It was back in 1962 when Paul Hogan’s mother started farming turkeys – and the family has continued doing so ever since.
For Christmas each year, Hogan’s Farm rears between 70,000 to 80,000 birds.
“The biggest pressure really is we can’t postpone Christmas: if we’re late or behind, we have to work through the night to get the job done, because Christmas Day is the 25th no matter what.”
By the time Christmas Day comes around, the family is “totally wrecked”, but Hogan said: “I suppose we’ve been used to nothing else; it has never been any different.”
Agriland paid a visit to Hogan’s Farm based in Cortown, Kells, Co. Meath. The site is home to the turkey farm and fresh turkey processing facility.
Hogan’s Farm is now managed by brothers Paul and Fintan along with their wives Hilda and Sandra.
“When I was growing up, we used to hand-pluck turkeys,” Paul said.
“My mum used to always have people coming for turkeys for Christmas from December 23; all the locals, people come from far and wide around just for their Christmas dinner.”
The family started rearing woodland bronze turkeys “to have something different, as everyone out there wants something different for Christmas”.
“Five years ago then, we moved on to growing birds outside so that’s called the Hogan’s Farm Woodland Bronze, and these are the birds you see here today,” he explained.
“The genetics go right back to wild turkey in America, and that’s why they’re well able for the outdoors; and their preferred lifestyle is outside in the wild, not in captivity.
“At night time, for instance, these birds will not be found in the barn – they’ll be out under the trees in the woods, up on banks, on branches, on logs. That’s their favourite brooding place at night.”
The turkeys are fed “different things, from apples to Brussels sprouts and they eat all the grass and wild nettles and berries which enhances the flavour at the end”.
The pressure is on for the business at this time of year, but Paul said that “once everything goes well, it makes it all worthwhile at the end”.
“We often had people that bought a turkey elsewhere, had a problem, and would ring up wondering [if there was] any chance they could get a turkey on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning,” he added.
“You’re always glad to help them out.”