Weybridge farm creates Thanksgiving memories after a loss

ELEVEN-YEAR-OLD Quinton Gero carefully transports a turkey to the processing floor during the annual community turkey processing day at the Duclos-Thompson Farm this past Saturday.
Photo by Jennifer Megyesi

I don’t have any turkeys to bring for processing this year at Tom Duclos and Lisa Thompson’s farm on Sheep Farm Road in Weybridge. But I do have a guinea hen, one who’s been attacking my beautiful, black-crested Polish rooster named Wayne, who I bought this year at the Tunbridge World’s Fair. 

Tom would have loved to have picked on me about bringing that guinea hen — he picked on my free-range turkeys that I’d brought for 23 years from Fat Rooster Farm in Royalton. I grew them for specialty customers, who read Martha Stewart and Chris Kimball recipes calling for 13-pound birds — not the same recipes for the birds Lisa and Tom grew, some as large as 45 pounds, and averaging 26 pounds. Spectacular birds that Tom and Lisa marketed locally, but also in New York City and elsewhere. Renowned for their creamy yellow fat-lined tender flesh, these birds are not for calorie counters in the crowd. Tom died last December, and now Lisa continues the tradition.

We gathered at the farm this past Saturday, Nov. 19, to once again process turkeys.

I have been visiting the farm since the age of eight years, a spring ritual that my parents would make, to bring me and my sisters to see the lambs. It was once part of the UVM farm, and then later as a teenager I’d visit when Tom had a freshwater fish store at the house. In my mind, it was simple: Tom could get things done, but Lisa kept things going. A perfect team, and a couple who propelled me into a farming career.

The farm is on the outskirts of Middlebury, slowly being encroached upon by houses, all constructed to look like barns, all looking a little out of place to me, near the ancient yellow sheep barn and the tiny white farmhouse where Lisa and her Australian cattle dogs, Tali and Pip, live. There is also a long-haired, tannish-yellow cat there, who reminds me of the one in the rom-com “Sweet Home Alabama.” How it is still alive is a mystery, but I swear it’s been there the last 30 years.

Photo by Jennifer Megyesi

It’s also been over 30 years that folks have gathered on the farm and processed turkeys for the holiday. It’s a tradition that, once you’ve become indoctrinated, no one wants to quit. We all joke about figuring out how to get fired, but every year, we gather, we process our birds, and we celebrate the fact that our community of people is joined together by this common goal of wanting to raise something from hatching to slaughter, with no outside interference, and with respect for what we raise, at this farm.

We mostly avoid politics. We don’t talk much about religion. We do talk about our families, what they’re up to, who’s died, who’s been born, who’s married, who isn’t any longer. The common thread is Lisa and Tom, and what they’ve given us these many years, which is the ability to blend individuals with different backgrounds, different beliefs, different life situations into a group who cares about a farm and a tradition of growing our own food in celebration of what we are thankful for. 

Happy Thanksgiving. Happy Indigenous People’s Day.

Editor’s note: Jenn Megyesi grew up in East Middlebury and is author of “The Joy of Keeping Chickens, Duck and Turkeys” among other books.

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