At 22, many young men and women have just completed college and are beginning their future careers.
Missouri Farm Bureau Ambassador, Dustin Stanton is not starting a career. He has had one, since the age of 6.
Stanton, along with his brother, Austin, is the owner of Stanton Brothers, the largest free-range chicken egg producers in the United States.
The brothers, with the help of their parents, maintain a flock of 20,000 free-range chickens. The chickens produce 500 eggs a day or 3,500 dozen eggs a week.
The eggs are distributed to more than 40 different businesses including Hy-Vee and Schnucks in Columbia, The Isle of Capri Casino in Boonville, and the dining halls at the University of Missouri-Columbia and Columbia College.
“It all started in the first grade,” Stanton said. “We had six baby chicks in our classroom as a project on incubation and chicken production.”
His teacher told the class that once the chicks were hatched, one of the students would get to take the chicks home and raise them.
“I was the only person who said they wanted the chicks until the very last day,” Stanton said. “Then a little girl said she wanted them. The teacher gave them to her.”
Stanton said he was a little teary-eyed when he got home that day.
“My uncle saw me and knew how much I wanted those chicks,” he added. “A few days later he bought me six chicks and told me he thought it would be good for me to raise them.”
His parents agreed, but told Stanton he would have to pay for the chicks with a week’s allowance.
From there a business was born.
“I don’t think I’ve done anything special,” Stanton said. “It’s been done with a lot of hard work and I give credit to my parents for instilling that work ethic in my brother and me.”
Stanton said there is a great deal of physical and mental work involved in the business.
“Every day is different and new,” Stanton said. “I get up with the sun usually around 5 a.m. and from there it is non-stop until sun down and beyond.”
The brothers are responsible for feeding and gathering the eggs daily. They also wash and box all of the eggs for daily deliveries.
“We typically deliver in the morning, and my mom does a lot of that,” Stanton said.
The young man is quick to credit his parents for the success of the business and his success in life as well.
“I’ve lived on my family’s farm in Boone County, that my ancestors owned before Boone County was even a county,” Stanton said. “When I was in college I commuted to MU because I wanted to stay and help my parents out on the farm.”
Stanton graduated from MU in December with a degree in Agricultural Business.
His brother Austin graduated from Centralia High School and will be attending MU in the fall.
“We do row crops and have beef cattle on the farm in addition to the Brown Hyline and Bovan chickens we raise,” Stanton said. “We grow a lot of milo that we use for food for the chickens.”
Stanton said last year was a good year for farming, but because of the heavy rains and flooding this year the family’s row crops will be almost a complete loss.
“We usually plant 800 acres,” Stanton said. “This year we only got 80 in. The chickens are the only thing that is keeping the farm going this year.”
“For all our parents have done for us, helping out is the least we can do for them,” he added.
Stanton said the possibility of not being successful is one of the lessons he has learned in his business.
“The big thing is you have to have a plan,” he said. “But, you can’t be afraid if you’re not successful. You learn from trial and error and your mistakes.”
The old expression “bigger isn’t always better” is another piece of advice Stanton has taken to heart.
“My brother and I like to say, ‘better is better,’” Stanton said. “It’s the way we look at the business and our lives. You really can do more with less.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484