The Dennis and Hitomi Bailey family started with backyard chickens and now have a growing poultry operation
Dennis and Hitomi Bailey own and operate Arigato (hello in Japanese) Farms.
The 140-acre poultry farm is located in the heart of the Missouri Ozarks in rural Everton, Mo.
Arigato Farms supplies fresh, delicious eggs to area restaurants and customers.
“We’ve actually tripled or quadrupled our sales since September,” Dennis said. “We picked up restaurants in Springfield, Mo., and another popular local restaurant is adding our logo to their menu.”
The farm is home to 270 Red Sex-Links, a hybrid brown egg layer designed for high egg production. A single chicken is capable of laying 300 eggs per year. Known for their sweet temperament, Red Sex-Links thrive in both heat and cold. They come from breeding two heritage chicken breeds: a Rhode Island Red rooster and a Delaware hen. This combination of two egg laying breeds has proven to be very effective as the Red Sex-Link is a very robust, calm, adaptable and efficient laying hen.
Dennis, a recruiter in the United States Navy, stationed at the Springfield, Mo., recruiting office is often away from the farm, leaving Hitomi with the chores.
“I do everything,” Hitomi said.
Hitomi immigrated to the U.S., from Tokyo, Japan, at 18. While attending Grossmount College in San Diego, Calif., pursuing a business degree, she met Dennis, a Springfield, Mo., native, stationed at Naval Base San Diego. The couple were married in 2004.
Dennis and Hitomi began raising chickens in their backyard while stationed in Virginia.
“I like fresh eggs,” Hitomi said. “In Japan, we eat raw eggs over rice. It’s very delicious.”
The couple purchased their farm in June 2018, after moving 18 times during Dennis’ 21-year naval career.
The 19th century farmhouse and acreage was in drastic need of attention. The house is currently getting a major renovation with the Bailey’s doing all the work themselves.
The pastured chickens graze on grass and bugs and are fed Layer 24, a non-GMO feed that includes essential minerals. The chickens are shut in the barn at night to keep them safe from predators. They also use hot nets and fencing.
“Hawks have been our biggest problem. We lost 10 to 15 birds from hawks,” Dennis said.
The Bailey’s recently purchased 1,000 chicks and are in the process of acquiring the equipment needed to process whole chickens for sale. They also raise cattle and hogs, selling hogs in cuts.
They personally deliver eggs to restaurants and individual customers with a two-dozen minimum.
Dennis and Hitomi purchased their first farm in 2015, just a block from where they are now. Dennis built a new home for the family, when the Navy transferred them, yet again, to Montana. The family has been stationed in Montana; Seattle, Wash.; San Diego, Calif.; Sasebo, Japan; Mississippi; and Virginia.
“The previous owner left 70 chickens and eight ducks at our first farm, all killed by raccoons,” Dennis said. “They didn’t even eat the birds, they just attacked them for sport, and left them dead. I ended up bulldozing the barn, it was too dangerous for the kids.”
There is no laziness around Arigato farms. The three Bailey children all have chores and are always ready to help their parents. Fiftheen-year-old Adam is a member of FFA and recently won $300 at the Lawrence County Youth Fair.
Massive expansion is Arigato Farms game plan for the future. Dennis has just days left until he retires from the Navy.
“We’re currently purchasing the equipment for Wagyu,” Dennis noted. “We are in the process of becoming a full AI operation, ordering semen from Montana through Origin.”
Dennis will primarily be doing F1 crosses of Angus and Wagyu. They are also looking into raising sheep. Statistics say the U.S. services just 20-percent of the sheep market, so that is a potentially lucrative, untapped market for farmers.
“Adam is getting into bees; he thinks he’s going to be a millionaire,” Dennis said with a smile.
Arigato Farms sells primarily by word of mouth and on Facebook. They have also just been approved to sell at the Greater Springfield Farmers Market, located on the parking lot of the Battlefield Mall in Springfield.