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Let's Talk Turkey!

For the Three Generations of the Vacchiano Family, the Farming Season Culminates in One Spectacular Dish: The Thanksgiving Turkey

Thanksgiving at Vacchiano Farm means showing gratitude for another year of bountiful harvests and plentiful customers.

“I’m thankful for my family and that we all work well together,” says Anthony Vacchiano II, who started working on the farm right after college some three decades ago.

By family, he means his parents, 85-year-old Anthony and Lucia Vacchiano, the Italian immigrants who started the farm in the early 1960s; his wife, Elizabeth, and their children Elizabeth, 28; Josephine, 26; Lucia, 23; Anthony III, 22; and Aneillo, 17.

All of them, including the younger Lucia who Anthony describes as a “city girl,” pitch in.

There is a lot to do. The farm in Port Colden has 100 acres and the one in Readington covers 375 acres.

Together, the family and the farms raise and butcher beef cattle and turkeys, make ice cream and baked goods and grow a variety of produce, including tomatoes, peppers and the grapes they turn into wine. 

They sell everything at the Readington farm stand that Anthony III opened last year.

To herald the holidays, we sat down to talk turkey with Anthony II.

It is difficult to raise turkeys?

We’ve been doing this for 30 years. They hatch in early July, and we get 5,000 day-old chicks out of Pennsylvania. They are Broad Breasted Whites: They have white feathers and a lot of white meat. I’ve never had trouble raising them because we give them a lot of care, but a lot of people tell me they do. They often are surprised when I tell them the most important thing is giving them water. We give ours fresh well water.

5,000? Wow, that’s a lot of turkey dinners.

Well, not all of them end up on the Thanksgiving table. We turn some into turkey sausage, ground turkey and London broil and sell them at the Readington farm stand and at the farmer's markets in Summit and Montclair. We recommend reserving a bird early so we can get you the right size.

You’re around the birds all the time. Do you eat turkey for Thanksgiving?

Absolutely. The entire family sits down for dinner, and every year, we cook the turkey differently: We have deep fried them, baked them, grilled them on a rotisserie; we have cut them in half and cooked each part separately; we have cut them into pieces and baked them that way. Because we raise produce, we always have a lot of vegetable sides like Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.

What do you make with the leftovers?

We don’t have a lot of leftovers, but sometimes we do make soup with the carcass the next day.

Everybody talks about eating turkey, but I’m wondering, what do the birds like to dine on?

Our turkeys are free range, and they are in a fenced enclosure on the Port Colden farm, which is about 25 miles from the Readington farm. They eat bugs, pasture grass and non-GMO grains like corn, soybeans and sorghum.

It must be satisfying to play such an important role in the holiday.

I love raising turkeys; they are the culmination of the growing season. They are the last thing we produce in the summer, so it’s like the icing on the cake. 

View the bounty of offerings at vacchianofarm.com

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