While mingling in an open-air pen, the turkeys at K.L. Lemmon & Son in Manchester gobbled up food and water to ready themselves for the holidays.
"The turkey is the centerpiece of the meal," said Kendall Lemmon, co-owner of K.L. Lemmon & Son. "It's always a good feeling when you contribute to someone's
Lemmon said this year's turkeys will range from 12 to 35 pounds. Lemmon, who farms with his wife Vicky and their 25-year-old son Kyle, plans to sell 1,000 turkeys between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
"People like to know where their meat is coming from. They like to buy local and buy fresh," Lemmon said.
Lemmon said customers look for tenderness, flavor and juiciness in their turkeys.
"Part of that comes from the raising and part of that comes from the processing. Once you've had a fresh turkey, you don't want to go back to the store and get a frozen one," Lemmon said.
Lemmon explained the turkeys are hybrid converters, bred for efficient feed-to-meat conversion.
"They're free range," Lemmon said. "We give them lots of room, fresh air, and we get their feed from a local feed dealer."
Lemmon, who has raised turkeys for six years, said he has several groups of turkeys with different target weights.
"The first group started in May, and these were hatched in August," said Lemmon, pointing to a group of birds. "We usually get them at a couple of days old."
Lemmon explained that he uses red feeders because the color encourages the turkeys to eat.
"It's all automated," Lemmon said. "They have full feed, free choice. The more they eat, the bigger they get."
Lemmon explained that the ideal turkey size depends on the number of people at the table.
"You should usually plan about a pound per person," Lemmon said. "Some people like the leftovers. They think the best part of Thanksgiving is the next day's turkey sandwich."
Lemmon, who has been farming for a little more than 30 years, said the turkeys supplement the farm's income. They have 75 acres and also grow hay, straw, grain and beef cattle.
"It's all just good fun," Lemmon said. "It's a good life. Very family-oriented."
Lemmon said three-fourths of the customers come back year after year.
"Lots of businesses give them out to their employees as gifts of appreciation," Lemmon said.
Carroll Tree Service's chief financial officer, Steve Sprague, said their company has purchased K.L. Lemmon & Son's turkeys for over five years.
"They're fresh, the price is fair, and they drop them right off for us. No muss, no fuss," Sprague said. "The turkeys are always good quality, and they're always on time and ready to go."
Darling & Daughters office manager Patti Jacobs said the company has been buying K.L. Lemmon & Son's turkeys for their employees for years and they "always look forward to it."
"The owners of the company try to keep it local and support small businesses," Jacobs said. "There's nothing that compares to a fresh turkey. They're delicious."
Vicky Lemmon said the family sets up a stand on the farm every year to pass out the turkeys. Customers can pick up the birds on the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Thursday and Friday before Christmas.
"It's a real social event. We love it!" she said. "People see each other and like to catch up. A lot of people come out every year."
"Handing them out is exciting," Kendall Lemmon added. "It's nice when they come back and say, 'We enjoyed your bird.'"
Places to order fresh turkeys
•Baugher's Orchard & Farm, 1015 Baugher Road, Westminster. Call 410-848-7490 to order.
•Bullocks Country Meats & Farm Market, 2020 Sykesville Road, Westminster. 10 to 35 lbs. Call 410-848-6786 for prices.
•Chestnut Creek Farm, 3610 Baker Road, Westminster. 15 to 25 lbs. $3/lb. Call 410-746-5768 or email email@example.com to order.
•K.L. Lemmon & Son, 2510 Ebbvale Road, Manchester. 12 to 35 lbs. $3/lb. Call 410-374-3133 to order.
•Local Homestead Products, 2425 Marston Road, New Windsor. 10 to 28+ lbs. $3.29/lb. Order by Thursday, Nov. 10 by calling 410-635-2011.
•R.F. Warner Sons, 4229 Main St., Manchester. 14 to 30 lbs. $3.75/lb. Call 410-374-2660 to order.
•Truck Patch Farms, 3205 Sams Creek Road, New Windsor. 12 to 22 lbs. White broad breasted $4.79/lb. Heritage $5.79/lb. To order, email firstname.lastname@example.org.