayne County, has only 42 birds this year, compared with 70 last year, saidf farm owner Rachel Burley.

And consumers should be beware of prices this year. The bird flu and some producers not being able to get enough poults to raise have led to some prices that might be higher this year than last.
Number of turkeys produced and value for 2013:
Minnesota, 44 million, $747,056,000
North Carolina, 34 million, $757,435,000
Arkansas, 28 million, $372,400,000
Indiana, 17.5 million, $441,061,000
Missouri, 17 million, $361,760,000
Virginia, 15.5 million, $267,995,000
California, 13 million, $242,925,000
South Carolina, 12 million, $318,402,000
Pennsylvania, 7 million, $113,582,000
Ohio, 5.5 million, value $155,031.000
Total for 2013 – 240 million, birds produced, value of $4,839,562,000  

For more stories like this one, subscribe to Empire Farm & Dairy magazine.

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