For years, Mychelle Farmer cooked two turkeys, about 18 pounds each, during Thanksgiving to feed as many as 30 family members who congregated at her home in Baltimore. That, however, apparently was not enough for some who had traveled from North Carolina and New York.
“I’ve got family from out of state that like what we do with the turkeys,” said Farmer, 67, a physician. “So they say, ‘Can you get me one?’ And I’m like, ‘Come on, I’m not into interstate trafficking.’ So my family has gotten to be big fans, and they’re always trying to talk me into buying more so that they can take some home.”
Farmer’s source for tasty turkey is Andy’s Eggs and Poultry, a farm in Fallston that raises and sells turkeys for 10 months every year. The holiday season around Thanksgiving and Christmas is — not surprisingly — the busiest time for co-owners Andy Bachman and Eddie Brown.
“Crazy,” is how Bachman described the turkey operation in October, November and December. “But it’s a good thing. We’re used to Thanksgiving week and the time getting up to Thanksgiving. It’s just longer days and sore backs.”
Some Harford County residents are familiar with Andy’s Eggs and Poultry, which has been selling turkeys for the past decade and anticipates selling up to 300 this year. But there are several more in the county.
Grand View Farm in Forest Hill has been in business since 2012 and is hoping to sell all 200 turkeys it is raising. Homelands Poultry in Bel Air has been accepting orders for turkeys for the past three years and is targeting 80 sales. Pylesville Homeplace Poultry expanded its output from 30 a year ago to 50 this year.
“It’s a great time of the year to be on the farm,” Grand View Farm co-owner Nick Bailey wrote in an email.
Demand for turkey meat in the United States has remained steady despite a drop in the value of turkey production, according to a report by the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 2019, 5.30 billion pounds of turkey were consumed by Americans, effectively flat with the 5.29 billion pounds in 2018. In 2018, the turkey market was valued at $3.88 billion, a significant decline from $6.18 billion in 2016.
Before Emmy Dallam — whose parents, Kate and David Dallam, own Broom’s Bloom Dairy in Bel Air — started Homelands Poultry in 2018, she visited another turkey farm but was cautioned about beginning her own business.
“But if you’re truly dedicated, you’ll do it anyway,” said Dallam, who earned a certificate in livestock management from the University of Wisconsin and graduated from Harford Community College in December with an associate’s degree in agribusiness.
The most common feedback the farms receive from customers about why they prefer to buy there is the turkeys are free of additives and preservatives that store-bought turkeys may have.
“The birds are raised with respect, out on pasture on great grass, with all of the benefits of sunlight and fresh air,” Bailey wrote. “They are moved to fresh pasture each day, and their pasture diet is supplemented with non-GMO, soy-free locally milled feed. They eat bugs, worms, grass, and any other insects that they can find. They are constantly breathing fresh air and being warmed by natural sunlight.”
Ryan Revie, 37, a senior operational analyst in the energy industry from Forest Hill, has been buying chickens and eggs from Grand View Farm for the past five years. He wrote that he values the interaction he can have with Bailey and his staff.
“That is a priceless relationship and one that is very important to us,” said Revie, who plans to buy a 20-pound turkey for Thanksgiving. “We are grateful to have someone right around the corner that is doing things the right way, and want to do everything we can to support their business and the continuation of this high quality product that we rely on for the overall health and nutrition of our family.”
Diane Parks, 68, has bought from Homelands Poultry for the past three years. The retired administrative specialist for a federal agency said she has purchased turkeys from grocery stores but is more than willing to drive about 30 minutes from her home in Conowingo in Cecil County because of Dallam’s turkeys.
“You can buy turkeys in a store, and they can say that they’re organic and all that stuff, and that may be, and that’s fine,” Parks said. “But hers, they just have a completely different taste. They’re just so much cleaner and fresher tasting.”
Bachman agreed about the taste of farm-raised turkeys.
“The meat has a lot more flavor,” she said, adding that she smokes, roasts, or brines and roasts her turkeys from Andy’s Eggs and Poultry just as she would with any other turkey. “And you don’t get these really crazy outsize turkeys with exaggerated body parts or whatever. It’s proportional, it’s tender, and I think there’s more flavor in the meat.”
Parks said the turkeys from Homelands Poultry do not have a yellowish tint to their skin or a slick feel that she has found on store-bought turkeys.
“When you handle poultry, you’re always worried about germs and whatever,” she said. “There are no feathers, no little things sticking out. It’s just super clean.”
Bachman, of Andy’s Eggs and Poultry, said to accommodate an increase in customers, hours on the farm will be extended during Thanksgiving week. He smiled when asked about the rush.
“There’s a lot of arguments, but they’re friendly arguments,” he said, adding that the staff at area farmers markets will almost double from four to seven and the number of employees at the farm will triple from two to six. “It’s cold and wet, and we’re tired, and we’re hungry.”
Dallam, of Homelands Poultry, said the holiday season provides a different level of stress.
“There’s a lot of scrambling around to make sure that I don’t oversell birds, because I only have a limited number,” she said. “Then three days before Thanksgiving, people still haven’t picked up their birds, and that’s when I start to panic. I want them to enjoy their birds, but they need to start thawing them.”
At about $3 to $5 per pound, farm-raised turkeys tend to cost slightly more than those at grocery stores, but Revie said he does not mind spending his money at Grand View Farm.
“I think most people break out into two factions when it comes to cost of food — those that view food expenditure as a bottom-line cost, and those that view it as a health investment,” he wrote. “We view it as a health investment, so cost is rarely a factor when choosing food, especially a once-a-year expenditure like the Thanksgiving turkey.”
Nicole Chryst, 40, a part-time health coach and parent trainer from Street who has already ordered a 19-pound turkey from Grand View Farm, said nothing could persuade her to buy a store-bought turkey, adding that she would opt for a pork tenderloin instead.
“If I couldn’t get a turkey from the farm, I’d probably not serve turkey,” she said. “There are certain foods that I don’t want to compromise on, and meat is one of them.”
Raising and selling turkeys is anything but easy. Dallam said running the business has helped her develop a greater appreciation for the relationships she has built with customers.
“I just really find a lot of pride and joy in knowing that a lot of local communities will be eating my birds for Thanksgiving and that they chose me,” she said. “That’s what I love providing for my local community. That’s what I pride my work on. I want to raise quality animals that produce quality meats for my community.”
Andy’s Eggs and Poultry
2601 Harford Road, Fallston | 443-504-8254 | andyseggsandpoultry.com
Grand View Farm
1939 High Point Road, Forest Hill | 410-937-2221 | grandviewfarming.com
1700 South Fountain Green Road, Bel Air | 443-528-7490 | homelandspoultry.com
Pylesville Homeplace Poultry
Latest Harford Magazine
2120 Telegraph Road, Pylesville | 410-688-8768 | facebook.com/pylesvillehomeplacepoultry