The Devon family focused on providing us with a fresh Christmas turkey
PUBLISHED: 09:00 10 November 2020
Daughter is following in her Dad’s footsteps at a festive firm
With all the uncertainties and upheavals in our lives, Christmas this year is a time to feel warm, cosy and cared for. More than ever it is time to embrace and enjoy a traditional festive season.
Pale Farm lies quietly nestled in the Exe Valley just a few miles from Exeter. Vicky Chamings took over the farm after the death of her father in 2016 and now runs it with husband James.
“I trained as a teacher,” she explained. “But farming is in my blood. I have a severely disabled sister and so it was down to me to carry on the tradition. My father continued working right up until his death.”
As soon as the day-old chicks arrive in early July, they are given the utmost care and attention. Each bird is handled individually and given its first proper drink.
“By bringing them onto the farm in July it allows them to grow to maturity slowly,” explains Vicky. “For us it is about quality not quantity.”
They are given a cereal based, naturally-balanced diet, free from growth promoters and antibiotics.
From six weeks old, once they are feathered up and off the heat, the bronze free-range poults are transferred to their polytunnel barn and then at eight weeks are allowed to forage and feed amongst the wildflower pasture.
“This way they acclimatise to their new surroundings slowly,” explains Vicky.
The Chamings also rear a mixture of white and bronze indoor turkeys within a large and airy barn – again following the same quality principles.
Routine and teamwork is order of the day for the Chamings who not only have the farm to run, but have a three-year old son and 18-month-old twin girls.
“It’s a juggle,” says Vicky, “but one we enjoy and our son is already showing great prowess with the turkeys.”
Vicky leads on the sales and promotional side whereas James (who comes from a farming family in North Devon) takes the lead on caring for them on a daily basis – cleaning, feeding and daily checks.
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Being scientists by training, they are both careful to ensure the correct balance of feed for their turkey’s.
“We practise ad lib feeding but ensure feed is both appropriate for their age and of high quality,” says Vicky. “If we are to produce a premium bird this must be our priority. For a special treat they enjoy the autumn apples – both to eat and play with!”
In the next few years they are looking to move predominantly to free range birds.
“We enjoy rearing free-range turkeys – it feels more natural,” she explained. “And the market is changing.”
Pale Farm has been in the family since 1945 when Vicky’s grandparents sold their pub in London to become farmers in Devon.
“Branded the Cockney farmers, some of their methods were considered unconventional,” says Vicky. “But they had had a smallholding next to the pub and knew what they were doing.”
It was a mixed farm with poultry as well as cattle and pigs.
“My mother, a farmer’s daughter from Sowton near Exeter, began rearing turkeys at the age of 16 for family and friends and loved it,” says Vicky. “When she married, she and my Dad expanded the farm and we were soon raising turkeys for local customers. I have never known life without turkeys.”
“We are passionate about good food, as well as the importance of high welfare and traditional rearing and processing methods,” says James.
To this end all the processing of the turkeys places place on the farm and follows the traditional methods of dry hand plucking and hanging for at least seven days to give maximum flavour and texture.
All the hard work has paid off. In August they won a Great Taste Award from the Guild of Fine Food in London for their free-range bronze turkeys as well as a Gold Award from Taste of the West.
“To know the professionals think our turkeys taste great is wonderful and to receive recognition of the hard work that goes into producing our turkeys makes it particularly rewarding.” says Vicky.
This young and enthusiastic couple understand the central role the turkey plays in our Christmas feast and have gone that extra mile to ensure customers can be reassured that their turkey has been produced to the highest standards.
READY FOR THE BIG DAY
Turkeys can be ordered direct from the farm until 22 December. All turkeys are supplied fresh and oven ready and carefully packaged in boxes with giblets placed separately.
Collection from the farm (20 minutes’ drive from Exeter) on 23 December. Or delivery can be arranged.
White turkeys: a beautiful table appearance with clean skin and subtle flavour. With fuller breasts these are good for those who prefer more breast meat.
Bronze turkeys: a more traditional breed, moist meat and deeper flavour. Good for those who prefer more leg meat.
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