The August of our discontent, at least the month is about over if not the discontent part. This is a lengthy newsletter with lots of details so please hang on. First as a person who makes his living outdoors and constantly dances with the weather, I have always had a fascination with “severe” weather events. Having lived through a number of those events I get a certain uneasy feeling in my gut when they happen elsewhere, as if I know what others are experiencing. The news and pictures from the aftermath of hurricane Katrina are such that it overwhelms my capacity to comprehend. We have friends (farmers and non) and family who are now cleaning up from the storm and we can only will them the strength to get the job done.
Our travails pale by comparison and it is just a matter of time until we work our way through them (the big market truck is still in the shop, the walk-in cooler is broken down etc.) but there is one farm problem that we are wrestling with that we may not be able to solve. Many of you have been asking when we will begin taking orders/deposits for turkeys. Last year we began last week. The reason for the delay this year is we are still not certain we will be able to get the birds processed. I have been waiting several weeks to let you all know what is happening as we try to come up with a solution. The situation is this: the place we have had the turkeys processed, in the past, is the only small scale inspected poultry plant available to independent producers in North Carolina and within at least 300 miles. The operator of this plant is selling and trying to leave the state as soon as possible. This leaves us and many other small producers, without the proverbial pot to…. Several of us have been trying to work out a deal to lease the plant, with the option to buy, so we can keep it open in the short term and maybe eventually have it operated by a small scale producers cooperative of sorts. Very exciting possibilities in the long term but huge and very complicated problems in the short term. In short we are not having much luck along this route and I would have to say our chances are 50% at best right now.
This leaves us with really only two options. The first is to process them ourselves, a prospect neither of us are in favor of. The law allows farmers to process, without inspection, their own birds (up to 1000 a year) and sell them to the public. Many people argue that in many ways this is a safer and cleaner option than large plants (like Perdue). It is a lot of work and we have never done it before but have friends who have. The second is to sell the birds off live and escape without further expense to us. This of course does not help with your Thanksgiving plans of having one of our turkeys on the table. Our current plan is to go ahead and take reservations/orders as we are running out of markets we will be there to physically take them. If it turns out we cannot get them processed, we will then refund the deposits in plenty of time for you all to arrange for other turkeys. Attached is the order form and instructions.
This access to poultry processing plants is a very big problem for small scale poultry producers and limits the potential for consumers to be able to buy and eat much higher quality poultry. The health benefits, flavor and eating quality of birds that run around on grass is so much higher than everything else available in the grocery store as to not even be comparable. It also severely limits small farmers from diversifying into poultry and potentially making their farms more sustainable. Not everyone wants to or is able to process their own birds. For all other animals it is fairly easy to find a processing plant near them but not for poultry. This is why we are trying so hard to save the one plant we have because the cost and difficulty in building a new facility is so large that is may not be feasible for a group of small producers to achieve. Wish us well.