Paicines Ranch selling turkeys in time for Thanksgiving

Photo: Alicia Arcidiacono/Chasing Chickadees Photography

It’s a great time to be a human during the penultimate month of the year.

The weather is mild, the holidays are approaching, and a Thanksgiving feast caps November. Some local ranches offer organic turkeys for purchase, making for a sustainable dinner centerpiece.

It’s a bad time to be a turkey, for obvious reasons. But for those who reside at Paicines Ranch, they have nothing but the finest amenities available to them during their short life.

The historic ranch off of Highway 25 about 12 miles south of Hollister is offering whole turkeys grown on the pasture for the first time this year. And they are selling quick.

According to Mary Rowan, who manages the ranch’s event center and is the sales director of pastured meats, the smaller, 17- to 22-pound birds are all sold out. The larger birds, who are pushing 30 pounds, are still available for larger Thanksgiving gatherings.

The turkeys are fed certified organic grains, and are rotated regularly to keep the soil healthy. The turkeys that are purchased will be harvested before Thanksgiving, and will each be frozen, vacuum-sealed and packed in a box.

Thanksgiving feasters can pick up their frozen turkeys at the ranch on Nov. 23, where they can take part in ranch tours, Gizdich pie and apple cider. Turkeys are also available for pickup any day of the week before Thanksgiving, Nov. 18-22.

Paicines Ranch employees tried one of their turkeys as a test. It was gobbled up pretty quickly.

“It was so good,” Rowan said. “It was really flavorful, really tender. It was delicious.”

Paicines Ranch recently brought in a new farm manager, Marc Luff, who previously resided in Ohio and grew turkeys.

But it seems that turkeys are much more comfortable in California’s climate than they are in the midwest. According to Rowan, the ranch thought it was going to get turkeys who weighed between 12 to 24 pounds. What it got instead was 18- to 28-pounders

“The turkeys are much bigger than what we were expecting,” she said.

Paicines Ranch has been a working ranch since the mid-1800s. The land was originally purchased in 1842 to Angel Castro and Jose Rodriguez. The ranch has had many owners throughout the years, and was purchased by its current owners, Sallie Calhoun and Matt Christiano, in 2001.

It has seen its share of prominent people over the years. According to history provided by Paicines Ranch, Eleanor Roosevelt was once a guest at the ranch, and the Roosevelts’ son, Jimmy, spent a year there while recuperating from an illness.

In 1952, Judy Garland of “Wizard of Oz” fame married Sid Luft at the ranch’s Grogan House.

Today, the ranch offers an event center that hosts corporate events, about 20 weddings annually and other events. It is also in the process of adding a 5,000-square-foot kitchen and dining hall, as well as a 500-square-foot farm stand.

It is home to 7,000 acres of rangeland, 550 acres of row crop ground, and 25 acres of vineyard, all certified organic. In addition to turkeys, the ranch also grows pastured lamb, beef and pork.

“We are always looking for ways to increase diversity here on the Paicines Ranch—with our animals, plants and people,” Rowan said. “With our new dining hall for ranch events, we’ll be able to bring that diversity to the table.”

For information, visit paicinesranch.com.

Donate a turkey to a family in need

St. Joseph’s Family Center in Gilroy is currently in need of more than 1,000 turkeys to donate to needy families for its annual Thanksgiving Food Basket Day.

Donation hours are Mondays through Fridays from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Turkeys and food baskets will be distributed on Nov. 26 to many low income families in the community.

Staff and volunteers will fill shopping carts with canned goods, bread, eggs, milk, as well as all the makings for a holiday meal, including the turkey.

“It’s a very fun event because you know you’re doing something good, you know you’re helping a lot of people,” said Vicky Martin, director of community engagement for St. Joseph’s.

The center is also seeking more turkey donations by Dec. 20.

For information on St. Joseph’s Family Center, or to volunteer/donate, visit stjosephsgilroy.org.

Kimberly Ewertz contributed to this article.

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