Watching our turkey grow

When Thanksgiving comes to mind, I think of my family and all of the things I am thankful for having in this life. But the whole time I’m thinking those nice thoughts, what I’m really focused on is the food. Everything, even the thankful thoughts, seems to be centered on that one meal: the roast turkey, the stuffing, the gravy, the potatoes, the cranberries, the pies and more.

As my family started making our own Thanksgiving traditions, one of things we decided was to have a farm-fresh turkey. I grew up on frozen Butterballs (no worries, mom,they were delicious). But I decided that Thanksgiving is probably one of the best times for us to remember the motto “know your food, know your farmer.” It’s important to us that our kids learn from the start that turkeys come from a farm, not a freezer case at the grocery store.

In the season of the city farmer’s markets, we try to purchase a lot of our food there. One of our favorite’s is the Green City Market, which is where we found Meadow Haven Farm, the owner of this year’s (and last years) Thanksgiving turkey, at least until Wednesday when I pick it up. Last year, the beautiful, free-range, organic poults grew so big that I had to figure out how to use a lot of turkey.

A few years ago, we visited a dairy farm in Wisconsin. The farm had just received their poults, and we decided to let Gabriella and Nicholas pick out our Thanksgiving turkey. At age four, my daughter could completely understand what this was all about, because we explained it to her in great detail-and she was fine with it. I might even say she was excited about it. They picked the smallest turkey that happened to be a hen, and promptly named her “Isabelle.” So, for the next few months, Isabelle was the talk of our house. Unfortunately, since she was in Wisconsin, we couldn’t witness her growth in person, but the farmer was kind enough to send us pictures of Isabelle as she grew. About two days prior to when we were scheduled to pick up Isabelle; my phone rang and panic set in. Isabelle, having always been the smallest of the bunch, turned out to be a lot of feathers and fluff-weighing in at about 8 pounds after processing. The farmer apologized, and offered to swap a larger turkey and not tell our kids. In the end we decided to take Isabelle, and an additional larger turkey, and all was well. Nobody cried at the Thanksgiving dinner table, and we talked about how nice it was that we knew exactly where she’d been living and what she’d been eating since we saw her.

Now, I’m not ready to let my kids watch the turkeys get slaughtered. But someday, when they are much older we will. I’m not trying to turn them into vegetarians, and can’t imagine they would want to give up bacon and sausage even if they watched a pig get slaughtered. Sometimes, protecting our children from things that are real and part of life seems strange to me. Read Charlotte’s Web, and help them understand that many pigs like Wilbur provide our food, and that Charlotte dying is part of the circle of life.

So this Thanksgiving, why not let your kids know their food and know their farmer? Find some farm-fresh produce, or order a farm-fresh turkey, or talk about where our most delicious meal every year comes from: the farm. Then remind them that we should be thankful for our family and friends, and the farmers that help us enjoy this delicious meal: Thanksgiving dinner.

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