Deb Abraham Spalding
In 1939, Pauline Smith lived in the white stucco house at the corner of Elm Street and Emmitsburg Road in Thurmont. One day, someone gave her turkey eggs. Pauline had an idea; she decided to put the eggs under a chicken, hoping they would hatch. And, they did! From that day on, she raised turkeys and sold them to friends for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Over the years, the interest in her turkeys increased, and she realized that there was enough of a market for turkeys to start a business. Already owning a beef and dairy operation, Pauline and husband, Ross, decided to go into turkeys full-time.
Seeing a promising opportunity, the Smiths created Hillside Turkey Farm. Pauline’s husband, Ross, and her children, Betsy, Carlotta, Ann, Ross Jr., and Jimmy all worked for the business at some point in time. Ross II and his wife, Grace, with their sons, Ross III and Bryan, took over when Ross Sr. got sick. Today, Ross Jr.’s son, Bryan and his wife, Judy, have been running the turkey business for approximately twenty years. All of Bryan and Judy’s children—Bryan Jr., Ashley, and Derek—have worked at the business in some capacity while growing up. Bryan Jr. worked the business full-time until he took a new job in Frederick. Derek works while attending college at Mount St. Mary’s University. Both boys show interest in the family business; yet, as parents, Bryan and Judy want the boys to discover all their career options, so they can choose what’s best for them.
According to the USDA, Hillside Turkey Farm’s retail store on Elm Street in Thurmont is known as a Further Processing Plant. The Smith’s farm on Hoover’s Mill Road in Thurmont is where the turkeys are raised. They are then transported for processing in Pennsylvania. Some of the turkeys are shipped back to the store for further processing, meaning the whole bird is used and several things are made from it. They will be processed for sale as fresh turkeys or prepared by smoking, rotisserie cooking, curing, or becoming an ingredient in salads, pot pies, and other foods.
Obviously, the Smith’s turkey business has grown over the generations. Today, the farm has the capability to raise 180,000 birds per year, and it is the job of Bryan and Judy to see that it continues to grow, as technology and shopping trends change. The bulk customer, who freezes and prepares their own large-quantity orders, is joined by the single customer, who is looking for individual-portion packaging. “That’s why it’s important to serve a single customer or an entire party of people,” said Judy. She explained that customers can custom order rotisserie chickens and, occasionally, smoked meats, or they can make special orders with advanced notice.
The Smiths are making a special effort to have individual servings prepared so that customers can take the serving home and freeze it or just pop it in the oven, while still servicing the customer who will need larger quantities. Pre-packaged products in smaller quantities, like pot pies and turkey dinners, are popular for individuals, while the eighty-piece chicken package is a bulk deal for people hosting parties or desiring to package and freeze it themselves.
For parties, smoked breast, deli meats, and cheese can be used to prepare trays; smoked turkey salad makes a great cracker spread, and shrimp and crab meat (available occasionally) round out the party spread.
“Turkey Italian sausage is excellent when baked 25-35 minutes in a 19×13 pan, then cut into slices and tossed in a crock pot with sauce. It’s much easier than making meatballs,” shared Judy.
Hillside turkeys are antibiotic–free and nothing is ever injected, such as added oils or fats. Check out Hillside Turkey Farm by visiting them in person at 30 Elm Street in Thurmont, viewing and ordering online at www.HillsideTurkey.com, or calling 301-271-2728. Tell them you saw them here in The Catoctin Banner newspaper!
Pauline and Ross Smith are shown with a turkey in the early days of Hillside.
Pictured from left are Ashley, Bryan Jr., Bryan, Judi, and Derek Smith.
The smoke house can cook many turkeys at one time on 3’x3’ racks. Wood chips feed the smoke. A huge soup kettle is used for pot pies and soups.
Turkeys are shipped to Pennsylvania for processing. A portion of them are returned to the store for further processing. The whole bird is used, and several kinds of things are made from it.