by Laura Rodley
When Anne Diemand Bucci of Diemand Farm in Wendell, MA, makes a batch of TV dinners made of their farm-raised turkeys and chickens to sell at their farm store, it usually lasts six weeks.
Since the COVID-19 crisis news began hitting the airwaves, “things have been going like crazy,” she said. “Two weeks ago, my daughter posted a picture of a turkey TV dinner on the Facebook page and they were gone in less than two days. People kept coming, saying ‘We saw the picture’” – but they were already sold out.
“I told customers the dinners would be ready that Saturday at noon, and people started showing up at 10 a.m., some even buying 20 at one time,” she said. When they wondered if they should limit the amount that could be bought at a time, customers told them they were buying them for the elderly in their neighborhood, or for other family members. In the past two weeks, Anne has made three batches.
The same thing happened with their whole chickens slated for customer purchase. “We sold out of our whole chickens. We usually have enough to last till the end of April,” she said. “We start to process them in the beginning of May. I’m starting to sell single defrosted ones instead.”
To make their chicken soups and chicken pot pies, she defrosts a bag of five chickens, already allocated for that purpose. She has been taking several out of each five-count bag to sell to customers to meet demand.
Diemand Farm started their turkey venture with raising 500 turkeys in 1989. In 1990, they sold their first turkey pot pies making this year their 30th anniversary of selling pot pies.
They buy Mapleline Dairy Farm milk for their own use at their farm. Since so many people have been stopping by needing mainstay groceries, they have bought more milk to sell to their customers.
Anne has lived at the farm most of her life. She works at the farm with her brother Peter, her sister Faith and her daughter Tessa. All of their spouses help out on the farm. Her two other sisters, Mary and Judy, also live at the farm and work there. There are six other part-time employees that help inside the kitchen and office, plus two outside employees on the 175-acre farm.
They have had a longstanding account with UMass Amherst. UMass buys their order of frozen turkeys in the early summer and late autumn.
The farm starts raising their turkeys after buying them at one day old. “We were supposed to get our second batch of turkeys on March 23. But the doctor of the hatchery’s driver got COVID-19,” she said. Even though the driver had just seen the doctor for a routine visit, when his doctor found out he himself had contracted the virus, the driver was one of the patients told to self-quarantine for 14 days.
Anne followed her intuition to buy their first batch of turkeys earlier than usual, on Feb. 10, instead of in early April. “I’m eternally grateful that we were able to get a batch early,” she said.
New customers have been discovering their farm store. “People that hadn’t stopped by are now discovering us and all we have to offer,” she stated. “They’re having a hard time getting our eggs at Foster’s and Food City because the stores are sold out. They come here to buy Diemand Farm eggs and see all the other things we have available.”
To cope with such high demand, they are no longer offering such a wide variety of turkey products. Instead of ground turkey, they are offering grass-fed ground beef raised at their farm from their mixed breed herd of 21 beef cattle, as well as their usual steaks. Instead of turkey meatballs, they are making beef meatballs. “We’re saving what turkeys we have left for our turkey pies and soup for comfort food, to give people comfort. They need it,” Anne said.
“When the schools closed, that’s when a lot of people started coming. The ripple effect is huge – the teachers, staff, kitchen staff, people that don’t have child care. My heart goes out to them. I hear people say, ‘I’m in isolation, I don’t get to see anyone.’ I feel so grateful that I work with my family and staff; they are such wonderful people,” she continued.
Due to the increased workload of answering phones and offering curbside pick-up, they have condensed their store hours from 7 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday – Saturday to just 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. “I was working 13-hour days and I’m 63. I can’t keep this up. We have to keep ourselves healthy,” she said. That’s something she learned as a volunteer firefighter in her twenties: keeping yourself safe above all in order to protect everyone else – and supply them with turkey and chicken pot pies and TV dinners.
For more information, visit www.thediemandfarm.com.
by Laura Rodley