Turkeys in Chester County?
Earlier this month I passed through my home town in Connecticut on my way to a conference. My travels took me to the town library in Hamden, where I was startled to see two male wild turkeys roaming through the senior citizens housing development adjacent to the library.
Curious, I followed the pair as they wandered about, poking here and there, looking for food. I kept a safe distance — the birds were the most enormous turkeys I’ve ever seen, easily three feet tall (hip height on me), male turkeys have a reputation for being “ill-tempered” and aggressive, and I was sure they could run faster than I.
I’ve seen flocks of female wild turkeys (hens) and their young (poults) before, but this was my first sighting of mature toms. Their plumage was surprisingly beautiful, glossy feathers of russet and brown — very autumnal. I could see why Benjamin Franklin suggested the wild turkey as the emblem for the United States. But while the hens are diminutive and nonthreatening-looking, these huge toms looked, well, prehistoric, dinosaur-like, a little scary.
Call a male turkey a “tom” or a “gobbler,” it’s still the same native bird: Meleagris gallopavo. The bird got its start as a tabletop item in 1511, when the Spanish government ordered Miguel de Passamonte, chief treasurer of the West Indies, to deliver ten turkeys — five males and five females — to Seville.
It was in that way that one of our most iconic native birds was named by Europeans. As Diana Wells notes in 100 Birds and How They Got Their Names, “In the days when geography was a little vague, any rare bird imported from a far-away place, like Turkey, was called a turkey.”
Ann Lane, Program Director of the Chester County Agricultural Development Council, sent me a list of turkey farmers in our county. They are taking orders now for fresh turkeys for the holidays.
• Canter Hill Farm, 2138 Valley Hill Road, Malvern (http:// www.canterhillfarm.org/)
• Howe Turkey Farm, 152 Culbertson Run Road, Downingtown (http://howeturkeyfarm. com/)
• Wynnorr Farm, 1631 E Street Road, Glen Mills (http:// strattonsfarm.net/)
• Loag’s Corner Turkey Farm, 590 N Manor Road, Elverson. (No website, call 610-286-6084.)
Says Lane, “Not only will buying a locally raised turkey keep more of your dollar in your community by supporting a local business, but it also means getting a fresh bird, not one that’s been sitting in a freezer for months. An integral part of their communities, these farmers take pride in providing their