Stanton Brothers Teach Zuckerberg About Eggs, Ag and the Midwest
April 20, 2018
Written By Sara Brunsvold
At first, Dustin Stanton thought the phone call was fake. Why would Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, want to come to rural Missouri to learn about selling chicken eggs? The call was real, however. Zuckerberg truly wanted to meet Dustin and his brother, Austin, the two young men behind Stanton Brothers Eggs.
Dustin, 25, and Austin, 21, have helmed the agribusiness since they were children. Dustin was only in first grade when he began raising hens as a 4-H project. Today, these MFA Oil customers have the largest independent free-range chicken operation in America, according to the USDA.
Zuckerberg learned of their award-winning business savvy in a Feast magazine feature. Impressed, he set out to add them to his highly publicized 2017 “Year of Travel” itinerary. The goal of his travels was to connect with people in every U.S. state. He was particularly interested in influential Millennial entrepreneurs.
On Nov. 9, 2017, six weeks after Dustin received the phone call, Zuckerberg arrived on the Stantons’ farm outside Centralia. Per Zuckerberg’s request, no media were present. The brothers and their parents, Andrew and Judy, gave the billionaire businessman a tour of their chicken operations, which is nestled among the family’s beef cattle and row crops. The brothers talked privately with their guest for about two-and-a-half hours.
Dustin said the conversation ranged from Millennialism, entrepreneurialism, community involvement, trade policies, politics and more.
“It was a good opportunity to really connect and to learn from someone else and vice versa, for him to learn from us,” Dustin said.
Having spent most of his life in New York and California, Zuckerberg had never visited Missouri and had minimal exposure to ag. For his part, Dustin admits doing research on Zuckerberg prior to his arrival.
“Though I thought I knew where he was coming from, after we talked more, (I discovered) some things were true, and with some things I was off a little,” Dustin said.
Zuckerberg’s interest in other perspectives surprised him the most.
“He’s open-minded, and that’s why he came out,” Dustin said. “You don’t fly to Centralia, Mo., to an egg farm unless you’re open-minded to actually learn about what’s going on. So, I give him a lot of credit there.”
The brothers are now part of a Facebook advisory board comprising small business owners from all over.
“A big part of it is to really understand the way people think, live, go about their daily lives in different places,” Dustin said of the vision for the board, which kicks off in full later this summer. He adds he appreciates being a representative for rural America to Zuckerberg.
“If he sees an issue come up, he can connect with us,” Dustin said. “I think that’s really important.”
Meanwhile, he and Austin have big plans to grow their business, which will be helped tremendously when Austin graduates from the University of Missouri in 2019.
Undoubtedly, they will keep their customers updated on Facebook.