An enterprising group of Portarlington students have come up with an interesting way of making money for local charities, and learning about running a company at the same time.
Ellie Moore is the PRO for “Turkey Delight” in Colaiste íosagáin, Portarlington. In an interview with this newspaper, Ellie explains how it all began - “As 5th year L.C.A. class in Colaiste Iosagain, Portarlington, we decided to rear 15 turkeys for our mini- company. This was something different, unique and challenging. We knew that running a real life Mini-Company from start to finish would entail early mornings and a lot of hard work. We had a lot of planning and preparing to do for this mini-company to go ahead. We are running the mini-company in our Vocational Preparation class with Mr. Mitchell. He thought that it was a great idea as we would gain experience of a real life company from start to finish. Although he thought it was a good idea he said that we would have to clear it with Mr. Smith our L.C.A. co-ordinator and the Principal Mr. Bennett.”
“Ellie says that they got advice and help from their Horticulture teacher Mr. O’Donnell. We researched turkeys online; we spoke to local farmers who keep turkeys and also teachers who had a background in farming. They were all very positive but told us we would have to look after them and we would have a lot of responsibility and hard work”.
“We had to plan how to finance the purchasing of the turkeys, we had to organise the making of a run and shed. Most of the work making the run was done by the lads in our class with Mr. O’ Donnell. The shed we are using to house the turkeys was already in the school yard, all we had to do was clean it out and get it ready with straw.”
“We needed money to finance the buying of the turkeys and their feed. Members of our class bought shares in our mini company and this gave us the start- up capital we needed. We bought the turkeys from Mr. Colin McDowell who is the manager of the Grove Turkey Farm in Treascon and we did a good deal with him. We contacted numerous local feed merchants to price the feed for the turkeys. We bought it from Grennan’s in Rath and Glanbia in Monastervein. Mr Mitchell felt that ‘barley’ might be cheaper than ‘turkey pellets’ and we got the feed at a very good price. We realised that feed this year is very expensive due to the bad summer we had. “
Ellie says there was great excitement in the school the day the turkeys arrived. ‘They arrived in style and were brought to the school by Mr. Mitchell and his father Paul who is a local Councillor and chairman of Laois County Council. They had the turkeys in the back of the big white van he used for canvassing during the local elections. The turkeys looked happy, were a good size and really quiet.’
The students were all split into committees and all given different jobs to do. We all had to work as part of a team and this has overlapped into all of the subjects that we are studying e.g. Vocational Preparation, Maths, Horticulture, English, Art and Computers which have helped us to understand the workings of the mini- company.
Ellie also said “We are very busy with the mini company and we have to work hard every day. We have to take responsibility for it ourselves, such as every morning we have to let them out into the run, water and feed them, while in the evenings we have to put them into the shed and give them fresh water and bedding. We made out a rota and we all take turns looking after them. Most days we let them out to roam free and pick grass and clay as free range turkeys should do. It is a huge responsibility but we enjoy it and it has brought us close together as a class. This even involved us coming in during the mid-term break ,we now have realise that farming is a 24/7 job’.
Ms .Willams has helped us design a poster and a logo in our art class to advertise the turkeys for Christmas. We have done our market research and drawn up a business plan. It is our intention to hold an auction in the school on the 6th of December to sell our turkeys to the highest bidder.
‘Mr. Noel Dunne from the Farmer’s Journal will be coming to be the auctioneer. Some of my classmates have secured sponsorship from local businesses in Portarlington and are generously donating prizes for our raffle which we are holding on the day of auction. The raffle is to help us raise money for our mini-company to help pay our expenses. Any money we have left over at the end of the project will be donated to a local charity. The turkeys are healthy and eating well and have grown and put on weight. We expect them to be ready for our auction and in big demand.
We have been lucky that none of them died but there was a big scare in the school two weeks ago when a mink was seen walking around the turkey run. The mink got into the school building, there was total panic among the students but Mr. O’Donnell set a trap for him and he was caught in the toilet at 8pm that night.
Our class has got many benefits from rearing the turkeys and setting up the mini–company. It was a new experience as many of the students in the class never reared turkeys before and it was their first time to set up a mini- company. Despite all the hard work and the early mornings we have really enjoyed the experience.
In conclusion Ellie said ‘We would like to thank all the teachers and staff for their work and help with the turkeys and also the local businesses in the town for their sponsorship.’