By Ron Eichner
Hi folks, October is the first full month of fall, putting autumn into full swing. Each year, I hope for late frosts so the harvesting can continue as long as possible. Our two flocks of farm-raised turkeys are having the time of their lives eating, drinking, and roosting. With daylight getting minutes shorter each day, the month finishes very scary and spooky, with Halloween closing out October.
October’s full moon is known as the Hunter’s Moon, which arrives on Saturday, October 28. Those of us that archery hunt for deer know that late October is the rut period of bucks, and the deer herds get active, for the bucks are chasing after the breedable does.
In October, our valued farm customers stop in our farm market and "talk turkey." They tell us the turkey weight they need for Thanksgiving. I want to share our family history of raising turkeys and farming.
Our grandfather, Mike Eichner, truly defined our family's work ethic. He and our grandmother, Teresa, worked full-time for the Divine Providence nuns, running their diversified farm. After 20 years, our grandmother put her foot down and told him only to work one full-time position, and home, he stayed!
We have been raising our day-old turkey poults for 20 weeks, the same way for 85 years. The only thing that has changed has been modifying our poultry feed as we seek to add natural ingredients to fortify our poultry diets. Grandpap set the bar high in nurturing his turkey flocks, and it shortened the second and third-generation learning curve.
As the third-generation family member raising our seasonal turkeys, my first year at the helm in 2001 was challenging. I had so much adversity that year I told my dad, Dick, that I may have to sleep with the turkeys, but I will get it all to Grandpap's level and proudly say, these are my girls!"
Our two flocks of day-old turkey poults come the second week of July and the third week of August each year. When they arrive, they're given three swallows of vitamin electrolytes water, which they get for three weeks and slide into the nursery with care. All turkey poults need a Mother Hen to survive and as a third-generation farmer that is my role for half a day, six months each year.
After two weeks, we slowly lower the temperatures until their fourth or fifth week. They get turned out in the large turkey pens. The turkey's feed is all-natural, with plant-based proteins, vitamins, minerals, probiotics, and essential oils to support a healthy immune system without antibiotics. Unlike chickens, turkeys want to follow me around and are always ready to greet me whenever I enter their pens. Some people have said that we inhumanely raise the turkeys in the pens and they should be free-ranged out in the fields. Free-range only benefits natural predators like cats, dogs, foxes, coyotes, fishers, raccoons, hawks, and even bald eagles. The number one poultry predator in the eastern United States is the bald eagle, our national bird.
Grandpap had a simple rule: You need good fortified feed to have healthy, happy turkeys and keep their triangle as short as possible. The turkey triangle is all the turkey wants: feed, water, and a place to roost, and keeping the three as close as possible, and you get happy turkeys. I always echo to our two flocks of turkeys "the joy they will bring to the holiday tables."
Then, the turkeys are processed for the holiday on the Friday and Saturday before Thanksgiving with the help of 24 friends and family members. Without their help, I am out of the turkey business. This is why I said turkeys have 20 weeks of turkey bliss and one bad day.
October is time for pumpkins, gourds, and corn stalks; our farm can be a destination. If you get a chance, a friend of mine and a great customer, Carrie Triko, has the Haunted Hillview Manor in New Castle. Carrie and her staff do a great job. If you have haunted needs, travel to New Castle.
Oktoberfest is 16 days of festivities in Munich, Germany. Over six million gather to celebrate each year, and it's the largest and grandest folk festival in the world. Half-roasted chickens are the most popular item during Oktoberfest, and we offer four-pound roasting chickens year-round if you want to duplicate the festival experience.
Our farm Oktoberfest, will be in full gear. Our homemade bratwurst and fermented sauerkraut are a great combination, along with our six types of lean pork sausages and homemade cookies by the dozen. Our homegrown vegetables, butter, and sugar-sweet corn are still available, so our farm-to-your-table is as good as it gets. We have pumpkins in many sizes, colorful gourds, and corn stalks ready for pickup.
Feel free to stop by Eichner's Whole Farm and Greenhouses at 285 Richard Road in Wexford. Bring a friend and be a friend and get "the rest of the story."