SKOWHEGAN — Every Sunday from June until about Christmas, Jason and Carrie Tessier slaughter, pluck and dress about 40 of their own farm-raised chickens to sell.

Daughters, Kelly, 9, and Makenzie, 12, help.

It’s a little messy, but these are Maine farm girls and it’s a way of life on 15 acres of land where cows, turkeys, ducks, rabbits, pigs, two dogs, a horse and a lone donkey named Martha share a world surrounded by pine trees on Malbons Mills Road just three miles from downtown Skowhegan.

“I gut out the chickens. I eviscerate the chickens,” Makenzie, a ninth grader at Skowhegan Area Middle School, said without emotion.

“You basically cut them open and you take out the guts and cut off the extra skin on the neck. You have to take out their heart and their lungs.”

Does it bother her to witness and be part of the daily life and death realities of life on the farm?

Not really.

“It doesn’t bother me because I grew up around it,” she said.

Little sister Kelly, a fourth-grader at the Margaret Chase Smith Elementary School in Skowhegan, agreed.

“It doesn’t really bother me about the blood in the butcher shop,” Kelly said.

MODERN FARMING

Neither Jason nor Carrie Tessier started out as farmers.

Jason Tessier, 40, grew up just a half-mile from the farm in a house where his grandmother lived most of her life. Like his father, who taught shop at Skowhegan Area High School for many years, he’s a carpenter, and he worked construction before landing a job at the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association in Unity.

The farm is on land where Jason built their house in 1999 and later the barn and small retail shop.

Carrie, 39, was a laboratory supervisor at MaineGeneral Medical Center in Waterville until she decided to work at the farm and raise their daughters.

The couple got their start farming when Carrie got a horse. Once the fence for the horse was up, Jason said he wanted to get some beef, and the next thing they knew there were turkeys gobbling and ducks quacking.

“Once we got into the Skowhegan Farmers’ Market we saw a need in the community for local food, for local meat,” Jason said. “So we kind of feel like we’re helping the local community by providing that.”

The property is land that once was part of the Malbons family farm, for whom the road is named, but this isn’t an old-fashioned vegetable, eggs and animal operation.

The girls make crafts, jewelry and sew aprons and bandannas for sale at the Youth Enterprise tent at the Common Ground Country Fair. Their business is called The Farm Girl Boutique.

Tessier’s Farm has its own butcher shop, licensed by the state as a small commercial processor. The Tessiers are one of only two farms licensed to process rabbits for commercial sales in Maine. They process about 100 rabbits a month, along with turkeys and maple syrup.

The farm is home to Carrie’s Somerset Coffee & Tea Co. Carrie Tessier imports coffee beans from around the world, roasts them and packages them for sale. The coffee is sold to three coffee shops in Maine and at 10 stores.

Carrie and the girls make soap, lotion, gourmet hot cocoa and loose tea. The farm sells organic milk produced by dairy farmer Sarah Smith at nearby Grasslands Farm.

The Tessiers sell beef produced from a blend of Highland, Angus and Shorthorn cattle, and they make by hand their own cold-smoked Polish kielbasa in the butcher shop. They smoke turkeys and ducks.

The next big thing for the Tessiers is to get themselves a milk cow, Carrie said.

“Some day we may make cheese because we’ve got our family cow coming up,” she said. “That’s our next step commitment to farming — having our own milk.”

OFF THE FARM

Jason and Carrie met at Eastern Maine Technical School where he studied building construction and she studied to be a medical lab technician.

Jason worked for 15 years at the Sheridan Corp. construction company before joining MOFGA in November 2014, where he is grounds and buildings director.

The job — off the farm — is a salaried position that allows him to farm as long as he gets the work done at MOFGA in Unity, site of the annual Common Ground Country Fair.

Carrie said she doesn’t miss working off the farm.

She was a hospital laboratory supervisor for 17 years.

“It was just time for a change, I think,” she said. “I wanted to be here at home. It’s a stressful field, especially in management.”

Jason said he enjoys both ends of farm life on and off the land.

The economics of small scale farming these days in Maine usually forces one, if not both of the adults, to work somewhere off the farm to make enough money to make ends meet and still do what they love — farming, he said. They can’t make a living without the off-farm income, Jason Tessier said.

“I think the off-farm job is an important piece of our finances,” Jason said. “Our goal is to have the farm support us — maybe by the time I’m 50. At that point I’d like it to be more of a hobby than a job. I want to stay vested in the community.”

The Tessiers are members of the Maine Antique Tractor Club, which is one of 9-year-old Kelly’s hobbies. She has her own tractor.

“It’s an old riding lawn mower,” she said. “It was my uncle’s, and he and my dad worked on it for about a day, and we got it running, and we started painting it and we started adding a new body onto to it. It’s a Craftsman and it’s all different now.”

Dad agrees. “We put big tractor tires on it.”

Kelly said she likes living on the farm.

“It’s fun and it keeps me busy,” she said. “Because I can do a lot of things and I get bored pretty easy, but living on a farm I don’t get bored that easy.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow