Vicky Cumings of Pale Farm Turkeys near Exeter in Devon, joined the TFTA and became an accredited Golden Turkey farmer in 2021. The family farm has been producing traditional Christmas turkeys for over 40 years and in four consecutive years have gained a number of food awards for their free range Christmas turkeys. Discover how Vicky became a seasonal turkey farmer, now an accredited Golden Turkey farmer and how she plans to take her turkey business forward…
When did you become an accredited Golden Turkey Farmer – and start producing Golden Turkeys for Christmas?
We joined the TFTA and became accredited Golden Turkey farmers in 2021.
I grew up on the family farm, helping out with turkeys from about the age of 11 and have fond memories of plucking turkeys and greeting customers on collection day.
I went to University to study Physics at the University of Surrey where I met my husband, James. I spent a few years as an Acoustic Consultant, then as a Science Teacher until deciding to specialise in Higher Education Specialist Teacher student support. I joined the farm partnership in 2015 and this was the first year that I took over the whole process of rearing the turkeys myself, under the guiding hand of my parents.
Do you produce anything else on your farm?
We are a small arable farm, where we produce combinable crops like oil seed rape, wheat, barley, beans and oats.
What do you do in the first 6 months of the year, when not producing turkeys?
For the first 6 months of the year we clear out the sheds and disinfect them ready for the next batch of turkeys. It’s otherwise it is pretty quiet here, apart from celebrating all our birthdays! Things on the farm get going again in the Spring where we start fertilising and spraying the crops.
Have you won any AWARDS for farming, food or your business?
Yes! We have won a Taste of the West Gold Award 4 years running (2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022) – apparently our turkeys are hard to beat!
We also gained a 1 star Great Taste Award in 2020.
Apart from selling direct to customers direct – who else do you normally supply Golden Turkeys to?
Specifically with the turkeys I enjoy rearing the turkeys from small chicks, seeing them grow and enjoying the environment we provide for them. Christmas is always an exciting, albeit stressful time and we love to see our regularly customers returning year after year – it is so rewarding.
What or who, inspires you?
Female scientists – Marie Curie, Ada Lovelace & Rosalind Franklin.
What was your first job?
My first job was as a waitress in a local restaurant.
What would you be doing, if you weren’t a farmer?
Tea or Coffee?
Favourite Book or Film?
Favourite Book To Kill a Mockingbird, Favourite Film Top Gun
Best way to relax after a stressful day?
Listening to music and singing along.
How has the Corona Virus Pandemic affected your farm life and business?
The first year of the pandemic our customers predominantly wanted smaller birds and in the second year a relaxation of the rules meant that the larger turkeys sold first.
Our online sales increased quite a lot and we implemented a drive through collection which our customers really appreciated.
Supporting your local community; Do you offer nationwide delivery?
Most of our customers collect from the farm on 23 December. The last 2 years we have offered a local delivery within 7 miles of the farm.
Last year we were able to attend our first local market in Tiverton and hope to attend again this year. We will continue to promote our turkeys using social media platforms.
Your Turkey Farming Business
Which social media platforms do you use for your Christmas Turkey business? Which do you prefer?
Facebook and Instagram @palefarmturkeys
Not sure I have a preference but we seem to have the most interaction on Facebook.
What do you believe has been the most effective way for you, to gain new customers?
For us it has definitely been the updating of our website and the ability for customers to order and pay in advance online.
With increased interest in best quality meat, highest welfare and environmental responsibility becoming increasing areas of interest and importance – are you looking making any changes to your turkey rearing, production and presentation, above and beyond our Golden Turkey Standard?
We are wanting to reduce our carbon footprint and one way we are looking to do that this year is to remove soya in the finishing feed of our turkeys and to also introduce feeding them with crops we have grown on the farm to reduce food miles.