Demand high for fresh local turkeys

Woman standing in front of barn
Susan Lester, market manager for Lester’s Farm Market on Brookfield Road in St. John’s. Amy Fitzpatrick/Kicker

Want a fresh, local holiday bird? Get started early

Amy Fitzpatrick

Lester's Farm parking full of cars
Two days before Thanksgiving Sunday, shoppers fill Lester’s Farm Market’s parking lot to pick up supplies for their family dinners. Amy Fitzpatrick/Kicker

As the “eat local, eat fresh” movement gains popularity, advance planning is key to getting a fresh local turkey for your family’s Thanksgiving or Christmas day feast, according to one local expert.

Lester’s Farm Market in St. John’s is a popular source for locally raised turkeys in the St. John’s area, but you’ll have to get your name on the list well in advance if you want one of these birds to grace your family’s dinner table.

Angela Warren, a music teacher in St. John’s and long-time customer of Lester’s Farm Market, has been coming to get her turkeys for the past decade.

“It’s kind of a tradition to get a fresh turkey,” she said. “There’s nothing like fresh turkey, and local. You want to support the local people, so I come here and get my vegetables and my turkey every year.”

“I wasn’t always buying fresh turkey until I found out that you could get fresh turkey and then I was like, ‘Oh well, let’s try that,’ and really it’s quite different,” Warren said.

Warren was one of about 40 customers picking up her turkey the Friday before the long weekend – another 40 turkeys were expected to be picked up on Saturday.

“It’s really great to see that we can be sustainable as a province and as a city,” she said. “So, when you can support that, you should.”

The early bird gets the turkey

Lester’s Farm Market used to raise its own turkeys in the 1990s and early 2000s but due to changes in regulations and the growth of their vegetable and gardening business they found their resources were being stretched too thin. So now they source their turkeys from another local producer, Shady Brook Farms.

“The demand in local turkeys is always there, but right now we only have 100 turkeys for Thanksgiving,” said Susan Lester, the farm’s market manager, adding that’s all their producer could supply Lester’s with this year due to growing demand.

In past years, Lester’s has sold 300-400 turkeys over Thanksgiving alone.

Lester says Christmas is an even more popular time of year for turkey than Thanksgiving. The farm sells up to 500 turkeys each Christmas season.

“At the end of the day we all want to eat turkey for Christmas dinner,” she said.

To get one of these prized birds, you need to put your name on the order list well in advance. Lester’s Farm Market begins taking orders on Sept. 20 for Thanksgiving turkeys and usually sells out within a week. For Christmas, Lester’s begins taking orders on Dec. 1 and usually sell out in 24 hours.

A lot of turkey

Lester says most people base the choice between fresh or frozen on personal preference and convenience. Place an order for your turkey with a business such as Lester’s Farm Market, and you know your turkey will be waiting for you, and you can pick up veggies at the same time.

It’s a one-stop holiday dinner shop.

“I’m one who really appreciates knowing where my food comes from,” Lester said. “Being born and raised on the farm –  that’s something that I grew up with. It’s great to see that other people that didn’t grow up that way also value the importance of supporting local, fresh food production.”

According to the Turkey Producers of Canada, 2.2 million whole turkeys were purchased in Canada for Thanksgiving in 2017. That’s 31 per cent of all turkeys sold that year. The Food and Agrifoods Agency (FAA) of Newfoundland and Labrador reports that local producers in this province produce approximately 200,000 kilograms of turkey per year.

That’s a lot of turkey.

“You can get everything fresh, closer to home and that definitely means something to some people,” said Lester. “They know where it’s coming from, and that goes a long way. It’s great to see and we’re so appreciative of all the support of our customers.”

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