Producer of the Month: Thomas Pate, KellyBronze Turkeys
The laid back, genial and happy demeanour of Thomas Pate and his wife Susannah makes it hard to believe that they are flat out, lovingly rearing around 450 KellyBronze turkeys for Christmas as well as their children Douglas (three) and Beatrice (almost one).
Softly spoken and constantly smiling, they are both keen to make buying a turkey an enjoyable part of the Christmas experience. Their enthusiasm and positivity for rearing turkeys is infectious and it is little wonder that the turkeys become so attached to the family, they even follow Thomas up ladders!
Thomas was originally a fourth generation cereal farmer, when some nearby friends who had been rearing KellyBronze for years asked the Pates whether they wanted to take on the turkeys. Ever the optimists, they both relished the chance to diversify into poultry despite Susannah being heavily pregnant and having an imminent house move.
Susannah describes KellyBronze turkeys as the “Rolls Royce of turkeys” because they are grown to full maturity and hung for two weeks which means they have a natural layer of fat which makes for more moist and marbled meat and a shorter cooking time. The Pates hand-pluck the turkeys and remove the sinews from the legs so that the leg meat is incredibly tender.
Susannah and Thomas do home deliveries but they love customers to come and collect their turkeys on Christmas Eve, where they are offered mince pies, flapjacks and mulled wine. There has also been Christmas carol singing in the past. It also gives customers the opportunity to see where the turkeys have been raised and nurtured. Over the festive period the Pates also sell local vegetables and chipolatas, bacon and stuffing from local butchers James Pirie of Newtyle, as well as cranberry sauce, Christmas pudding and cake.
- What do you enjoy most about producing turkeys?
The feedback we get. There is nothing better than receiving emails, calls and letters after Christmas from people who have been so delighted with their turkey.
- What do you enjoy the least?
KellyBronze turkeys are free range but have a cosy bed indoors at night which also protects them from Mr Fox. Every evening it's my job to round them up but that's easier said than done - the term herding cats springs to mind… But it does keep me fit!
- Why should we buy British meat?
Most British farmers take great pride in what they produce and how they produce it. KellyBronze turkeys are a great example of this. The KellyBronze has been perfected over 30 years by the Kelly family and they have won numerous awards for their taste - why would you want anything else on your table?
- What achievement are you most proud of?
The reaction from customers at the farmers’ markets we attend. Especially from the returning customers who we encouraged to buy a KellyBronze for the first time last year - they are so full of praise and can't wait to get their order in. That gives us such a buzz because it means we are doing something right.
- What are your predictions for the future of British food and if you were Prime Minister what would you do to encourage more people to buy British?
The recession has made people think twice about paying a little more to buy local which is a shame when 4 or 5 years ago we'd reached such a high in the appreciation of local, farm fresh food. The supermarkets offer such sharp offers that it's hard to compete even though the quality is often different. There is still a strong core, however, who will continue to buy direct from the farmer as much as possible and we need to nurture and promote this. I love the work of the Royal Highland Education Trust (RHET) which takes Scottish school children out to farms to see where their food is produced and to connect with the reality of food production. As with everything education is key, and if we can all grow up with an appreciation of where food comes from and the work that goes into producing quality produce, it will hopefully encourage the next generation to support their local producers. Ultimately it works better for everyone to support and keep our own local economy thriving.
- Best budget tip?
Buy bigger than you need - with our turkeys the price comes down per kilo the bigger you buy, so the more economical it works out. The leftovers are wonderful but can also be made into wonderful concoctions for the freezer. One customer last year wrote to tell us he'd made 19 dishes from their turkey after Christmas - from chowder to curry to wraps to risotto!
- If you were an advertising executive what slogan would you use to promote British food?
Britain, you're tastier than you think.
- What other British food producers do you rate?
There's so many! Locally, E&O Fish from Arbroath who come to our door once a week with wonderful, fresh fish - the difference in taste is incomparable. Fife's Puddledub for its excellent pork, Highland Game for reviving the love of venison and Pittormie Fruit Farm, a family farm which works through rain and shine to produce a range of wonderful fresh fruit and veg for their own shop and our local greengrocer among others. And of course, Derek Kelly, the man who saved the bronze turkey from near extinction and bred the now famous KellyBronze
- What's on the menu this evening?
I’d love to say turkey, but by this time of year the freezer is bare. We are very lucky to have some excellent Lleyn lamb from my in-law's farm on the menu tonight with potatoes and dirty carrots from our wonderful local greengrocer, Clementine's.
- How can people get hold of your produce?
Online at southpowrie.co.uk. If you live locally you can collect your turkey from the farm, or you can order home delivery.