CN-MR-2-Diemand 1by Laura Rodley
What came first, the chicken or the egg? For Wendell, MA residents it was definitely the egg that came first, at the 200 acre Diemand Farm on Mormon Hollow Road, providing eggs for locals and stores since 1936. Currently sisters Anne Diemand-Bucci, Faith Diemand, and their brother Peter Diemand own the farm, selling hand-packed chicken, eggs and free range turkeys all raised with no growth enhancers, additives, hormones or antibiotics. They also sell a vast array of soups and meals to heat up, filling two display refrigerators and five freezers.
All 12 Diemand children were raised on the farm on 125 acres bought by their father Albert Diemand in 1936. He married Elsie in 1940, and later acquired 75 more acres. He raised chickens for eggs and briefly, for meat. After he died in 2000, Faith, Peter and Anne took over the farm. Their mother died in 2007.
All six sisters, including Mary Diemand, Judy Bailey, Elsie Blanchard, and Bertha help out in varying degrees. Brothers Paul, Edward, Albert, Anthony and Joseph work mostly in carpentry, buying wood cut at the Wood-Mizer sawmill Peter recently purchased.
“Faith and I work on the farm full time,” said Anne, who resides at the farm. Sister Mary, retired from her R.N. career at Northampton’s Cooley Dickinson Hospital, works in the kitchen making turkey pot pies, and her own corn relish.
“Mary taught me how to make the crust,” said Anne, of the turkey pot pies that they have been selling for 15 years, a talent Mary gleaned from helping her mother cook big meals.
“I like wrapping the pies, making cookies, making dessert,” said Mary, such as the cakes, pudding, carrot cakes sold at the homey farm-store, open daily during the summer, and closed Sundays December to April. “I love to shop, look for bargains for the farm,” she said.
Store customers tally, “As few as twelve on a very slow day, as many as 50 on a regular day. Thanksgiving, we have lines out the door,” said Anne, who works in their commercial kitchen with four part-timer employees. “I’m probably 75 to 100 percent of the time in the kitchen. Today I went out and did hay.” Haying consists of driving the truck to bring in approximately 1,000 bales, with thunderstorms forecasted, to sell and feed their grass-fed beef during winter.
Diversifying, they sell meat from lambs, and new this year, Boar goats they raised. Some rabbits, goats, sheep, and burros are on hand for children to pet when their parents visit the store. The wool is sent away to be spun into yarn for crocheting or knitting, or sold as blankets and scarves as part of their business.
July’s oppressive 95 degree heat has been a blessing in disguise for turkey chicks ordered. “What’s great is the really small ones, six weeks old, need to be hot,” said Anne. One batch of four to six week old turkeys totals 800. A batch of 1,000 purchased in March are nearing five months. They can huddle under trees for shade on the 10 to 20 acre outdoor turkey range.
March’s batch of 800 females and 200 toms will be processed at the end of August, filling an ongoing 2,000 pound frozen turkey order for University of Massachusetts. “What worked for us was to process them and freeze them for September. It freed up one of my outdoor ranges, not as many turkeys out on range. November is a very busy month,” said Anne. They also have standing orders for Mount Holyoke.
Breast meat is offered ground. Thighs are used for pulled turkey. Legs are pre-cooked and sold at festivals. People request raw turkey necks for their animals. Turkey backs are roasted and simmered in a flavorful vinegar and water bone broth for six hours. Adding vinegar helps leech out nutrients, implemented by Anne three years ago. “It’s supposed to be healthier, much better,” she said.
They annually raise and sell 1600 broiler chicks. “When I was a kid, we raised [broiler chicks],” said Anne. But eventually, she said, her father reverted back to eggs.
Approximately 20 years ago, 70 out of 100 chicks that were bought at one day old started dying after five or six weeks for no apparent reason. Anne brought them for testing to the University of Connecticut. The University determined that the “free feeding” chicks were growing too fast for their internal organs to keep up with their frames’ growth. The solution was, for their first two weeks of life, to take away their food at 4 p.m., letting them keep their water, so their body didn’t outsize its organs.
“There are 1,000 layers coming into production right now. There are 2,500 laying right now, that we will thin out to 2,000,” said Faith.
Working with family can be hard. “Other times it’s great. Rewards outweigh the crap,” said Anne. What does she love best? “Being able to carry on a legacy that my parents started and know that we’re giving real good, good food.”
The future of the farm is in the families’ hands.
Faith sums it up, walking with her grandchildren. “You know, the land does something to me,” she nods. Looking around, you can feel just what she means.
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