It’s time to prepare for Thanksgiving. Harold and Lori Haier and their family have been supplying neighbors, local stores and food stands with holiday turkeys for half a century.
This year they raised 1,800 Broad Breasted White turkeys that they get from a hatchery as poults. They process the adult birds at the farm in their processing plant that they built 28 years ago.
Customers pre-order and come to pick up the turkeys at the farm. Their advertising is purely word of mouth since they’ve been at it so long. They are four miles from the center of Eden, NY, so they are easily accessible.
“Word of mouth is the best advertisement,” said Harold.
A second-generation turkey farmer, Harold is carrying on the tradition of raising turkeys that was started by his father, Harold Haier, who passed away in 1997. He grew up helping his dad with the turkeys. Lori helps out, as does their daughter Emily.
The turkeys are housed in little barns around their six-acre property on the outskirts of town. They comprise 8,000 square feet of protected space with dirt floors. In the past, they’ve had issues with dogs and foxes, but not so much in the last few years.
Turkeys are fed a grain mix purchased from a local mill and ingest no hormones or antibiotics. “They are all natural,” said Harold.
They sell turkeys ranging from 12 to 45 pounds in size. They start raising poults in June for the largest turkeys so they are ready for processing in November. They have five dozen 45-pounders pre-ordered this year. The other poults are started in July and August.
Harold is the seventh of 11 children in his family. “They are all still nearby. They come over and help me process the weekend before Thanksgiving,” Harold said. “We could not do it without family and friends.”
As the turkeys are sold fresh, never frozen, they are kept chilled in a refrigerated truck for customer pick-up.
Gathered from his lifetime of raising turkeys, he maintained, “They are a challenge. Weather makes a big difference.” They are started out under heat, kept at 95º F, to jump-start them as poults. “They don’t like it too cold, like us,” he added.
This year, each staggered order of poults were young enough that the hot weather of July was an asset, not a hindrance, and they fared well.
Harold and his father also started another business together, Haier’s Fire Extinguishers. He has kept on with their tradition of supplying fire extinguishers to farms, industrial complexes, residential homes and factories.
As fire is a farmer’s and homeowner’s nightmare, when asked if he had any tips, Harold said, “Make sure you maintain the equipment and check the fire extinguishers often” and install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.
Meanwhile, he’s off to feed the turkeys.
For more information, access haiersfireextinguishers.com/turkey-farm.
by Laura Rodley