Earlier this week I got an email from a friend and former co-worker that put a huge smile on my face and filled me with an overwhelming sense of thankfulness. A year or so ago she contacted me saying that she was interested in starting a farm on a little bit of land around her house in Guilford, CT. She wanted to raise some animals to then sell for meat. I encouraged her and tried to help out with a few ideas and contacts, but then things got busy and haven't been able to check in much. So, when I received an email informing me that she had raised her first full flock of Turkeys for this Thanksgiving and offering me one as a gift for my help (as small as it was), I was incredibly touched and happy.
The Farm is called Stonewell Homestead and Elysa and Bill Bryant are the farmers. Elysa still has her day job at Yale, but Bill tends the animals full-time and Elysa is part of a women's farming group where she learns about holistic land use and sustainable farming and animal rearing practices. The group is supported by a USDA grant through Holistic Management International, a group that draws it's teachings from the natural environment.
On the Monday before Thanksgiving Bill drove the turkeys to a USDA certified slaughter house in New Hampshire that is known for having the most humane animal handling and slaughter practices (there is no USDA certified slaughter house in CT). Elysa has learned how to slaughter chickens herself, which is not an easy thing to do. But, handling a large turkey is even harder, and she didn't feel ready to take on that large a task in their first year.
I know for some people using the words "humane" and "slaughter" in the same sentence is an oxymoron, but for those of us who chose to eat meat, it is a reality. What I hope and strive for is that the animals that I eat and that I feed to others have had a good life; that they have seen the sky on a regular basis and eaten the diet that nature intended them to; and then when it is time for them to die that it is done quickly and without unnecessary trauma. The true story of Thanksgiving is one of life and one of death, and it is just as important that we remember or even re-learn the history of our holidays as it is that we learn where our food really comes from. In this case, our holiday bird came from a few miles away in a friend's backyard, which is virtually 1,000 miles from a commercial feed lot, and for that we were all thankful.