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A determined mother and her turkeys literally saved Christmas for a Meath family farm who will tell their remarkable story of survival at Bite 2016, when the major food festival opens in the RDS from November 18-20.

Over 20,000 Irish food and drink lovers are expected at the second annual event, which showcases the best of Ireland’s artisan food and drink producers to huge audiences in the run-up to the Christmas season.

Hogan’s Farm in Cortown near Kells employs up to 80 people seasonally and produces over 80,000 turkeys each year but it was a business which was born out of a turbulent few years with their cattle herd.

“My mother Teresa had 70 turkeys which, after a difficult few years on the farm, she sold to local butchers and hotels and saved my parents from ruin one Christmas,” said director Fintan Hogan.

“In the early 80s, we needed to diversify as hotels demanded more convenient ways of cooking. So my mother rolled up her sleeves and produced a first for the country – Hogan’s Farm Boned and Rolled Turkey.

“I remember in the 90s, the company was under pressure because the market was flooded with fresh turkeys so my determined mother went to her AGA and cooked turkey meat from leftover fowl for hotel sales, which was also unheard of before.

Fintan and his brother Paul now run the businesses and have developed their own new breed of slow-rearing free-range turkey to compete in the market place.

“We decided to go back to basics and preserve our core product – quality turkey. In order to develop the uniqueness of our brand, we have introduced a small select range of turkeys, white and bronze, with smaller legs and a fuller, rounder breast formation for superior quality, said Fintan.

“The Charlesfort Woodland Bronze Turkey is a traditional free range bronze turkey that is reared over a period of up to seven months.

“These are the only turkeys that we know of in Ireland that are left out to roam and forage completely free all day and night in the woods and walled gardens of an estate.”

Although relatively new to the market, the Charlesfort Turkey range has already picked up two awards at this year’s Irish Quality Food and Drink Awards.

Hogan’s Farm also produces an award-winning Charlesfort Turkey Roulade, a butter basted breast joint with their own black pudding and carmelised onion stuffing, which will be on show at Bite 2016.

“We only have 500 Charlesfort Woodland Bronze turkeys this year and you can order them at Bite and online,” explained, Niamh Craughan of Hogan’s Farm.

This year’s three-day event will feature a range of winners from the Blas na hEireann Irish Food Awards, the biggest competition for quality Irish produce.

Presented by the organisers of the National Crafts and Design Fair, the Festival is Ireland’s first and foremost interactive food festival, with attractions for all the family.

The Main Stage at Bite 2016 will feature a superb menu of many of the country’s top chefs and food producers demonstrating interesting ways to cook with the best of Ireland’s artisan food products.

There will also be free cooking classes led by Cook’s Academy which will allow adults and children alike to get creative in the Hands-On Kitchen.

The extremely popular Bite Cook Along will see participants making such diverse dishes as pan-fried venison, shakshouka, pappardelle with cockles and mussels, kung pao cauliflower, healthy cookie dough balls and bruleed cider braised apples.

There will be a large amount of artisan food and drink options to eat at the Festival, ranging from Caffe Comino’s authentic Lazio region Italian artisan food to Klaw Crabshack Dining’s wonderful seafood cocktail bar, endless tasting and samples and an imaginative pairing partnership between Corleggy Cheese and French Wines which will see any choice from either matched with a perfect accompaniment.

There will also be craft beer, cider and prosecco bars along with an array of demonstrations at the Drinks Masterclass with experts on wine, spirits, coffee brewing, cocktail and smoothie making and vegetable juicing amongst others. Bite 2016 takes place at the RDS Main Hall from November 18-20.

Full details and booking can be found at www.bitefoodfestival.ie.

For a full timetable of free events on the main stage, drinks masterclass and hands on kitchen, please see www.bitefoodfestival.ie.