Business

From pen to platter

"Turkey is easy to come by during the holidays. But truly fresh — we’re talking pen to platter type — organically-fed turkey is not so easy to find. That’s why Karen Shults and her husband Mike think they’ve found a niche business that could take wing.The Shults’ recently put up a sign outside their home, just off Highway 20 south of Oak Harbor. The sign advertised live turkeys and they’ve been pleasantly surprised at the response. They quickly sold seven birds to customers who wanted to get the freshest fowl possible for their Thanksgiving dinner.At one time, live turkeys were commonly available on the island. But these days most poultry farmers just raise them for their own use.After figuring the cost of feed, Karen said she isn’t sure the family has made much money selling the birds but she believes the market is there. She said she wants to open a produce stand next year and sell not only turkeys, but other fowl, organically-grown produce, eggs and herbs as well as edible and dried flowers.“I’ve never done this before,” she said. “I’m surprised I like it so much.”It’s been only two years since the Shults’ settled on their five-acre piece of North Whidbey. But Karen has been learning fast and has already cultivated the beginnings of an herb garden from which she’s started preserving and packaging herbs and dried flowers. She said she already includes packets of home-grown sage, thyme and parsley with every turkey.They also began making their own wine from raspberries, plums and blackberries this year. Karen said organic gardening is the way they want to go.“I want to stay away from chemicals, especially because of the kids,” said Karen. She said she wants her grandchildren to learn more about living off the land. “I want to teach them to live without so many material things.”Doing without however often means more work. Though the Shults’ grew everything from beets and beans to pumpkins and potatoes in their garden this year, Karen said hand weeding was a never-ending process. And when it came time to preparing their own Thanksgiving turkey, there was a lot more to it than preheating the oven.“We were up to 2 a.m. using a match to burn off the the little feathers, she said. “It was a lot of work.”In the end, Karen said it was all worth it. “It was just just delicious,” she said."

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