Talking turkey (they can hear you)

Heritage breed turkeys at Indigo Farm, a Bourbon Red flanked by two Narragansett turkeys

Heritage breed turkeys at Indigo Farm; a Bourbon Red is flanked by two Narragansett turkeys

I’ve seen plenty of wild turkeys in my day, but I’d never been around farm turkeys much until this year. Now that I’m visiting farms across North Carolina for my travel guide “Farm Fresh North Carolina,” I’ve visited several that have turkeys either for fun or for food.

Here’s what I’ve learned. Turkeys are just dang cute. Beautiful, really. They’re curious and very social, with each other and humans. At night, they keep away from predators by roosting in trees. Both their feathers and crazy colorful neck waddles are lovely. (Now if only human “turkey necks” were so attractive…)

Headshot of a Narragansett turkey a heritage breed

That's quite a neck on this Narragansett

Turkeys flocked around Wessel and me in August when we visited Indigo Farms in Calabash, N.C., which is near the coast and the South Carolina state line. Owner Sam Bellamy gave us a tour of his organic family farm, which includes a small flock of heritage turkeys. Heritage breeds are old-time ones that are threatened because of factory farming standardization.

Sam has two breeds, Bourbon Reds, turkeys named for Bourbon County in Kentucky’s Bluegrass region where they originated in the late 1800s, and Narragansett turkeys, named for Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island, where the variety was developed. Those descend from a cross between native Eastern Wild turkeys and the domestic turkeys brought to America by English and European colonists beginning in the 1600s. Now that’s what you’d call a blue-blood turkey. Sam says turkeys have the best hearing and eyesight of all farm animals, but I can’t vouch for that.

Group of young turkeys at Goat Lady Dairy Farm in Climax, NC

A rafter of young turkeys at Goat Lady Dairy in Climax, NC

In visiting all these farms, I have to say that I’m having a harder time justifying my carnivorous ways. Life was so much easier when I had the blinders on. I am still eating meat, but less of it and much of what I do eat now is from local farmers. But, still, could I eat a turkey I gotten to know up close and personal? I doubt it. So I’m still wearing those blinders.

Now’s a good time to tout the wonderful advocacy and education group Farm Sanctuary, which “opposes the slaughter, consumption and commodification of farm animals.” They have an Adopt-a-Turkey program that promotes raising money for saving turkeys instead of spending money on eating them.

Sticker of HokieBird on the car of a Hokie fan

HokieBird sticker on fan's car

On a lighter note, I didn’t mention that I was raised by a Gobbler. My Dad attended Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., where the football team is called the Gobblers (also the Hokies) and the mascot is a giant turkey. During my childhood years, the 1960s and ’70s, the stadium scoreboard had a giant turkey that would light up and gobble loudly whenever Tech scored. Oh how I loved that! Someone needs to tell me why they got rid of that wonderful contraption. Dad (who died in 1997) was such a rabid Hokie fan that when we lived in North Carolina and then Florida, he still subscribed to the Blacksburg newspaper. (No Internet in those days, of course.)

OK, enough turkey talk. Happy Thanksgiving week, all!

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