The organic turkey farmer


Juliet starred in this article in The Telegraph today.
Interview by Hattie Ellis. Photograph by Brijesh Patel.

We run the farm on the principle of working with nature. It’s through observing the birds’ behaviour that every year we add another ingredient to what we do.

Turkeys are so sociable, they love human beings. They immediately come towards you. They have three different calls and when I mimic their ‘Hello, how are you?’ voice they all make it back.

Turkeys are omnivores. It’s important that they get out there and eat worms and so on. You see them chase insects. They eat a lot of our grain from the farm and have unlimited green stuff because they are good foragers. Their feed has no genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in it – there’s a terrible problem with GMOs in animal feed.

One of the real differences in organic meat is animal welfare. Our animals have more space, more diversity in their food, they are slower growing and have very little stress, so they are healthy.

When you slaughter poultry you use a lot of water and we purify it through a reed bed system. The water at the end is better than when it came out of the ground because it doesn’t contain huge amounts of nitrogen that has been put into the land by the farmers around us.

We need to get much better at stretching the meals with a bird. We sell bags of bones for soup – people can’t get enough of them. The stock from a heritage turkey is superb because the quality of the bones is stronger and it makes for more flavour.

My garden is the most productive bit of the farm. We can produce about 10 tons of food off an acre of land whereas you produce 3-5 tons off a one-acre wheat field. Plus, if you eat vegetables in season they are at their optimal nutritional quality. They cook beautifully and taste wonderful. The cold weather sets up the sugars in root vegetables and this is what makes them so tasty. It doesn’t matter if you are in the countryside or the city, you can grow something to eat. I’d like to see land around council estates – and there’s a lot of it – start producing vegetables.

The most magical time we spend together as a family in the whole year is preparing the food for Christmas. People will bend over backwards to get the best ingredients for this festival. They do not want to open tins; they want to do something together.

We believe in the Slow Food movement with its cry for ‘good, clean and fair’. It supports local growers and it promotes eating together. Its founder, Carlo Petrini, says we’re all co-producers, we’re all part of the system. That’s why the writer and conservationist Wendell Berry says, ‘Eating is an agricultural act.’

I feel passionately that if you support your local community and your local farmers and growers, your farmers’ market and local shops, it is very good for your self-esteem; you can see you are making a difference.

Buying a Sheepdrove Turkey

Christmas turkeys, hampers and more
are available from the Sheepdrove Shop on the web, or the two family butchers shops at London and Bristol. Our attentive staff will also gladly take your order on the phone – please call 01488 674727


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