No 'fowl' play involved in local farmer's turkey production

PUBLISHED: 14:12 22 November 2018 | UPDATED: 14:12 22 November 2018

Sidbury farmer Ben Upchurch with his flock of turkeys. Picture: Sam Cooper

Sidbury farmer Ben Upchurch with his flock of turkeys. Picture: Sam Cooper

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A Sidbury farmer is looking to reconnect consumers to their food source this Christmas.

Last year saw Ben sell out of turkeys by December. Picture: Sam CooperLast year saw Ben sell out of turkeys by December. Picture: Sam Cooper

Having come from a farming background, owning his own farm was Ben Upchurch’s childhood dream. In 2015, Ben made the bold move from Exeter to Sidbury where he started the Partridge Hill Farm.

He said: “Most people told me not to do it. I’d earn a lot more money doing something else but it’s a passion and spiritual drive to get on and do it.”

Starting with turkeys and pigs, Ben committed himself to giving the animals a high quality of life.

“When you go to an industrial sized turkey farm, there’s a minimum space requirement for the birds and when you fill up that space they’re stood shoulder to shoulder. There’s barely any room to walk around in.”

“Just seeing animals like that broke my heart,” he said.

With the monumental task of setting up his own farm, Ben found the local agricultural community very welcoming.

“Most of them, when they see what you’re doing, that normally wins their hearts. What strikes me about the local farming community is how old it is. I get the feeling that when I’m talking to other farmers they like the idea that ‘here’s somebody that’s getting up and trying to do it’.”

Ben wanted to reconnect the customer to their food source.

“Nearly everybody just buys pork off the shelf and you’ve got no idea where it’s come from, what conditions its being kept under, what it’s been fed.”

This hands-on approach allows him ease customer concerns.

He said: “People are particularly worried about antibiotics. Farmers just blanket treat a flock of turkeys to avoid anything happening. I’m not going to pump an animal full of antibiotics just to get it through.”

The farm rears Norfolk Black and Norfolk Bronze turkeys, and following the last year’s success, the count has increased by 30%.

But Ben is keen not to get carried away, saying: “People go straight away and buy 500 turkeys and then you can’t sell them at the end of the year and that’s it. You’ve lost your investment and your motivation to do it again.“

Visit www.partridgehill.co.uk for more information.

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