THERE were tears at the Scott household in Clarkefield, central Victoria, last Christmas.
It wasn't because of unwanted gifts or lumpy gravy, but for the turkey, which 18-year-old Madelaine and her 10-year-old brother, Arthur, had lovingly farmed before being sacrificed for their festive feast.
"Arthur and I both cried when the turkeys were going off to the abattoir. But when they came back packaged and plucked, we didn’t see them as a pet any longer," Madelaine says.
"But then at Christmas, when we were about to eat it, Arthur and I looked at each other and said, 'This is our baby'. But it smelt amazing and so we just ignored it."
It was all part of the steep learning curve for the sibling duo in the first year of their organic turkey farming business, which they run from their parent’s 178ha property, Hollyburton Park.
Now in its second year, the brother and sister say they have learnt the necessary tricks of the trade, not least a hardened heart. “In the first year we bought 100 babies in September.
It was a pretty huge outlay as they were $9.90 each and we bought two tonne of grain at $1000 a tonne. And we had to pay $10 to get them killed,’’ she says, adding that she provided all the initial capital.
"We ended up losing about 30 of them because they’re stupid things. They’re not like chickens who know how to eat and drink. Turkeys need to be taught. Then the electricity went off and in the dark they squished each other. So the whole thing turned out to be a lot bigger than we thought."
Despite the challenges, Arthur and Madelaine ended up selling 35 birds, making a total $10 profit.
She says this year the business, which they plan to call Arthur’s Organic Turkeys, is set to be much more successful, with only two losses and already 50 sold.
Above all, the siblings have a marketing edge: their organic turkeys eat 80 per cent grass, leading happy lives wandering under an orchard of fruit trees.
"It’s rare to find organic turkeys. They taste so much better than commercial ones," Madelaine says.
"Our turkeys like me, but they love Arthur. When they see him they run up to him and, ‘gobble, gobble’."
The turkeys are the most recent in a long line of ingenious and ethical entrepreneurial enterprises for the Scott children.
Forget lemonade stands. These children are in the league of adults when it comes to high finance.
Madelaine, the eldest of three children, says she first dabbled in agribusiness at the tender age of eight, encouraged by her parents, Rob and Colita, as part of their home-schooling education.
For nearly two decades, Rob and Colita have farmed Hollyburton Park, running sheep, cattle and mini pigs as pets, as well as a doona wadding outlet.
"A friend’s kids were selling eggs and so my parents thought this could teach me maths – counting eggs, chickens and money – as well as social skills through selling," she says.
Rob and Colita purchased an initial 20 chickens for their daughter and within three months she had paid them back and had expanded the flock.
Within a year she was selling chickens at farmers’ markets. Now, a decade on, Madelaine sells 600 eggs a month and about 100 chickens. In addition, two years ago she started a vegetable garden, with the produce sold in Woodend and Melbourne shops.
Not surprisingly Madelaine says she can’t imagine life away from the farm and envisages a time she and Arthur will run it together, while her sister Haliey is more interested in fashion.
"I love the baby animals and the joys of picking a whole meal out of the garden and eating what I’ve grown," she says.