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A Localvore Thanksgiving – Finding your Turkey
Right Food for the Season - Late Fall
Written by Adena Harford   
I’m rejoicing in the fact that I am from New England.  Autumn is our season -  the reds, oranges and yellows are envied and recreated on table-settings all over the country, while we get the real thing.  Thanksgiving is the time to relish in our northern bounty, and that includes the bird.

It’s pretty easy to find a local turkey, but it does take a bit of thinking ahead.  What large celebration does not? (My mom’s already got me penciled in for Christmas.)  If you’re reading this site, you’re probably already  passionate about cooking and eating real, good ingredients. If you need more reason to start the turkey search, here’s why a local turkey rules:
1.Taste. Farmers who are raising smaller flocks of turkeys usually desire to pasture raise them.  They spend the whole summer and fall outdoors munching on real food themselves; bugs, seeds, and fruits they’re finding outside.  You might find that the farmer’s also choose to raise heritage breeds which favor flavor, not necessarily size and growth rate.

2.Organic. As stated above, you can ask if they raised their turkeys on pasture.  Most-likely the meat will be pesticide and antibiotic free – you can’t say the same thing about the Butterball they’re giving away free at Shaw’s.
3. Fresh. You can ask where, when and how your turkey was processed.
4. Supportive of Community. Locally raised turkeys will be more expensive per pound than what you will find at the store, but you know where you’re money is going.  Priceless.
Where to Find a Local Turkey
1. Co-op or local grocery store. Year one I ordered my turkey from City Market in Burlington, VT. They were teaming up with two Vermont farms, Misty Knoll and Stonewood Farm.  You can call and ask your local market if they will be offering local birds. (Note: If you are in the Boston area, City Feed and Supply is now taking orders) 
2. NOFA.The Northeast Organic Farming Association has a website for every New England State (except Maine, sad!)  They list farmer’s markets, CSA’s, organically certified farms and more.
3. Google it.  Search for ‘local [insert state here] turkeys’ or even ‘[state] CSA’s.’ It’s surprising what you can find.  Vermont has many wonderful websites dedicated to bringing good food to good people.  Another example is VAAFM.
4.Ask around. If your grocery store doesn’t get local turkey’s in-store, ask if they know about some local farms. Ask you favorite restaurant, or, if you have a veggie CSA with a farm that does not offer meat, I am sure they know where to get the good stuff.
My final tip is to look NOW (NOTE: original publication of this piece was October 20th, but there are still many local birds to be had!)  Farms have to estimate in the Spring how much demand they will get in the fall, so they’re looking to sell out ahead of time. This year, I have ordered my turkey from Maple Wind Farm in Richmond, VT.  Another good choice is Applecheek Farm in Hyde Park, VT.
To secure my order, the farm requested I send a deposit of $25.  I will pay the rest upon pick-up. Local, organically grown turkeys are usually around $5 per pound, and are at least 10 pounds in size. …and don’t worry you won’t be plucking feathers or chopping off heads. They’re prepared very nicely, usually sealed in plastic.
But if you had to – it might still be worth the effort.
What to do with Your Local Turkey 
This year will be my third turkey attempt, and my third local bird. I’ve been lucky – even my first solo turkey debut was surprisingly painless! (Proving that anyone can do it.)
I searched the internet for the best recipes, even finding one that explained how to fry your turkey whole.  That seemed a bit dangerous, and honestly, we were going to be consuming an exorbitant amount of calories even without our bird deep-fried.
I found a wonderful article that explained that is called ‘brining.’ Brining a turkey involves marinating it for 24 hours in a salty and herb-infused liquid. You can get creative, using any assortment of your favorite fresh herbs, and even cranberry, orange or apple juice combinations.
Here’s mine:

Hard Apple Cider and Herb Brined Turkey



1 fresh local turkey!
3/4 c course salt
Fresh sage, rosemary and thyme (any herbs you like – these are nice, strong savory choices.)
Enough Wood Chuck hard apple cider to cover turkey (you may use non-alcoholic cider, if you wish.)
a few cloves of crushed garlic
Place your bird in a large pot (one that has a cover would be best, because it will sit for a while) and sprinkle it with just a bit of the salt. Also rub the skin with the herbs and garlic, and throw them in the bottom of the pot along with the rest of the salt. Fill the pot with the apple cider, being sure to cover the turkey completely. If you do not have enough cider, you can certainly add some water. Cover and just let the bird sit for up to 24 hours.
Before baking, rinse and pat the turkey dry, then rub the skin with a bit of butter for luck.  Stuff as you wish.  I place more herbs and a few chopped apples inside!
Adena lives outside of Burlington, VT and is passionate about the local food movement.  She is also a yoga teacher and currently studying to be an Ayurvedic Consultant at the Kripalu Center. She loves to cook and believes that the most important thing is to bring awareness into our eating habits (as well as the rest of our lives!) She discusses her journey in her blog Awarenivore.  
PHOTO CREDITS: top; Lara Zelman, bottom; Jane Ward  



  1. I buy local whenever I can, and free range/organic when I have those further options. But it's a bad economy. What advice do you have for folks who just can't afford to get the most ethical bird this holiday season? I took a look at some options on Eat Your Planet today to try to elicit some ideas/feedback, and would love to hear yours.
  2. ...I would say first off, don't feel guilty! Do what you can, and celebrating with your family is the most fun and important part of coming together for a meal. Something you've prepared yourself is already better for the soul and the world than pre-packaged or pre-cooked. Perhaps the turkey is just too much (local turkeys average out to be 50-75 dollars, it's true), but you could buy local cheese, or local sausage for your stuffing, even something as simple as organic green beans.
    A fun local New England staple is cranberries - you could pick up a pound and make your own home-made cranberry sauce, and boast about that ;)
    Turkey-wise, it may not be easy to spend so much on something local, but you can get an organic bird for a bit less at the grocery store - or if you're only feeding a few and want to go local, you could get a local organic chicken for about $20-25, probably at these same farms.

    Hope that helps!
  3. Folks can also find local turkeys at www.mass.gov/massgrown by using the inter-active agri-Google map. Enter your address and find the nearest turkey farm near you!

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