It’s been almost two decades since a nine-year-old Dustin Stanton, “lost to a girl,” at a baby chicken giveaway at the completion of a 1999 grade school incubation project.
Speaking to 15 members of the Centralia Kiwanis Club over lunch at the Centralia Golf and Social Club, he recounted how his post-giveaway tears inspired an uncle, Joe Kuda of Perry, to purchase six chicks for he and his brother Austin.
Their parents allowed them to keep the chicks with the intention of selling their eggs to friends, neighbors and church-mates. That, Stanton said, would be in lieu of an allowance.
Stanton smile and said it worked.
Fast forward to 2007 when he started high school and took the brothers’ allowance project to a whole new level.
“I purchased 500 chickens for my FFA SAE project,” Stanton said. “The plan was to sell the eggs at the Columbia Farmer’s Market. We bought a year’s membership to the market and started selling every Saturday.”
He said the first few Saturdays were discouraging.
“The first day, it was a rainy day the only sale we made is when a lady asked me to sell her a half-dozen eggs. So I had to break up a package for her.”
The next weekend was a little better, he said, even though it was snowing, he sold a full dozen. Nevertheless, Stanton said, they had a full year’s membership to the market so they were going to stick it out.
“The third week was no better,” he said. “But the fourth week we sold 40 dozen and we were sure we were going to stick with it.”
Since then, the eggs laid by the Stanton brothers’ 7,200 chicken eggs are sold at 55 outlets around mid-Missouri.
Among them are stores in Boonville, Columbia, Centralia, Moberly, Jefferson City. They also supply eggs to the Centralia School District.
Besides being perhaps the only independent free-range chicken farm of its size in the country, Stanton said the businesses’ vertical integration also made it unique in the poultry business.
Production, processing and sales and marketing are all handled by the Stanton family, he said.
The Stantons grow and grind the milo and grain sorghum the chickens eat on their farm.
The chickens lay their eggs there and the processing portion of the business: washing, grading chilling and boxing are also done there.
They also do all their sales and marketing, Stanton said. He said the falls more on him than Austin.