Our family farm is situated high up in the Cairngnorms National Park in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. It is a hill farm, 1050 feet above sea level and only 12 miles from the Lecht Ski Centre. Our location makes the growing seasons short and limits our land use to mainly cattle and sheep farming. We also grow some barley to feed our cattle during the winter and use the straw as bedding. Whilst, it might seem we live in the middle of nowhere, we are only half an hour’s drive to our nearest villages of Ballater, Alford, Aboyne, Tarland, Tomintoul and Braemar.
We took on the family farm in 2016 from Ian’s parents, the transition period was long and difficult. We had to invest heavily in increasing our core stock, quadrupling the sheep numbers, increasing cow numbers and adding seasonal heifers to our business. Our core business is 600 breeding ewes, 80 cows, 30 seasonal heifers and now 200 turkeys. Being tenant farmers, we needed to diversify our business using the assets we already had on the farm. In 2017 we invested into two polytunnels to lamb our sheep inside, however these were only being used for 1 month of the year. So we came up with the idea of using these assets to diversify the farm. One idea was pig farming but that would have meant a lot of expensive concreting and the other was turkey farming. After researching turkey farming, we discovered that there were no other turkey farms within an hours drive, so fingers crossed we have discovered a niche in the market!
Being new to the turkey farming industry, we wanted to join the TFTA (Traditional Farm-fresh Turkey Association) recognised on social media as the Golden Turkey Farmers, to provide support, a platform to share our knowledge with others and to learn from other Golden Turkey farmers who similarly are passionate about producing the best turkeys for Christmas!
So Ledmacoy Turkeys was born. We want to provide our customers with a farm to fork experience. We post regularly on social media, so people can see the development of our turkeys and know that they are cared for to the highest welfare standards. We also post about our farming life throughout the seasons – lambing time, silage time, and harvesting. Our aim is to be transparent; we live in an age where people are becoming increasingly interested in food provenance.
I really enjoy getting stuck in with the turkeys. It’s great that Ian and I have learnt all about turkey farming together, instead of me just learning from him about sheep/beef farming methods as I’m from a non-farming background. Our children’s favourite time of the year is when the day old poults arrive and they spend a lot of time giving them extra cuddles. They get less interested as they get older, when they start pecking everything; then they start asking which one is going to be for their Christmas dinner!!
I really enjoy the customer service element of my job; I want to provide an amazing customer service and we go the extra mile for our customers. About two-thirds of our customers collect their turkeys from the farm at Christmas, we offer mulled wine and shortbread and they can have their picture taken with “Bob” our giant silage bale turkey! We want to provide an experience, which make people want to come back to us. I always ask and welcome any feedback our customers have and my aim is to learn and improve each year.
Living in a rural area, we like to promote our neighbouring businesses that will also benefit from having people popping into their premises once they have collected their turkey. We have a great local shop, coffee shop and opened this year a fab bothy bar, which will all entice people to collect their turkey from the farm. We’ve had people coming from Aberdeen an hour’s drive, just to collect a turkey from us. We also provide a free delivery service to our nearest villages within half an hours drive, where we meet customers at the main village car park.
This year we are focusing on attending local farmer markets in our free delivery village areas and a local Christmas Lights Festival.
We plan on keeping our flock of 200 turkeys for a few years, until we have developed brand recognition and are more well-known in the area. We are also researching creating our own branded cranberry and redcurrant jellies.
We rear bronze turkey breeds, which are known for their superior taste and flavour, slowly grown using traditional farming methods. By using traditional farming methods, we are taking things slowly and reverting back to the old farming methods of free ranging, slow growing to full maturity, dry plucking and game hanging our birds.
Our birds are reared to a minimum of 25 weeks, over twice the age of a standard intensively reared supermarket turkey, doubling the farming costs but enhancing the flavour. We pride ourselves on the highest turkey welfare and husbandry standards. We give our turkeys plenty of space to roam, forage inside and outside along with perches and ‘toys’ to keep them entertained.
Our turkeys are slaughtered onsite at the farm to strict welfare standards, with minimal stress to the birds. The turkeys are plucked by hand, which enables them to be dry hung for 10 days, tenderising the meat and developing a richer taste. All our packaging is recyclable apart from the giblets bag. All these reasons set us apart from cheap intensively reared supermarket turkeys.
We have joined the TFTA’s Golden Turkey Farmers this year; the Traditional Farm-fresh Turkey Association is a group of around 40 like-minded UK farmers passionate about producing the ultimate in Christmas Turkeys in terms of eating quality, welfare standards and environmental responsibility. Their ‘Golden Turkey’ Quality Assurance Guarantee sets the standard for the very finest quality Christmas turkeys.
We are proud of our traditional method of farming and production of Christmas turkeys in Scotland, particularly as we are only the second Golden Turkey accredited producer here. We feel that having this accreditation sets us apart from other farmers, knowing that we follow a strict Golden Turkey quality assurance code and have yearly inspections. I want to give people that peace of mind, that if you buy a Ledmacoy Turkey, you will have chosen a far superior product.