BOLIVIA, North Carolina (AP) — While most people only think of turkeys during meals during the holidays, Maud Kelly enjoys watching them wobble on her family farm in Bolivia.

“I’ve raised quite a bit of money this year and that’s the most I’ve ever raised,” she said. “It’s crazy work. They are truly wacky birds. They’re fun, but they’re a lot to follow. It’s like having 25 toddlers running around.

Greenlands Farm, a sustainable family farm located in rural Brunswick County, has been in the family for three generations. They started raising birds in the 1980s before going on hiatus. Work resumed in the early 2000s, with tours of the farm in subsequent years.

Kelly got into raising rare breeds such as the Heritage Midget white turkey, which weigh around 8 to 12 pounds.

It is an alternative to raising commercial birds, which takes 12 to 14 pounds to mature for processing. Greenlands Farm’s heirloom turkeys take approximately 6-7 months to mature on 16 acres of land.

“There’s a lot of care and cost involved in raising them for that long,” she said. “But the meat is definitely superb compared to a commercial turkey.”

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, they are ready to take orders for fresh poultry, an alternative to frozen poultry.

Raising turkeys is challenging work. For Kelly, one of them is an increase in the cost of food, which has increased by 15% since 2020. It costs about $2,500 every six months.

“It costs us twice as much to feed them as when we started,” she said of the turkeys. “I call them little pigs on two legs. My other birds don’t eat as much as them.

Kelly is picky about what they eat. When supplies are available, they try to feed them non-GMO foods and high quality stuff.

“We raise them and treat them humanely, and they also get a few hugs from me here and there,” she said. “They are really adorable birds. They are weird little birds. Every time I have a conversation and laugh, they laugh with me.

As the Wilmington area continues to grow, Kelly believes turkeys will continue to have a place in the economy, especially in places like the farm offering agritourism. A lot of support comes from New Hanover and Brunswick counties.

“There are a lot of cute urban farms now,” she said. “It’s nice to see people supporting their local farms.”

But with commercial and residential growth comes challenges, such as the displacement of wildlife. To protect her birds from predators, she added livestock guard dogs.

“It was in the last three years,” she said. “Before, I used to go out and there were 30 dead birds because of a fox. It’s heartbreaking. My birds may be breeders or raised for meat, but we love them every day. I’m a little different from some people. I love my animals no matter what they are here for. It’s devastating to see this. »

Despite the obstacles, turkey farming in the region isn’t going away anytime soon in the Wilmington area, especially with North Carolina being ranked second in the nation for turkey production.

According to officials from the North Carolina Poultry Association and the US Poultry & Egg Association, companies that produce and process turkey are an integral part of local counties. This is done by providing supplies and materials to industry, creating jobs, and distributing taxes to the states and federal government.

A 2022 economic impact study of the poultry industry by John Dunham & Associates showed that the turkey industry was responsible for $44.11 million in total economic activity and created or supported a total of 225 jobs in Brunswick County.

For New Hanover, the industry was responsible for nearly $122 million in economic activity, impacting 660 jobs. Economic activity for the industry in Pender County was $21.88 million and 121 jobs.