Think local when planning Thanksgiving dinner

Bethlehem Farm in Winchester has roughly 45 turkeys roaming the 5-acre farm. These pasture-raised turkeys will be available for Thanksgiving meals. Ashley Miller/Daily

WINCHESTER – When Thom Morra of Bethlehem Farm in Winchester founded his free-range farm, he had a clear vision in mind.

“We started this farm for two reasons,” Morra said. “One, to eat the cleanest food possible to impact our health and well-being in a positive way. And, two: to provide purposeful work for our family.”

This year, for the third year in a row, Bethlehem Farm will continue its Thanksgiving tradition of offering local, pasture-raised turkeys to consumers.

“We started raising turkeys because we wanted to be able to offer a healthier alternative,” Morra said. “People in today’s society really want to know where their food comes from and how its grown”.

Turkey season started in early July for Morra and his family. The turkey chicks travel from Ohio via the postal service to the Morra farm where they live a happy, inquisitive life. Early each morning a member or two of the Morra family greets the birds.

“It’s quite the sight to see them first thing in the morning,” Morra said. “When they spread their wings, and take off; they don’t have a care in the world.”

Morra has roughly 45 turkeys that roam on 5 acres.

“We’re a no antibiotic, no hormones farm,” Morra explained. “Our turkeys are raised out on the open pasture. And they roam as they wish.”

And roam do they. TJ Morra, 15, catches a few “loose birds” periodically throughout the day.

“A fence keeps them contained, but turkeys are actually very intelligent,” TJ said. “Most people think they’re dumb because they move their head from side to side. But they’re actually just adjusting their eyesight.”

TJ, like his other brothers and sisters, is homeschooled. Working on the family farm is part of his daily schoolwork.

“It’s a different way of life,” TJ said. “But you get used to it.”

The turkeys are fed organic soy-free food a few times a day. The Morra family pays very close attention to genetically modified food because they don’t want to put the hormones in their own bodies.

“Being labeled an organic farm helps us ensure we are using the highest quality ingredients,” Morra said.

Up to the week of Thanksgiving, the turkeys do as they please on the farm. “People need to understand that if an animal is caged or doesn’t have the proper dietary needs, it affects their growth,” Morra said. “Which in turn affects their flavor.”

The days prior to Thanksgiving are busy on the Morra family farm. The turkeys are slaughtered the Monday before Thanksgiving, providing optimal flavor and freshness. Morra assembles a few local friends to help with the bird preparation.

“We slaughter them on the farm because not only is it easier, but it ensures quality,” Morra said. “Once they’re prepared, customers start picking them up right away.”

The pasture-raised turkeys must be ordered in advance, and they run $6 per pound. The birds will range in size from just a few pounds to over 20.

“Our turkeys are a bit more expensive because we want our customers to have the best possible,” Morra said. “We only sell what we would consume – local and fresh.”

For more information on Bethlehem Farm and its free-range turkeys, call 540-868-9428 or visit bethlehemfarmva.com.

Bethlehem Farm is located at 137 Miller Road, Winchester.