Ask most folks what they’re serving for their holiday meal, and odds are it will be turkey. In fact, across the U.S., it’s estimated that over 46 million turkeys will be consumed on Thanksgiving, and 22 million more on Christmas.
While a frozen bird will do, it’s the locally sourced turkey that is capturing Marylanders’ attention. “It’s important to have a close connection to where your food comes from, because the closer you source your food the more food security you have and control over the quality of the food you are eating,” says Andrea Schmidt of The Farm at Glen Mary.
Andrea and her husband, Christian, farm 200 acres in St. Mary’s County that has been in the Schmidt family since 1979. Throughout the year, they raise grass-fed beef, pastured pigs and pastured chickens, lamb, goat and, this time of the year, turkey. “We raise anywhere from 50 to 75 turkeys only for the holidays. We raise them humanely, provide them with freshly ground Non-GMO feed and raise them on the land,” Andrea says.
For Thanksgiving, The Farm at Glen Mary raises white broad breasted turkeys. Once the baby turkeys, called poults, arrive at the farm, they are put in a brooder for six weeks. The brooder provides a warm place at temperatures beginning at 95 to 100 degrees and then lowered as the poults become stronger and grow their feathers. At this point, they are ready to be moved to the grass in a mobile pen for an additional four weeks. After that, they are placed in an open range system where portable electric fencing is moved weekly. Here they can roam, live and feed together as a flock.
The Schmidts have noticed more interest in local products due to the pandemic. “In the beginning, people couldn’t find meat in the grocery stores so they started looking local and, thankfully, we have the inventory to provide for our community,” Christian says. “Once people taste the difference and get to experience where their food comes from, they want to support their local farms and want to provide the best for their families.”
The experience of selecting a turkey is also a bit different. “You come to the place the bird was raised and processed. You have full transparency of the product you are buying,” Andrea says. “When you buy from a grocery store, you don’t have the option to ask the farmer where that bird was raised, how long it’s been frozen or what it’s been fed.”
She adds that, to her, buying locally means that people in your own community help by supporting and growing local business so that farms will be here for them in the future.
Interested in buying a farm-fresh turkey for your holiday meal? You can search for farms that offer them at Southern Maryland Meats and Maryland’s Best. And, for delicious recipes, check out the National Turkey Federation’s Eat Turkey.