Birds of a Feather

Happy Thanksgiving!  While our restaurants in the Design District are closed today, the work doesn’t stop for our genuine extended family.  Restaurant Michael Schwartz at The Raleigh is open for business and has a delicious line up for dinner with an “Extra Large” special, thanks to gorgeous heritage turkeys from Farmer Dale Volkert.  Up in Ocoee, Florida, it’s 56° F right now and his Lake Meadow Naturals flock is likely bundled up in the barn today after a brisk morning walk through the farm’s chilly dew-dropped pasture with their four legged friends. For Dale, thoughts of Turkey Day began long ago.

“We’re down to our last 3 live turkeys for sale and 2 of those are spoken for and down to a handful of processed ones,” Dale explains. “We raised both Midget whites and royal palms this year, we stopped raising the burbon reds as people did not like the little brown feathers that escaped the processing plant so we chose white birds.”

The Royal Palm breeders pictured above are behind the farm store, and they will start laying in January for his 2014 turkeys which start to hatch in February.  Next year the mix will be 70% midget whites and 30% royal palms.   As you might expect, heritage breeds do not get as big as commercial ones.

“What really amazes me as so many of the birds you see at the store at cheap prices are 7 to 15 % salt solution,” Dale continues.  “Our turkeys are just that. Turkey!  We think the Chef should start with a perfectly clean food to create their masterpices without added solutions of who knows what. We both know that Michael would never start with something added other than what nature intended.”

Birds of a feather flock together.

As for Dale’s bread and butter – eggs – the new egg grader that arrived last Thanksgiving has been wonderful for his farm’s productivity. In addition to washing and candling, of course they still hand pack all their eggs to insure best product.

“Our newest addition of farm partners is Roger and Peggy from Harvest Moon, just a mile away from us,” Dale shares.  “They raise broilers for us, duck eggs and also just had 40 baby goats the past few weeks one momma with 4 babies. Their regular farm business is produce but have space to raise some extra animals for us.”

There’s also a shiny new Massey tractor. Dale’s dad bought his first Massey 44 tractor on his birthday “more years ago than I care to think about,” he says. They needed a bigger one to handle the duties on the farm so this is in his honor and memory.

Have a delicious day with your family and friends, whether it is latkes or Turkey (or in our case both!), and we will be back on the mainland tomorrow ready to serve you.  This holiday, we give thanks for our flock…. you!