One Thanksgiving, sisters Roslyn and Phyllis Dickens were so exhausted from filling customers' orders that they didn’t have the energy to cook their own turkey dinner.

When a friend stopped by the house Thanksgiving Day and discovered that the sisters hadn’t eaten, she “made us hot dogs!” Phyllis Dickens said.

The annual turkey-to-table marathon at Belwing Acres Turkey Farm, in Seekonk, MA, began months ago with giant pens of squawking white baby birds, and ends with customers lining up outside their roadside store to pay cash (no credit cards here) for a freshly plucked, tied and wrapped turkey, plus parchment paper and printed cooking instructions.

The Dickens sisters, both in their 70s, have been working side-by-side in the run-up to Thanksgiving at the farm their father started 75 years ago. Phyllis Dickens, a retired teacher, still lives on the farm and runs the day-to-day operations.

Her sister, Roslyn, a documentary film producer and photographer, lives on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Roslyn handles the turkey gift orders. “We had one company that gave 230 turkeys to their various friends and employees,’’ she said. “That part of it - about 1,000 turkeys - is my responsibility.”

The birds are raised as chicks until they reach their full weight. Then they are trucked to a federally inspected slaughter house in Western Massachusetts. “You see all kinds of advertising and slogans that say ‘buy local,’ Roslyn Dickens said. But a small farmer can’t get his turkey killed unless he wants to go to Western Massachusetts or New Hampshire. So many small farmers have just gone out of business.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Roslyn had finished boxing and labeling the gift turkeys and was photographing the staff as they carried in fresh birds for customers. Phyllis sat on a high stool in the back room, directing the “runners” who fetched the orders. 

One of the men working the counter poked his head in the back to ask Phyllis Dickens about a customer she knew.

“I’ll look for a happy one,” he said.

“Sorry to tell you they don’t have heads,’’ she replied, “so it’s hard to tell if they’re smiling!”

She laughed, then took a deep breath and sighed. She'd been awake working most of the night.

“I normally sleep all through Thanksgiving Day,’’ she said.

This year, though, her sister, Roslyn, had made sure they won’t be eating hot dogs for Thanksgiving dinner. Roslyn invited one of the workers and his family to cook and share a turkey dinner together.

But Phyllis Dickens said she may or may not join them.  “I’m still planning to sleep most of the day!”