Talking turkey at McEnroe Organic Farm

Posted: Wednesday, November 11, 2015 12:30 am
By Tessa Edick
For Columbia-Greene Media

 

My farmer told me a secret and I’ll share it with you: “The taste of our pasture raised farm fresh organic turkey you won’t find in any store,” explained Erich McEnroe. So run to the farm.

 

It’s the most delectable time of the year to eat local. Skip the supermarket scouting for cheap food that cheats your family’s health and visit the farm to stock the pantry this holiday. You’ll feast on real food and wholesome goodness that tastes delicious and guarantees second helpings.

 

Thanksgiving is a great time to show your gratitude to farmers that work hard to feed you so well year round by supporting family farms like McEnroe Organic Farm in the Hudson River Valley in Millerton.

 

As legacy goes, Ray McEnroe had three sons and the McEnroe original family farm dates a century back having been located in Amenia. The patriarch made a living in real estate and harvested iron ore at the time on family land.

 

Ray McEnroe II was a progressive dairy farmer and invested in a herd in 1951 where the Millerton farmland is today. His son, Ray McEnroe III, grew up farming and friends with Ronny Osofsky of Ronnybrook Farm. The two of them have colorful stories about “million dollar cows” sold at the Madison Square Garden Dairy Sale back when folks still invested in agriculture as the real future.

 

In the late 1980s, Douglas Durst bought 68 acres of land from Ray McEnroe III and launched a soil business with an elevated vision of compost as an alternative to landfill in years to come. This intrigued McEnroe III and he partnered with Durst and it evolved from there.

 

Today, they continue to grow the business and produce high quality organic soil and compost — making dirt look good and feeding you better from it too from New York City organic food waste.

 

I visited my free-range white broad breasted turkey a few weeks back at McEnroe Organic Farm and decided having a relationship with your farmer is vital to a perfect meal. So I put my order in for a fresh organic bird for this Thanksgiving and will take his mom Sharon McEnroe’s advice.

 

“Just salt and pepper and don’t stuff the turkey. Cook the stuffing separately with McEnroe Organic sausage,” she said — a recipe they will whip up for you in the market café with dozens of other farm-fresh organic offerings you can order in advance and even pick up Thanksgiving day fully cooked. What’s not to love?

 

Since 1621, when the pilgrims arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts, tradition dictates that turkey is the centerpiece of this celebratory day of harvest, abundance, freedom and gratitude. And a turkey from McEnroe family farm will make your family and friends grateful too. So I wanted to follow my turkey from farm to my table to inspire you to buy one as well.

 

Baby turkeys, or “poults,” begin arriving to the farm mid-June through the end of July (that’s how you get pound variation; the average being 16-20 pounds, but ranging from 10-30 pounds for few or feasts) when they are 1 year old from a family-owned hatchery in Pennsylvania.

 

They start summer life in kiddie pools for two weeks, which are elevated on tables so they are easier to maintain and the edges stay round so the poults don’t huddle and suffocate. They live under heat lamps at 90-95 degrees to keep them warm and happy. They then are sorted into groups and live in the barn for two to seven weeks until they are weaned off the heat lamps as their feather coats develop. Then they roam pasture outside on the farm and grow strong for four months in the fields in moveable pens feeding on organic alfalfa, which provides protein and roughage. They rotate every 10 days on different fields grazing on forage and eating less grain to grow at a better rate and naturally fertilize the fields for next year’s grain crops (typically corn, which is a nitrogen dependent crop). This makes the turkey a dual purpose animal for fertilization and meat sales.

 

When it finally gets cold, at night they move inside and gain all of their juicy weight in the last month. At McEnroe’s Organic Farm these turkeys sleep comfortably in cattle trailers from dusk til dawn to avoid predators and stay safe from any heavy rain.

 

Reservations for the birds start on Labor Day and with a limited amount available you have to be sure to get your order in soon.

 

Erich McEnroe is one of five brothers who decided to heed the calling to the land as Ray McEnroe III raises his replacement — the next generation to run the farm. Erich works alongside his dad on this 1,200-acre organic farm raising livestock of pig, cattle and lamb that are free range and grass fed on 400 acres, as well as chicken and turkeys that are, of course, seasonal.

 

On 75 more acres this family farm produces the most flavorful organic tomato that they also preserve (lucky for us) as organic tomato sauce, juice and salsa you can enjoy all year.

 

Turkeys were Erich’s college project in an animal husbandry class and he has been tending to the flocks for 12 years. He cares for all of the animals every morning and is smiling every time I see him. Life on the farm at McEnroe’s indeed delivers happiness and that’s the good ole fashioned nutrition your body experiences when you eat from their family farm.

 

Thanksgiving is a time when the McEnroe family “all comes home and we give the employees the day off; all the brothers help with the chores at the farm since they live far away and like to be involved. And we play football in the afternoon,” Erich said.

 

Their holiday is an indulgence of chicken liver paté (an heirloom recipe passed down from mom and grandmother Barb), organic turkey and lots of wine. The family prepares food for about 20 people and they eat around 4 p.m. It’s a natural time to celebrate harvest and wind down the season.

 

I’m in. And only have two questions: Am I invited? And why wouldn’t everyone buy a local turkey fresh from the McEnroe Organic Farm this Thanksgiving?

 

So get your order in soon for prepared sides and gourmet homemade pies; they even deliver to New York City earlier Thanksgiving week. (Editor’s Note: They are no longer taking turkey orders for the season.)

 

So if you ate today, thank a farmer and on Thanksgiving this year, show your gratitude by shopping local at a family farm like McEnroe Organic Farm. Your family and friends will thank you too. FarmOn!

 

McEnroe Organic Farm, open seven days a week, is located at 5409 Route 22 in Millerton. Call 518-789-4191, email market@mcenroefarm.com or visit www.mcenroeorganicfarm.com/.

 

To contact Tessa Edick, email tessa@farmonfoundation.org. Follower her on Twitter @FarmOnFarmOn.

 

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