|Producer of the Month: Stonewood Farm|
Family. This was an ever-present theme as we walked around the grounds of Stonewood Farm. Paul and Frances Stone have owned the land since the 1970’s and their son Peter and daughter-in-law Siegrid own the turkey farm on the same land. Year round, many family members are helping to feed and package turkeys. Frances authored a cook book and designed the farm’s logo. Peter and Siegrid also employ many locals and their families throughout the year. It was amazing to see how this farm and business are preserving the land, providing our families with high quality food and growing a locally owned business.
It all started back in the 1970’s when Paul & Frances Stone lived near Leesburg, Virginia and dreamed of owning a farm. Before the dream was actualized they took their family to live in the Philippines with the Peace Corps, including their six year old son, Peter, who now lives on the land and owns the turkey farm. After their time in the Philippines, Paul and the family moved back to Virginia and then spent some time in upstate New York while he looked for farmland. He found a dairy farm in Orwell, VT and bought it in 1976 because of the reasonable price for 600 acres. Since then their land has expanded to 800 acres. The dairy business was successful for the family for almost a dozen years, but then as the commodity price of milk started to decline they knew it was time to get into something new. While in Vermont, Paul learned that turkey farming had a rich history here dating back to when they would walk the turkeys to Boston from Vermont in the 1800’s. This history along with a need in our region for fresh, well-raised turkeys drove Paul and Peter to shift from dairy to turkeys. So in 1987 they started with 80 turkeys and by 1989 the dairy cows were sold off and they went full steam ahead on turkey farming. It is amazing to note the growth of their farm from 1,300 turkeys in 1988 to 30,000+ turkeys this year. They even have a processing plant on the farm which is USDA approved and allows them to adhere to the highest standards.
Our guides for our tour of the Farm were Aleks Martin and Peter Stone. Aleks is the lead on sales and marketing for Stonewood Farm. She works directly with stores taking and fulfilling orders, handles marketing and also works in the processing facility. She loves working for Stonewood Farm and is also a practicing massage therapist in Orwell. Her family at one time lived in one of the houses on the farm and her 13 year-old daughter has helped at the farm in many capacities. Peter is the owner of Stonewood Farm and does many different jobs on the farm. He loves his job because of the variety of work and because he can be close to his family. Whether he is feeding and supporting his turkeys, helping to process the turkeys, or fixing machinery and tractors, he loves his life on the farm. In addition to the turkey farm they also grow hay on their 800 acres and sell large amounts throughout the year. Peter can often be found on tractors haying and enjoying the outdoors.
When asked how Peter likes to cook his turkey he said that he will select the biggest turkey he can grow and then cook it at 325 degrees with a little butter. It’s his favorite way to prepare a turkey year round. Aleks loves eating turkey in any way that you would cook ground beef: tacos, chili, or even spaghetti sauce. In fact she stated that adding Stonewood’s Sweet Italian Sausage to spaghetti sauce with ziti is particularly delicious and great for a party.
We had read in the Stonewood Farm materials that Paul (Grandpa Stone) touted that their turkeys receive “just plenty of Vermont air, cold nights, good feed and tender loving care on our family farm.” Upon our tour of the farm Matt (butcher at BFC) and I found happy turkeys with plenty of space to roam and access to lots of fresh Vermont air. Aleks shared that Peter and Paul meet with a nutritionist yearly and have made a special vegetarian feed with only whole grains for the turkeys. They do not use antibiotics, hormones, or animal by-products in the feed. They also obtain the feed locally from a company in Middlebury. Stonewood Farm turkeys live longer than turkeys living at a conventional turkey farm. From May until the fall time the turkeys have enough space to roam and live in a clean and bedded area while eating quality vegetarian food and are treated with the utmost respect. In addition they are naturally self-basting in the oven because of the quality feed and lifespan, which allow them to put on a bit more fat. There are not many self-basting turkeys on the market mostly because farms do not focus on quality food and longer life spans. Therefore conventional turkey farms must inject the turkey with solutions to support flavor and tenderness after cooking. This was eye-opening for Matt and me, to learn that many other grocery store turkeys are not what you think they are on the Thanksgiving table. The Stonewood Farm turkeys are exemplary in terms of raising the turkeys with care, which in turn delivers a flavor and tenderness unique to this Vermont family farm and business. The turkeys will arrive at the Co-op on November 18th and 21st.
Come visit the folks from Stonewood Farm on Thursday, November 10, 4-6pm, and taste their turkey products!