A: All our poultry are free-range and additive-free, they are farmed in the same way that they have been on this farm for nearly half a century: naturally. We have not gone down the route of getting organic accreditation chiefly because of the cost, which we would have to pass on to our customers. All food is non-GM.
Q: Do you sell turkeys?
A: No, but I'm sure your local butcher would have a good source of turkeys, if not then we can recommend you get one from http://kimbersfarmshop.co.uk.
Q: Can I buy live poultry from you?
A: Yes, but please ring well in advance so that we can order extra chicks from the hatchery.
Q Do you give the birds antibiotics?
A: Not routinely, they only get medicines if they are ill.
Q: Do you clip their wings to stop them flying away?
A: No, they are too well fed to get far off the ground.
Q: Can you process birds for other people?
A: We are able to process game birds but unfortunately we can no longer provide this service for domestic poultry.
Q: Why don't you hatch your own birds out on the farm?
A: We use specialist hatcheries so that we don't need to keep a separate parent flock. Hatching chicks on a regular basis which are consistent in number and in quality is a difficult job, best left to those with the right equipment, all our birds come onto the farm as day-old chicks.
Q: Do you get trouble with foxes?
A: We have an electric fence around the perimeter of the farm, but even so we need to make sure that all the poultry are shut indoors at dusk or we may wake up to lots of dead chickens spread around the field - usually with their heads bitten off: a very discouraging sight!
Q: How do you kill the birds?
A: All the birds are humanely stunned (powerful electric shock to the brain) before they are killed. All our staff are trained and have the relevant qualifications for their jobs.
Q: Do you sell portions or just whole birds?
A: We usually sell whole birds but your butcher would be happy to cut it into portions for you.
Q: Do you sell eggs?
A: No, all our birds are a meat variety, and they do not get old enough to lay eggs.
Q: What sort of packaging do you use?
A: We keep our packaging down to an absolute minimum, hence we sell our chicken in a simple, clear, food-grade plastic bag with a small pad for soaking up excess juices, there is a rubber band used to help the bird hold its shape: no boxes or polystyrene trays to get rid of.
Q: Do the birds come with giblets?
A: Giblets come in a small plastic bag attached to the bird with a rubber-band: be sure to remove the band and bag before cooking the chicken. Giblets make excellent stock for gravy or soups or they can be cooked inside the chicken to add flavour. If you have a pet dog or cat then cooked giblets are a real treat for them.
Q: There are 2 adults and 2 children in our family so how big a chicken do I need?
A: A tricky one to answer because it rather depends how much you want to eat! Some people serve lots of vegetables whilst others enjoy huge helpings of meat. Also do you want to make your chicken last for several meals in which case plenty of leftovers are needed, for example: roast on Sunday, risotto on Monday, stir-fry on Tuesday, cold meat with salad on Wednesday and soup on Thursday?
Q: What breed are they?
A: Ross, a good meat variety.
Q: How old are they when they are killed?
A: Our chicken mature slowly - hence their superior flavour, they are killed between 7 - 9 weeks old, depending on how well they are growing. Supermarket chicken reach the shelves at around 36 days old!
Q: How big do they get?
A: A normal range is 2kg - 2.6kg, but obviously they come smaller and larger, sometimes as large as 5kg (11lb).
Q: What are the chicken fed on?
A: There are 2 stages in the chicken's diet: From 0 - 4 weeks they have a crumb which is roughly made up as follows: wheat & soya (non-GM) = 85%; wheatfeed & sunflower = 10%; and vegetable oil, vitamins, minerals, amino acids = 5%. From about 4 weeks old in addition to what the chicken glean for themselves outside they move onto finisher pellets which are made up approximately as follows: wheat & soya (non-GM) = 90%; and vegetable oil; sunflower; prairie-meal; vitamins, minerals & amino acids = 10%.
Q: What do the ducks eat?
A: The ducks are on a similar diet to the chicken - as detailed above.
Q: Are ducks available all year?
A: They are available fresh for most bank holidays and frozen the rest of the time.
Q: What breed are they?
A: Our ducks are Pekin ducks, rather like a traditional Aylesbury, but slightly meatier and very tasty.
Q: Goose is an amazing Christmas treat, what size bird should you buy:
A: Given that goose is a luxurious rich meat, we would recommend that you allow between half and three-quarters of a kilo (one - one and a half pounds) per person.
What do the geese eat?
A: Our geese start off with the same diet as the chicken and ducks then they move onto a wheat-based feed, but whilst outside the geese will graze on grass and pick at whatever grubs they find. Geese are very inquisitive and will peck at just about anything.
Q: Are they available all year?
A: Geese are available seasonally: November to Christmas - at other times it may be worth asking if there is one in the freezer.
Q: Do you sell Goose Dripping?
A: We sell jars of goose dripping as do the shops we supply, and you will get some for yourself when you are cooking a goose: make sure you pour it off and keep it in an airtight container in the fridge.
Q: Can we buy lamb directly from you?
A: No, since we are not licensed to slaughter and process sheep here on our farm, we do not sell lamb.
Q: How many sheep do you have?
A: We have about a hundred breeding ewes.
Q: When do you lamb your sheep?
A: In the Spring. Whilst prices are higher for those lambing at Christmas we are way too busy with the poultry at that time of year, and it seems better to us to let the sheep lamb at a time which is more natural to them when it is warmer and they can go outside within days of lambing.
OTHER FARM FACTS: Cracknell's Farm was 'green' half a century before the term was coined: reduce, re-use and recycle being second nature to the very thrifty war-time generation into which Tony & Eileen were born. This is an ethos that has stayed with us throughout the farm's history, including those decades when it was not 'fashionable' to be careful with resources.
Jeff would not boast about his welding skills, but he's not writing this, his wife is, so I can tell you that he does a fine job at mending, building and adapting machinery where possible. He does most of the building work around here too.
Since 1990 all the water used on the farm has come from our own bore-hole. It is regularly tested by Environmental Health to make sure it is pure and complies to all the relevant standards.
Renewable energy has got to be a good thing - solar panels on the tractor shed roof help by providing green electricity.
A biomass boiler provides enough hot water and heating for our home, Eileen & Tony's home and the main farm building with its processing unit. We have recently converted one of the chicken houses into a 'chick-house' with underfloor-heating provided by the boiler. This has significantly cut down on the amount of gas-bottles used.
We grow wood to coppice in one of the fields that is prone to flooding - this, along with other wood from around the farm feeds our biomass boiler. It is a lot of work, but we feel that it is worth the effort. It also puts what would otherwise be an unproductive field to excellent use - incidentally this little woodland is a wild-life haven.
Many people will have seen our farm from a different angle as they run across it on the Langport Triathlon. This tradition started over 2 decades ago. The Langport Triathlon is now a big event attracting over 400 participants each September.
Huish Episcopi Academy backs onto Cracknell's Farm, so not only do the students enjoy a superb view throughout the year, they also have the opportunity to run across parts of it in their P.E. lessons during the cross-country season.
For the last couple of years there has been a Langport Community Christmas Lunch which is organised and hosted by volunteers and held at the nearby school for people who might otherwise be alone on Christmas day. Many local businesses contributed to the day; we were happy to donate a three-bird roast and a goose.
Have a look at the Huish Episcopi website to see what else is going on in the area.