A year ago, Tim Henderson and his wife, Pauline, became the new owners of Bob Neal’s long-running The Turkey Farm. 

The business is now called Pine Tree Poultry, and Henderson can talk turkey with the best of them.

Name: Tim Henderson

Age: 51

Lives: New Sharon

What did you do pre-Pine Tree Poultry? For 22 years, I managed a 200-plus-acre farm in Massachusetts where we raised beef cattle, poultry, hogs and grew an assortment of vegetables, sweet corn and heirloom flint corn, which we sold through an on-farm stand and wholesale markets.

What drew you to Maine to farm? Maine is very pro-agriculture. The land prices were still affordable.

You mentioned undertaking an extensive renovation here: What did you do? And do you have the same offerings as The Turkey Farm? Upon purchasing The Turkey Farm, we started with an extensive indoor renovation and replaced ceilings, walls and updated plumbing and electrical. We built a kitchen and meat-cutting room. Renovated cooler and freezer, replaced and added doors, added a ventilation system. Added on to the kill room, put heat in the building. Outdoors, we buried over 1,000 feet of water lines and added frost-free hydrants, replaced fencing around pastures, reseeded pastures, built run in barns. And there is more to go.

We offer whole turkeys and turkey parts, turkey pot pies, turkey empanadas, turkey sausages, whole chicken, chicken parts and assorted beef cuts.

It’s a family operation? Pauline does all the value-added products, office work, farmer’s markets and sales. Our son, Tom, who is 25 years old, helps in all areas of the farm. He does mechanic work, construction, working with the animals, processing and also markets and deliveries.

Are turkeys really as dumb as legend would have us believe? Turkeys are smarter than most would think. They’re very curious by nature and they’re very family oriented; they protect their young. At night, if you go in the barn and there’s no lights on, they’ll all huddle together in a protective group.

The best part about owning Pine Tree Poultry: Being our own boss.

Most challenging part? Getting our product to customers, both wholesale and retail, as the markets are mostly along the coast and Portland.

A bit about this year’s flock: We are a licensed 20,000 grower processor facility and process 12 months a year. This year we will process around 5,000 turkeys and chickens combined. A large portion are sold for Thanksgiving; the rest are processed and sold as value-added and whole turkeys all year long.

Three keys to raising a good turkey: Purchase poults from a reputable hatchery. Keep the turkeys dry. Top quality feed and clean water.

Dry? They don’t like to be wet. Dampness breeds a lot of bacteria and sicknesses. They know dry is always good for them. After 10 weeks, they get all their feathers, they’re pretty hardy.

How do you plan to enjoy Thanksgiving? We will enjoy Thanksgiving with family, locally as a traditional dinner with our own turkey and beef.

Post-Thanksgiving, how do you plan to celebrate your turkey-intensive time being over? We have more turkeys arriving the week after Thanksgiving and we begin processing for our retail store at the farm, farmer’s markets and wholesale markets.

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