4-H entrepreneur raises farm-fresh turkeys for holidays

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When Madison Bennett, 16, had a chance to raise poultry through her county 4-H youth development program, she wanted to think outside of the traditional chicken coop.

“I wanted to do something unique, so I decided to start my own business, Turkey Time. Now I raise and sell turkeys for Thanksgiving and the holidays,” said Bennett, a member of the Bradford County 4-H program, which is part of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension.

As she developed her business model, Bennett wanted to capitalize on recent consumer food trends.

“My turkeys are farm-fresh — they live their whole lives in one place, where they get to roam free and aren’t raised with growth hormones or antibiotics,” she said. “This is the kind of product more and more people are interested in having on their holiday dinner table.”

Since starting the business with her first group of chicks just six months ago, Bennett has produced 13 finished turkeys, and has already taken several orders for Thanksgiving.

Bennett raises each of her birds from eggs, looking after their nutrition and living area until they are processed and sold. She’s also responsible for marketing her business, and even competed in the 4-H Gator Pit contest at 4-H University last July, where she gained experiencing pitching her business idea to a panel of judges.

“Raising these turkeys has taught me a lot about running a business and being an entrepreneur. I’m able to run this business because of the life skills I learned in 4-H, such as public speaking and good decision making,” Bennett said. She has participated in 4-H for the past 11 years.

“Turkey Time has renewed Madison’s enthusiasm for 4-H and agriculture. She is very proud of her turkeys and her business,” said Debbie Nistler, 4-H agent and director of UF/IFAS Extension Bradford County.

Bennett’s project is representative of the kind of impact 4-H can have on youth, Nistler said.

“Each 4-H member’s project is their passion. We want this passion to translate into life skills for the future. I hope more youth explore entrepreneurism as a way to expand the boarders of the classic 4-H livestock project,” Nistler said.

Bennett hopes to sell enough turkeys this holiday season to fund an expansion of her birds’ nesting area and ultimately produce more turkeys.

To learn more about Turkey Time, contact the UF/IFAS Extension Bradford County office.

To get involved in your county’s 4-H program, go to florida4h.org.

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The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.

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