By ROBERT STEWART, the lawyer
PRAIRIEVILLE, La. (AP) – After decades of hauling heavy bags of animal feed and seed, Scott Marston is calling it quits.
Marston, the 66-year-old owner of Marston Feed and Seed in Prairieville, plans to retire at the end of the month. His store will close once he leaves.
“I just need to retire – not really health issues, but bone and joint issues,” Marston said. “I just struggled for 52 years picking up food bags.”
Marston Feed and Seed has been in business since 1994 and offers a wide variety of chicken, horse, bird and dog food, among other products.
Marston started working in the animal feed business after taking a job with Service Feed in 1971. He said he saw an opportunity to open his own store once Service Feed closed.
Marston said he tried to find a new owner for his store, but was unsuccessful. Liquidation is on track.
“We’re not going out because of lagging sales or anything,” he said. “But it would be difficult for someone to buy this place and pay for it. I’ve done it slowly over the years.
Marston said he feels lucky because people haven’t chosen to give up animal farming to cut costs during the pandemic.
But he acknowledged that his prices had gradually increased over time. He said the first feed truck he bought in 1994 cost $4,500. The same amount now costs up to $18,000, and there’s “no end in sight” for price increases.
“Grain prices are skyrocketing. It’s just amazing,” he said. “I also wonder how long it will work. People are going to have a hobby that costs so much.
Data from the United States Department of Agriculture supports Marston’s claim. The USDA food outlook for April indicates that world grain prices, particularly corn, have risen since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. Ukraine is a major grain exporter.
Michael Deliberto, assistant professor at LSU AgCenter, said his institution hasn’t noticed a trend of local feed and seed stores closing. He noted that many feed and seed organizations are proprietary cooperative institutions, or cooperatives, that can spread risk among member companies to deal with price volatility.
But Deliberto said supply chain issues affect businesses of all sizes.
“The supply chain hiccups, unfortunately, were felt by everyone in the system,” he said. “It doesn’t affect a small store any different from a large store. Literally not everyone finds what they need.
Marston said he doesn’t think his retirement is indicative of any trend of local grocery stores closing. But he noted that in Ascension Parish, many areas that were once pasture are now turning into house-laden subdivisions.
“We’re an old-fashioned, full-line grocery store,” he said. “I think that’s sort of becoming a thing of the past.”
His post-retirement life will include time for his horses and grandchildren, as well as traveling – “the same things everyone says they’re going to do”.
He said what he will miss most is meeting customers from all over the Baton Rouge area.
“(I’ve met) a lot of amazing people that I wouldn’t have known from all walks of life, from probably the wealthiest people in Baton Rouge to people who clean stalls for a living,” he said. . “That’s the bittersweet part of it, walking away from such great customers. But most of them are happy for me.
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