The Farm Store has partnered with Hidden Camp Farm in Canajoharie, NY, for many of the last 10 years to provide fresh, pasture-raised turkeys for our customers, so this year, we talked with Daniel King to learn more about the farm.
John and Ruth King moved their family to New York from Lancaster County, PA, in the early 2000s with a dream of operating their own farm. After beginning on rented land, in 2009 they bought a vacant lot and began building out Hidden Camp Farm, starting with a barn for their dairy herd. In 2011, they broadened their focus to also raising corn- and soy-free eggs and chickens.
Over the years, the farm has remained family owned and operated, and has weathered the ups and downs of the market and the learning journey of figuring out the appropriate scale and market for their products. They’ve tried wholesale, retail, direct marketing, and a mix of all. They had a good response for their corn- and soy-free eggs, and so this spring began raising their broiler hens without corn or soy as well.
“We cannot keep up with the demand,” Daniel says. “We’re sold out and won’t be back in stock for another couple of weeks. We didn’t anticipate such high interest but customers are really looking to eat better.”
While Hidden Camp doesn’t go through the process of certifying organic—feeling that it cost too much and made their products too expensive for customers—they follow farming practices that Daniel is proud to say exceeds the standards, not really using any inputs beyond the manure from the animals.
In addition to the year-round operation of dairy and chickens, the King family began seasonally raising turkeys in 2010. At first, John had decided to raise 25 turkeys just for family use, but when a customer told him there would be a local market for fresh turkeys, he crunched some numbers and the next year raised 150 turkeys and 700 the year after. After a couple of years, the family realized they needed to scale back to have a sustainable operation, and now have a more manageable flock size that they offer through wholesale accounts, like the Farm Store.
Daniel told me a little about the life of a turkey on the farm. They start out in the barn because they are sensitive to the temperature and don’t like to be cold, but then move out to a pasture. Most years, the pasture was adjacent to the barn to provide shelter for the birds when needed, but this year, they moved the flock to a pasture with a wood lot that they used for shelter.
“We were quite surprised that that was enough for them,” he says. “When it rained they just went under the trees and that was enough for them.”
When I asked Daniel what keeps a turkey on pasture from flying away, he says the variety raised for meat aren’t good fliers.
“We put a four foot fence around the field, and there’s maybe one or two of the younger ones who will fly up to the top of the fence sometimes,” he says. “But they don’t have good balance and will just topple off.”
To learn more about Hidden Camp Farm, visit their website or follow them on Facebook or Instagram. You can pre-order your fresh holiday turkey now by speaking with a cashier at the register. A $20 deposit is required upon sign up.
~ written by Sushannah Laurange