Cheryl Franklin

Grove Sun

While shoppers crowd into grocery and discount stores seeking out the best sale prices on frozen turkeys for their Thanksgiving table some are willing to fork out a fifty or hundred dollar bill for the right drumstick - and Kathryn McCrary of Twin Oaks is counting on it.

McCrary has raised a flock of free-range turkeys this year in response to the current demand for a more natural bird.

And while the turkeys McCrary produced are not considered organic, “They have been raised outside on fresh grass and have not been fed medicated feed or hormones,” she said.

The steep price for the hand-raised turkeys is a result of the labor intensive routine that goes into raising range free turkeys.

“Once a week our pens, which are about one-half acre each, are moved so they can constantly have fresh grass,” said McCrary.

McCrary, whose farm is on 350 acres in southern Delaware County, raises heritage breeds, which are better tasting than the commercial birds most people are used to eating she said.

Some of the breeds she raises include Royal Palm, Red Bourbon and Blue Slate, all of which are on the “watch” list of endangered breeds of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.

However, this is the first year that McCrary has tried her hand at raising turkeys for holiday eating.

“I got to thinking that my grandfather used to raise turkeys and I thought if my grandfather could do it then I can do it,” she recalled.

McCrary started out with 40 turkeys to sell this year.

“I wanted to do 200 but I’m glad my husband is more sensible than I am. He talked me into starting small,” she said.

The turkeys, which were being processed Monday, will be delivered to buyers this week, mostly in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

McCrary said that many of her customers are professional people.

“We have several doctors and a lot of people with high income levels who are used to buying organic and who can afford to pay more,” she said. “It has been a profitable year.”

The birds sell for $5 a pound, which would be $50 for a $10 pound turkey and $100 for a 20 pound turkey.

McCrary grows her turkeys from 10 to 20 pounds.

“I don’t see many people that want a 30 pound turkey these days,” she said. “They are just too hard to handle.”

The birds are fed a ration of corn and wheat along with the fresh grass that is available to them in their pasture.

Predators can be a problem, so while the fowl are outside during the daytime, McCrary does confine them at night.

“They come to my voice when I call ‘bedtime turkeys, bedtime’ and they come running,” she says.

McCrary said she wanted to raise hormone, antibiotic free poultry because her doctor has encouraged her to stay away from processed poultry since she has had cancer in the past.

“I wanted to raise something healthy, plus my doctor said the hormones in the processed chicken make the cancer grow, so I try to stay away from it,” she said.

Being a first time turkey grower has had its lessons to teach but McCrary said she has learned a lot this year from friends and mentors.

“I have met a lot of wonderful, wonderful people. A lot of growers that are not stingy with their advice,” she said.

McCrary plans to make some changes and improvements for next year and is also planning on becoming active in agriculture legislation for the future.

“Right now, in Oklahoma, you can only have 250 birds,” McCrary said.

Neighboring states have quite a larger limit.

“I would like to see Oklahoma grow in the agricultural department outside of oil and cattle,” she said.

“I want to be able to have a product that is start to finish in Oklahoma,” she said.

So she plans on buying her chicks, her feed and her processing in Oklahoma.

For now, she is still growing a few more turkeys to be sold in time for Christmas dinner.

She may be contacted at 918-868-3716.