'Some years customers would bite your arm off for a goose'
Published 09/12/2015 | 02:30
The first turkey kill at John Paul Crowe's enterprise in Dundrum, Co Tipperary took place in time for November 26 orders from American ex-pats and local restaurants running special Thanksgiving Day dinners.
About 30 of the organically reared birds met their maker in this relatively minor November cull which was a mere curtain-raiser to the real action next week when a further 2,200 of John Paul's flock will meet their market place destiny.
John Paul has been rearing organic turkeys at the 140 acre family holding for the past six years and sees the enterprise as a 'logical move' considering the Crowes have been producing Christmas hams for years now and preparing them for market at the farm's abattoir.
John Paul - one of the many 'John Pauls' named in honour of the Polish Pontiff's visit to Ireland in 1979 - runs what is primarily a beef enterprise with the turkey and pig 'add-on operations' but leaves the abattoir, farm shop and online businesses to his brothers TJ, Ned and Pat.
A farmer at heart, he completed his Green Cert studies in 2000 as one of the second last intake of agri-students at the former Rockwell Agricultural College.
The 34-year-old retains a great affection for the old Jesuit educational institute.
"It was a great place to be. We had a great time there. The facilities were really first class and modern especially the dairy and beef parts of the college," John Paul recalls.
He started the turkey rearing with just 150 birds on two acres of the family farm in 2009 and has nearly doubled the size of his flock in every subsequent year to the impressive 2,200 birds currently cackling along on 10 acres down in Dundrum.
In terms of on- farm work the turkeys require plenty of attention.
"I would spend two hours every day with the turkeys and only about half that time with the pigs. The cattle sometimes take as little as half an hour but mostly they need three to three and a half hours a day.
"The farm is fully organic except for the pigs which are difficult to rear organically.
"We describe them as open reared.
"We feed the turkeys an organic mix and grain which is grown for us by local farmers," John Paul explains.
On the domestic front, John Paul and his wife Aileen celebrated the birth of their first child, Saoirse, earlier this year. She will be six months old when Santa makes his way to Dundrum in a few weeks time.
The pair met at the 'afters' of Aileen's sisters wedding.
Saoirse is the fifth grandchild of John Paul's mother, Mary Crowe, who is the doyenne of the Dundrum operation.
So any new plans for the future? "Well, we are thinking about geese and we will be looking at the idea next year. I was half thinking about doing them this year.
"I have got a lot of calls about geese but it seems to be a very up and down market.
"I have been speaking to people in the know and they say the market fluctuates every year.
"One year the orders are slow and the next year the customers would bite your arm off for a goose.
"But I think we will do them next year," John Paul muses.
He says he would have to examine precisely what it would involve and if they could be worked on a grass based diet regime.
Odds suggest that goose will be on the menu in Dundrum come this time next year.