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Since she was a child growing up in Cheektowaga, Traci Garland wanted horses.

Turned out the horse was just a gateway animal, so to speak.

After starting her own horse-drawn carriage business, Garland obtained a straight 9-to-5 job "to support my farming habit."

At her farm, Lockport's Emerald Green Acres, Garland raises beef cattle, pigs, goats, chickens, turkeys and more, with her husband Patrick and their two sons. Horses are still prized; Patrick uses a pair of black Clydesdales to plow.

This week, however, the Garlands are getting ready to offer turkeys, raised and slaughtered at their farm, to Thanksgiving customers.

Heritage breed turkeys, Narragansetts and Bourbon Reds, are their main turkey flock, Garland said. They take longer to raise than the common Great White breed, which are prized for developing lots of breast meat, Garland said. But their heritage turkeys reward the buyer with better flavor.

"You can get white turkeys right now at Tops for 38 cents a pound. I can't compete with that," Garland said. "Instead, we decided to raise stuff that's known for other qualities. Since it's a different breed and we raise it on pasture, we're sort of a niche market."

(Garland is taking orders at 523-3860; find more heritage turkey producers at LocalHarvest.org.)

Why heritage breeds?

"We picked the two turkey breeds that are always competing for the best flavor."

If we're going to the trouble of raising turkeys, we wanted the tastiest ones?

"We always wanted to eat healthier, and better for our kids. That's how it all started. It wasn't the ability to sell it. It was, 'What's best for us?' "

You've raised lots of livestock. How do turkeys compare for difficulty?

"When they are young, just born, you have to be attentive. You have to watch the temperature they're in, how they're eating."

Sounds like you have to keep an eye on them.

"Believe it or not, and I have the stains on my kitchen table to prove it, we have had to raise some of them inside the house, and move them out when they get older and more feathered."

In the house?

"This spring we had five 300-gallon troughs set up in my living room, with heat lamps over them. The baby chicks start to grow and when they're fully feathered we put them outside."

In your living room.

You bet we did. They're dusty.

For how long?

"The spring, April and May."

Interfere with your TV watching?

"Believe it or not, we don't watch a lot of TV."

e-mail: agalarneau@buffnews.com