May 2018
Farm & Field

Something "Egg-stra" Special

Casey and Lil Yeager’s farm-to-market egg business in Orrville helps meet the demand for locally sourced food.

 

Casey, 10, and Lil, 8, Yeager work as a team in their enterprise, Yeager Girls’ Eggs. Both girls run a thriving business from their farm in Orrville. (All photos credit: Wendy Yeager)

In Orrville, something quite incredible is happening! Here, two young ladies are running a thriving farm-to-market business supplying fresh, farm-raised eggs to customers. Casey and Lil Yeager, the hardworking "CEOs" of Yeager Girls’ Eggs, are only 10 and 8 years old, but they are supplying the demand for local food, while strengthening the economy of this small, rural community.

Yeager Girls’ Eggs started when Casey asked for some baby chicks. Even though she was only 4, her parents, Wendy and Jamie, ordered a dozen baby chicks. Jamie built a pen, designed a coop and got some carpentry friends to build it. When Casey’s hens started laying, her grandmother, Jean Sealy, bought some of the eggs. Her Granny was so pleased that she told some of her friends, who then told other friends. Soon, Casey had more orders than she could fill!

Casey’s solution was to expand her operation. She added 24 more chicks and brought her younger sister on board. An even bigger boost came when Judy McKinney, the owner of Orrville Farmers Market, called to ask the girls about becoming a vendor. The two young entrepreneurs now had the foundation for what would become a successful, local business.

Casey and Lil work as a team to bring their farm products to customers. They usually sell 15-18 dozen eggs per week at $3 per dozen. Each Saturday, they make their egg run to deliver around eight dozen cartons to loyal customers. The remaining eggs go to their teachers and Orrville Farmers Market, where McKinney sells them in a baker’s dozen.

Judy McKinney, left, Orrville Farmers Market, buys eggs from Casey and Lil.

 

Casey and Lil are completely responsible for the care of the hens and their eggs. They gather, wash and sort, and then pack the eggs in cartons. With help from their parents, the girls mix their feed from crops grown on their farm. They use a mixture of cracked corn, milo and wheat.

The girls now have 60 laying hens. They start their baby chicks in a brooder with an open-air run space. Then, as the pullets grow, the Yeagers move them up a step to another brooder. At laying age, the hens are placed in a long, fenced run, covered by wire to prevent predators from getting inside. Here, the hens have ample space to free range, perch, scratch and wallow in the dust.

The girls raise different breeds of hens for their large brown or beige eggs: Orpingtons, Rhode Island Reds and some Sex Links. The nesting areas are spacious, accessible and covered to keep the hens dry. The gentle, happy hens sing contently as they walk around their large run. The girls give their flock names such as Eggle, Snuggles, Bad Direction and Angel. Keeping all these ladies on their toes is their rooster, Bow Tie.

Recently, a friend gave Casey and Lil two mallard ducks. The ducks now waddle around the run with the chickens. Once the ducks start to lay, the girls hope to raise ducklings.

Sometimes, a chicken business can be troublesome! When Casey and Lil were 6 and 4, Sadie, their dog, got into the pen and killed 30 of their laying hens. Only one hen survived! The girls were devastated and so were their parents, who had to explain not only what had happened but also why their beloved Sadie had done this. Even more pressing was the fact that the girls still had to fill their customers’ egg orders.

Wendy called Earl Washburn and traveled to his home to pick out some new hens. On the return trip, Wendy’s truck broke down and she had to be towed home. The 14 hens finally arrived on the Yeager farm, moments before a bad thunderstorm hit. Even with all the upheaval, the hens were unfazed and started laying immediately.

The Yeagers forgave Sadie, a bulldog mix, and kept her on the farm.

"She’s such a good watchdog, and she adores my girls," Wendy stated. "I have seen her several times herding the girls to the house when they were toddlers and keeping them from running off. She has been my eyes when I wasn’t looking."

Sadie is now 11 years old.

Yeager Girls’ Eggs is thriving. Their customers like knowing where their eggs come from and how they are produced. Customers heap praise on the quality of the farm-fresh eggs and the pride the youngsters have in their products.

 

The Yeager family grows row crops on their 940-acre farm in Orrville. From left are Wendy, Lil, Jamie and Casey in one of their cotton fields.

Casey and Lil live with their parents on Bell Place Farm, a 940-acre farm. Both of their parents are Auburn graduates. Wendy graduated with a B.S. in Animal and Dairy Science and a M.S. in Ruminant Nutrition. She is a fourth-generation farmer, who runs Bell Place Farm and plants cotton, peanuts, soybeans, wheat and sorghum. Jamie earned his B.S. in Animal and Dairy Science and his M.S. in Agricultural Economics. He serves as the director of the Auburn University Blackbelt Experiment Station in Marion Junction. He also grew up on a farm, where he helped his father with both hogs and cattle.

The Yeagers have no full-time employees on the farm. They do have seasonal help during plantings and harvests. Jamie uses vacation time during these busy times, and he also helps in the afternoons. On most days, the Yeagers work from dawn to dusk. Both girls also help with farm work. If there is something the girls can do, their parents let them try it. The Yeagers believe farm work teaches responsibility.

"If we don’t instill a work ethic while they are young, we are setting our future generation up for failure," Wendy explained. "I was always taught that if you can learn to work and when you set your mind to do something, there is nothing you can’t accomplish."

Growing up on a farm is giving Casey and Lil life lessons they could not get anywhere else. In addition, their small egg business has already taught them some valuable business skills. For example, the girls oversee their sales and finances with help from their parents. They practice time management, juggling school and fun activities with the demands of caring for their chickens. Most important, they are learning to make decisions and solve problems. All of these experiences develop leadership skills and self-confidence, invaluable assets for the future.

"I am so proud of Casey and Lil!" said Mc-Kinney. "It is so special that they get to learn the process of budgeting and handling money wisely while so young. Most kids have to wait until their teens or college years to learn the value of a dollar and make it work for them."

Casey holds Wrong Direction, one of their hens who always seemed to have trouble following the others into the pen, with Lil in the chicken run.

 
   

McKinney pointed out that the Yeagers’s egg business is a part of the agricultural interdependence in this small community. The girls sell their eggs to farmers, who, in turn, sell their vegetables to the Yeager family. The girls then feed their chickens the veggie stems and wastes that help the hens lay more eggs to be used by the farmers.

Casey and Lil may own their own business, but they are also kids who revel in farm life. Both enjoy riding tractors with their parents; grooming their horses, Red and Bee; and taking care of Sadie, their dog. Casey feeds these pets every morning, but Lil steps up in Casey’s absence. Lil also waters Mom’s flowers.

The girls attend Morgan Academy in Selma. Casey’s favorite subject is science, while Lil favors math. Both girls are avid readers. Casey plans to become a veterinarian, while Lil hopes to be a farmer.

The girls are also involved in many other activities. Casey plays softball, and both girls have been in dance for many years. They often ride their bikes through the farm fields or on the dirt roads. Both enjoy playing with their American Girl dolls. Lil collects Barbies, while Casey has a collection of horses.

Casey and Lil may only be 10 and 8 years old, but they are part of an important food chain feeding America. They are rooted in the agricultural way of life, passed down for generations. Regardless of what these young ladies may decide to do in the future, their egg business has already given them valuable skills that will ensure a lifetime of success.

 

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..