by Elizabeth A. Tomlin
At Hollywood Enterprises near Cooperstown, NY, the end of the year is hectic.
“We are a Central New York farm family who pride ourselves on growing delicious wholesome turkeys for your family’s holiday feast!” remarked Holly Pullis, founder of the turkey producing enterprise.
Holly explained that she actually began the business in 1989 on her family’s Candor, NY dairy farm as a 4-H project when she was only in junior high school. She raised 10 birds that first year with her dad’s encouragement and under his tutelage.
“After learning about the 4-H turkey project, I was really introduced to the poultry industry and taught how to process my own birds by my father, Rob Howland of Candor, NY,” explained Holly. “The farm that he grew up on, in Newark Valley, NY, was a diversified operation, but during his teenage years was a chicken farm. While Dad was in college, my grandfather built a processing plant and my dad learned the techniques and business of poultry processing there.”
“When I started my 4-H project, using my grandfather’s equipment, my father taught my four sisters and I how to kill, dress/clean and package my birds in a manner that provided a clean, quality product to my customers.”
Holly says in addition to teaching her and her sisters the techniques and business end of poultry raising, her dad also passed on his processing equipment.
“While I still have my grandfather’s equipment, they are now family heirloom pieces which we will use as our boys get a little older to teach them about poultry processing.”
Throughout high school and college, her business grew to 180 birds annually, which was applied toward her educational expenses at SUNY Cobleskill and Virginia Tech.
After marrying Jason Pullis of Roedale Farm, and purchasing a small farm property in Lebanon, NY, Holly “introduced Jason to the turkey business and Hollywood Enterprises was born.”
However, due to the demands of a growing family, while each holding down full-time careers, the young couple put the turkey farming business on the back burner.
“In 2012, when we moved back to Roedale Farm — where Jason grew up and is now a partner — our Hollywood Enterprises business was re-established and has flourished into what it is today,” Holly reports.
In 2013, Hollywood Enterprises was reborn with a flock of 75 turkeys.
“We do not breed our own birds. We purchase day-old poults from a hatchery and they are shipped to us via the U.S. Postal Service.”
Upon arrival to the farm, poults are immediately placed in a warm, clean brooder area.
“Throughout the next 14-16 weeks, our turkeys are lovingly raised with great care and attention to their nutritional and comfort needs,” Holly confirmed. “They have free access to fresh water and a balanced diet of corn, wheat, soybeans, vitamins and minerals. As they outgrow their brooder area, for their safety, our turkeys are raised in our barn, with plenty of room to roam freely in a large, well-bedded pen.”
Birds produced are Broad Breasted Whites, which are the most popular breed in the United States.
“This year’s Thanksgiving flock started as 200 poults,” commented Holly.
However, due to some unforeseen circumstances, only 151 birds were processed the weekend before Thanksgiving.
“As farmers, we expect there will be tough years and we take opportunities like this to reevaluate all aspects of our business and how we do things, always wanting to provide the best care to our animals and products to our customers.”
This year the birds weighed 20-30 pounds before processing.
“Our average dressed bird this year was around 19 pounds, which is slightly smaller than the past few years.”
Due to labor and facility restrictions, turkeys are no longer processed on the farm, but are processed at a New York State Ag & Markets Certified Meat Processor.
“We are fortunate to now have had a multi-year relationship with Berkshire View Farm in Hannacroix, NY, who does our processing for us. This allows us to focus our efforts on raising and marketing and has also opened new marketing opportunities for us.”
Holly says this also allows the business to market to retail establishments.
Although historically, Hollywood Enterprises turkeys have been raised and sold as fresh, whole birds targeting the Thanksgiving market, Holly reports that this year the business expanded.
“We are now excited to also offer ground turkey, breast, legs, thighs and wings, so that you may enjoy our minimally processed, wholesome products throughout the year.”
“This is a family business,” Holly said. “While I take the lead on most activities, Jason is involved in every aspect of the business, as his time allows beyond his responsibilities within his family’s dairy farm business. Our sons, Maxwell and Owen help with caring for and feeding the birds from the time they arrive as baby poults to the day they leave as full grown birds. They also help with some of the pick-up and delivery tasks. Our extended family also gets involved with feeding, marketing and deliveries as needed.”
Primary marketing methods include word-of-mouth, farmers markets and social media.
“We are blessed with a customer base that returns year after year and loves to brag about their bird to family and friends. Many of our customers have been with us for several years.”
2017 was their third year participating with Richfield Springs’ Farmers Market, promoting contact with more neighbors and establishing the business as a producer of quality local meat.
They have recently become an active vendor at Whitesboro’s Indoor Winter Farmers Market, which Holly says allows more expansion into Utica.
Social media centers around Hollywood Enterprises’ Facebook business page.
“Today, I try to sharpen my skills, strengthen our business and keep up with what is happening in the local markets and industry through educational pieces and workshops provided by Cornell Cooperative Extension, CADE, SUNY Cobleskill and other local agribusiness organizations.”
Holly admits that turkeys are not easy to raise.
“But we find great joy and fulfillment in our birds and the business that we have built.”
Advice to beginning turkey farmers?
“Our greatest advice to anyone looking to get into the turkey business is the same we would give to someone looking to get into any agricultural business,” said Holly. “Do your research and surround yourself with great mentors. Understand your market, know the other industry partners and resources that you will need — and do not expect to get rich!”