This article was originally published in Hey Rhody magazine.
Once you arrive at Baffoni’s Poultry Farm in Johnston, past the storefront that sells processed turkey and chicken and up a grassy hill, the turkeys are clucking away. Paul Baffoni, the farm’s self-described turkey whisperer, houses the birds in “porches” – wooden structures with gabled roofs, elevated a few feet from the ground – and the birds light up when he starts “speaking” to them. He puts his lips together, lets out a long whistle, and the flock begins clucking almost in unison. It’s a glorious, gobbling symphony.
The farm has been serving the community since 1935, making it a fourth-generation, family-run operation. Many of the customers have been coming there for decades, entrusting Baffoni’s with the important task of turning a turkey into a Thanksgiving showstopper.
Birds arrive as day-old “poults,” soaking up sunlight in their open-air porches, and are hand-fed an all-vegetarian, antibiotic-free diet. They eat grains and munch on kale and Swiss chard every three days, leafy-green nutrition that also keeps their minds and bodies engaged (Baffoni says that turkeys, even more than chickens, can sometimes be rather “finicky”). Baffoni has the luxury of spending quality time with the turkeys, since the high season comes during the week before Thanksgiving. Then, he’s busy processing up to 450 animals a day, as the farm provides only fresh, unfrozen meat. Even the USDA officer who certifies the farm often remarks that his are “special turkeys.”
In addition to Baffoni’s, there are many other local farms offering tasty, humanely sourced turkeys for the holiday season. Here are a few:
Breene Acres Farm, founded in 1999, is run by Greg Breene. On his 11-acre farm you’ll find both turkey and pork. He strongly encourages early ordering for a Thanksgiving turkey. 21e Victory Hwy, West Greenwich. 397-4748
Helger’s Turkey Ranch is dedicated solely to turkey production. Owner Chad Helger has fresh turkeys available for every holiday, and frozen turkeys can be picked up year-round. 2554 Main Road, Tiverton. 624-4087
Locust Leaf Farm specializes in happy and healthy turkeys, where they’re fed an antibiotic- and hormone-free diet. Reserve a bird before they’re all claimed for. 5 East Killingly Road, Foster. 647-4385
Masson Farm boasts naturally-fed turkey, as well as beef, pork, chicken, and eggs. Owners Patrick, Holly, and Anna frequently serve their products at the URI farmers market. 180 Sand Plain Trail, Wakefield. 789-1605
Pat’s Pastured is a farm that lets free-range Standard White turkeys forage in the fields, pecking for delectables in addition to their standard non-GMO grain diet. Complement your turkey with their signature Turkey Gravy or Chicken Bone Broth. 830 South Road, East Greenwich. 413-9770
At PV Farm Stand, Frank Martinelli encourages families to stop by and see the happy turkeys, chickens, cows, and geese he raises.
56 Peeptoad Road, N. Sciuate. 300-8267
Silk Tree Farm livestock have global origins: Spanish goats, Red Wattle Hogs, Narragansett Turkeys, Dorking Chicken, and Black Jersey Giants. What’s more, the farmers work with the Nature Conservancy. 64 Pottersville Road, Little Compton. 360-7004