Juliet Holt-Wilson- Monmouthshire Turkeys
Meet Juliet Holt-Wilson, one of many organic farmers working hard this Christmas to put food as it should be on our tables.
In her case, it's bronze turkeys; a slow-growing breed raised to the highest welfare-standards at Monmouthshire Turkeys, to the highest free-range & organic standards. We sat down with Juliet ahead of the busy Christmas season to talk turkey, finding out a little more about life on the farm, and why she chooses organic.
Tell us about how you got started...
My husband Tom and I moved to the farm with our young family five years ago, and have become increasingly involved ever since. While Tom helps during the busy Christmas period, it’s mostly Caroline and myself who do the day to day farming. A mother and daughter-in-law team is a bit unusual, let alone the fact that we're women farmers, but it works well for us.
Where do you sell most of your turkeys?
While some turkeys are sent out by courier or collected at local farmers' markets, the majority of our 500 birds are collected from the farm. Some customers have been coming for over twenty years to pick up their Christmas turkey! Lately, we've employed our friendly alpacas in the front field to greet people as they arrive. (Our not-so-friendly pair are very effective guards for our flock, but best kept a bit further away.)
So what's different about raising organic turkeys?
We only rear bronze turkeys organically. This slow growing breed means the birds can thrive without being propped up by antibiotics. Their environment is also key to their health, with lots of space indoors and out.
During the day, the turkeys are roaming the fields, foraging for food and pecking around the trees and hedges - under the watchful eye of our naughtier alpacas. We sow a patch of peas, barley and wildflowers to provide cover for the young chicks as they first emerge from the sheds, and a later crop for them to forage in the autumn.
Then the turkeys are brought in with the help of our sheepdog, Blue, to sleep in airy barns with plenty of places to roost. By giving the birds more space inside and the freedom to roam outside, we no longer have to protect the turkeys from each other. So no beak trimming or removing their snoods.
The result is a turkey which has the time to develop its unique game-y flavour. We then prepare the birds traditionally. They are game hung to make the most of their flavour and improve texture. It’s a labour intensive process that's difficult to do on a large scale.
How does your organic certification affect the way you raise your turkeys?
Our Soil Association certification, not only governs how we treat and feed the turkeys, but also confirms our sustainable approach to the whole farm. The turkeys are fed GM-free organic grain and are not routinely given antibiotics. We have not used chemical fertilisers or pesticides on our fields for twenty years. The farm is teeming with wildlife and wildflowers, which is enjoyable for us and the turkeys.
Our organic certification also governs our on-farm processing facilities and our packaging materials. The entire process from the way we rear, process and present our turkeys is scrutinised in order to reduce harmful chemicals and promote sustainability.