By Christine Webster
Riverland poultry farmer, Darren ‘Chook’ Letton’s passion for eggs began at an early age.
“From around the age of one or two, I was carted around in an egg basket and stopped the chooks from walking out of their chook pens,” he says.
Upon reaching school age, his mates started calling him ‘Chook’, and the nickname stuck as he became more active in the poultry farm and the Riverland community.
Darren’s parents, John and Kaylene, started the egg producing business, which is now known as Glenview Poultry Farm at Pike River, south east of Renmark, 53 years ago.
Darren became the farm’s manager in 2007 and decided to market their eggs under their own brand, Glenview Poultry Farm, and focus mainly on servicing the Riverland.
They now have 28,000 laying hens, 16,000 of them are caged and 12,000 are free range. Each day the hens lay about 2000 dozen eggs, which are distributed to the Riverland and Mallee and over the Victorian border into the Sunraysia region.
The eggs are especially popular among caterers in Sunraysia and more than half of the Letton’s eggs are sent there and served in cafés and restaurants.
It is not unusual to see the Glenview Poultry Farm van in Mildura, where many treat Riverlanders as local. Supermarkets in the Riverland, Mallee and Sunraysia also sell the eggs, which are usually on the shelves just one to three days after being laid.
Eggs sourced from wholesalers in Mildura can also be found in Broken Hill and Balranald in NSW and the Wimmera in Victoria.
The Letton’s egg cartons over the years have featured River Murray and gum tree scenes with photos of Darren’s children taking part in activities such as umpiring football or playing sport.
“My two youngest kids became my main marketing tools, when it first began Gemma was six and Cody was about two, ” Darren says. “Now he is 13 and she is 17.”
The egg producer donates about 15,000 eggs a year to community organisations for fundraisers such as supporting children with cancer, and sporting clubs.
“If they ask me for money, most of the times I will donate eggs,” he says. “I’m still paying off debt, but I can always donate eggs.”
The donated freshly laid eggs are also a tradition of Australia Day and Easter breakfasts in Berri, Loxton and Renmark.
Glenview Poultry Farm since 2003, has also participated in the Renmark Christmas Pageant and is well known for its Humpty Dumpty float. Its floats have also featured in the Barmera Christmas pageant and the Loxton Mardi Gras.
The egg farms’ 15 employees and their family including children often take part in these events.
Over the years, Darren who is also fondly known as ‘the egg man’, has had regular commercial radio spots. This included ‘The Crack Up’, a joke competition on Magic 93.1FM and an egg recipe competition on Radio 5RM resulting in a recipe book titled, Chook’s Book.
Deregulation of SA’s egg industry in 1992 has caused some headaches for the Lettons. It has meant interstate eggs sometimes flood the market and supermarkets at times also increase the price of farmers’ brands without passing it on to them and then sell generic eggs at a cheaper price.
“If I wasn’t who I was, I think I would struggle,” Chook says. “I think all the hard work I have done over the last ten years has kept us going.”
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