We keep farm animals mostly because they feed us. But it would be foolish to deny that we also keep them as companions.

Maybe it’s because they can move—and follow us around—that they contribute a certain personality that farm plants just can’t. There’s the five-year-old potbelly pig, first got as a pet, that still hangs around the garden, having long outlived its cute phase. There’s the guinea hen that lost its mate and cried and squawked in mourning for days. And, until it was hit by a car this past Independence Day, an old Tom turkey had lived at the Ludlow Farm on Mecox Lane, shadowing visitors and intimidating some small children with his puffed up posture and dangling gobble.

The spectacular Narragansett turkey first came to the farm in a batch of poults, when Art Ludlow considered adding some heritage breeds to his standard Thanksgiving flock. He was the one that got away when Thanksgiving came around and he persisted on through that winter and grew to rule the roost. “Tom was really more like a dog than a turkey,” said Stacy Ludlow. “He wanted to be with people.”

Yes, farm animals can clear stubble from a field or mow a vineyard. They can replenish our soil, keep away pests, give us milk and eggs, and when the time ultimately comes, they contribute meat and hide and bones. And maybe because they remind us so plainly of mortality, they also become part of our family.