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WE ALL know how busy this time of year gets. Whether its making sure those last minute gifts are sorted and wrapped or even just arranging your table plan for the big day.
But spare a thought for farmer Nicki Thomas. She’s preparing and selling hundreds of birds this year, many which will end up on the table come Christmas Day.
Nicki owns and runs Lewes based Holmansbridge Farm and it’s a real family affair. It was started by her husband’s great, great grandfather more than 150 years ago.
Sadly her husband died in a car crash two years ago but wanting to keep the family business going, Nicky picked up the reins.
“It certainly has had its ups and downs because I had worked with him for years on the farm but becoming responsible for it was a whole different ball game. My children all help me out but they are very young. They certainly enjoy the busy time on the farm in the run-up to Christmas.”
Nicki who’s only other job was working in a mobile phone store, admitted she does get some strange looks when people ask her what she does for a living.
“I don’t think many people associate the job with a female. People would never have guessed I was a turkey farmer.”
The farm has a group of loyal customers who have been buying its bronze and white turkeys for the past three generations.
Nicki, 42, saidshe doesn’t know anyone else in the local area that uses their method but she would love more people to know what this method is.
She said: “The farm buys in chicks in June and keeps them in heated enclosures for the first month before putting them in some open-sided pole barns while they get a bit bigger. Then we let them out for free-range.”
The turkeys are fed on a balanced cereal diet rich in oats that contains no growth promoting additives until December.
After being reared for six months they are dispatched in December and this has been the family’s preferred method for over 80 years.
She added: “There is not a nice way of saying it, but in December we obviously kill them, pluck them here on the farm so they don’t get moved off anywhere and ideally sell most of them in the farm shop.”
Nicki believes the farm’s method is the best because “It’s all done by hand, it’s all hand plucked we haven’t got any machinery here that does it.
“The old ways are always the best. Using machinery means a lot of meat can get bruised. Doing it by hand makes it a lot more careful and better. “
As we near Christmas, she admitted that it’s a manic time for the shop which sells around 400 turkeys at this time of year.
There are two different types of turkey – the traditional white turkey and a bronze turkey.
But what’s the difference?
“Some people say the bronze turkey has a slightly more gamey taste and it is meant to be a little bit more flavoursome,” explained Nicki.
She also gave some of her top tips for cooking on the big day.
“I keep it wrapped in tin foil to start off, cook it at 175 degrees Fahrenheit and then towards the end of the cooking I take the tin foil off just to brown it nicely.
“Then it’s very important to leave it to rest for at least half an hour before carving.”
The business employs three full-time workers in the butchers’ shop.
It also has pluckers who are seasonal workers who come in for a week in December.
The farm is located in Townlittleworth Road andis open Sunday to Monday, 10am to 4pm, Tuesday to Friday, 9am to 6pm and Saturday 9am to 5pm.
Nicki added how she would love to see many more new faces buy from her shop this December, so they can enjoy their Christmas lunch as much she and her family does.
Holmansbridge has 1,800 turkeys currently on the farm and the ones not sold in the shop are sold to local butchers. Every year one is given to charity.
The charity this year is First Base.
First Base offers a range of services to support people who are sleeping rough or insecurely housed in Brighton and Hove, to get off the streets, start realising their aspirations through work, learning and leisure and find a place they can call home.
Source: The Argus