FOR most families, Christmas can be noisier and more hectic than the rest of the year - but not for John and Judy Leadoux.
The Gippsland farmers will be welcoming a day of calm and quiet today on their property, which is looking a little empty.
The Leadouxs are turkey producers, growing and processing 4500 free-range turkeys a year on their 10ha farm overlooking Bairnsdale.
About half their popular gourmet birds are fattened specially for Christmas, adorning restaurant tables in Melbourne and Sydney and taking star billing as the centrepiece of family Christmas lunch tables from Adelaide to Queensland.
Judy Leadoux admits she is always a little sad to see her turkeys disappear from the farm each year, after scratching, gobbling and growing in her open barns and grassy paddocks for several months.
But her fondness for her birds - "they're so calm, aristocratic" and her sense of loss at their annual departure is tempered by the feedback from customers about how wonderful they taste.
So content are her regulars with their all-important Christmas turkey that the business no longer runs a normal order book.
Tired of miffed customers turning up at the farm shop in the week before Christmas and finding no bird ready for them like the previous year, Ms Leadoux now assumes all orders are annual Christmas repeats unless informed to the contrary.
"People are just so enthusiastic about the meat. They like that it is free range, processed on the farm and that the birds are happy," Mrs Leadoux says.
"At the Melbourne farmers' markets where we also sell, I find customers are really glad there are still smaller people and businesses out there like us doing the farming and the processing. They like to know who you are and where their Christmas food is coming from."
The National Farmers' Federation is hoping this Christmas that more consumers follow the lead of those buying Gippsland's Leadoux turkeys, and consciously seek out food that is Australian grown and processed.
Whatever is on the Christmas menu, whether it is turkey, ham, beef, lamb, seafood, cherries, berries, vegetables, cheese, or that special bottle of red wine or bubbly, NFF president Jock Laurie wants shoppers to show their support for Australian farmers by buying local produce.
"Australia is world-renowned for our healthy, fresh, available and affordable food from meat and grain products to dairy, fruit and vegetables and locally made wine and beer," Mr Laurie said.
"This Christmas, give a gift back to our farming sector. Buying home-grown products goes a long way to supporting our nation's food producers."
The farming lobby also hopes that encouraging a sense of national food pride this festive season might help to stem the tide of food imports, including fresh and frozen fruit, vegetables, fish and meats.
New figures released last week by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences showed imports of vegetables jumped by $122 million last year, encouraged by the high Australian dollar. The figure in 2011-12 was $908m, compared with $786m the previous year.
'And for that all-important tip on how to cook the Christmas turkey and stop it drying out tomorrow? Ms Leadoux says covering the bird with foil before roasting slowly is a must.
"But really, it's all about the bird, not the way you cook it; it's about the turkey having access to open grass, low stress and no need for trucking. That's what we think makes our turkeys taste different."
Read more on The Australian.