LOUISVILLE, Ky. – As a small child, Chelsey Schlosnagle of Shelby County went into business with her younger brother raising chickens and selling the eggs. At 21, the business is still going strong, and as a result, Schlosnagle was named American Star in Agribusiness at the 86th National FFA Convention & Expo in October in Louisville.
"I've been working on raising chickens since I was 6 years old and, since then, it has really grown into a successful enterprise," she said. "I am so just so excited to be here and have all that hard work pay off."
Schlosnagle remembers the fun she had as a small girl selling farm-fresh eggs to members of her church. Thanks to word of mouth, demand for her eggs grew. Quickly.
"One day, an upscale restaurant in the area called to see if I could supply 10 dozen eggs a week as the chef was looking to use right, bright yolks for his recipes," the Kentucky FFA and Kentucky Proud member said. "At first it didn't seem worth the long drive to take the eggs to the restaurant. But the restaurant quickly expanded its order to 30 dozen a week, and the chef's appreciation for the eggs made me realize how special they were."
At age 12, Schlosnagle was selling her eggs in the marketplace.
In high school, she and her brother used an old family minivan to deliver eggs to weekly buyers. They would market their business by participating in local food events and taking sample eggs with promotional fliers to potential retail customers. Their effort landed the local Whole Foods and since, Schlosnagle's egg business has expanded to Whole Food store locations in Lexington and Cincinnati.
"When I first began, I didn't plan on being in a partnership that would entail selling more than 60,000 dozen eggs, 150 free-range turkeys and free-range broilers a year, which is more than half of the business," she said. "I found myself as part of a local food movement and, due to the encouragement and support of my parents and people in my community, I became more interested in the future that my unique business seemed to promise."
After a redesign of retail egg cartons, business cards and point-of-sale signage, Schlosnagle has her sights set on selling products directly to consumers through a buying club in partnership with Dutch Creek Farm, her family's farm operation, in downtown Louisville. "That will allow me to earn retail dollars for eggs on an ongoing basis, not just during local farmers' markets," she said.
Each year at convention, four FFA members are honored with an American Star award for outstanding accomplishments in FFA and agricultural education. The award is the most prestigious honor awarded to a student by the National FFA Organization.
The American Star awards – including the American Star Farmer, American Star in Agribusiness, American Star in Agricultural Placement and American Star in Agriscience – are awarded to FFA members who demonstrate outstanding agricultural skills and competencies through completion of a supervised agricultural experience. A required activity in FFA, a supervised agriculture experience allows students to learn by doing by either owning and operating an agricultural business, working or serving an internship at an agriculture-based business or conducting an agriculture-based scientific experiment and reporting results.
Other requirements to achieve the award include demonstrating top management skills; completing key agricultural education, scholastic and leadership requirements; and earning an American FFA Degree, the organization's highest level of student accomplishment.
Sixteen American Star award finalists from throughout the U.S. are nominated for a panel of judges to interview during convention. Four are named winners and receive cash awards totaling $4,000. All American Star finalists receive a $2,000 cash award.
Schlosnagle is a member of the Shelby County High School FFA chapter in Shelbyville, led by advisor Todd Stephens. She is a student at Eastern Kentucky University pursuing a degree in agriculture education with aspirations of being a high school agriculture teacher.
She is the daughter of Susan and Doug Schlosnagle.