Fueling Conservation and Communication — Stanton Farms

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Conservation & Communication with the Stanton Family, 2022 Missouri Leopold Conservation Award Finalists

The Stanton Family has farmed near Centralia, Missouri, for more than 175 years. Today, Andrew and Judy Stanton farm alongside their sons, Dustin and Austin. The family understands that their resources are finite and that the family must work diligently to steward them well in order to succeed at their ultimate goal: continuation of their generational farm. The family works together to make goals for their operation that prioritize conservation and sustainability.

Half of the Stanton Farms operation is 1,200 acres used to raise beef and grow row crops and hay. Success is dependent on the soil, so the Stantons do everything they can to protect it. The farm has been utilizing “no-till” practices for the past decade, which means they minimize soil disturbance when planting and harvesting crops. These practices reduce the chances for valuable topsoil to blow or wash away. When planting, they use contour terraces, which go alongside hills rather than up and down them and utilize cover crops to help their soil stay put. The Stantons plant sorghum in their crop rotation not only because they use it for animal feed on the farm, but its root system provides additional aeration and organic matter to their soils.

The other half of Stanton Farms produces cage-free, free-range eggs and is operated by Dustin and Austin. Their eggs are marketed direct to consumers. Recycling is found throughout the Stantons’ egg operation. Water used to wash eggs is dispersed across the farm’s cropland to irrigate crops. Chicken litter is a well-rounded fertilizer that gets spread across their pastures to feed grasses and crops. They reuse their egg cartons and crates when safe and feasible. The Stantons continually innovate by assessing the data they have gathered about their farming operation. This data has helped them design a feeding schedule for the chickens to save feed and maximize production.

The Stantons believe that it will take effective communication paired with conservation to lead Stanton Farms successfully into the future.

“Communicating our passion for the industry of agriculture is critical as we build bridges with agriculturalists, tear down walls with consumers, and provide support to the next generation,” said Dustin Stanton. “We always approach every opportunity with the same positive and upbeat message but understand we may have to approach our respective audiences with different levels of complexity depending on their background.”

In fact, the Stantons sell their eggs at the Columbia Farmers Market just because it is a great venue to educate local consumers that really care where their food comes from. Dustin has also served as the president of the market to help communicate the true story of agriculture. Recently, Austin shared their farm story as part of a round-table discussion about “Food Producers” during Missouri University’s Extension Engagement Week. The family has hosted many tours of their farm for organizations and students from preschool, grad school, and in between. They have even hosted Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook.

The family has been active in agriculture organizations for decades. Andrew, Judy, Dustin and Austin all currently serve on the Boone County Farm Bureau Board. Missouri Farm Bureau is a partner of Missouri Farmers Care.