Shelby Grebenc was only about 9 years old when her mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis — an unpredictable and disabling disease that can completely cripple a person for any amount of time. Suddenly, her mother, Nancy, was confined to the couch and unable to do a thing.
“It was really sad. She couldn’t walk, she couldn’t feed herself,” Shelby said. “She was pretty much dead on the couch.”
Nancy was unable to get up at all, and the family ended up having to put her in a nursing home.
Shelby’s father worked at a water treatment plant and her mother worked as a pharmacist, but now her mother couldn’t work and the nursing home bills were piling up. They hadn’t confided their financial troubles with Shelby, but she could tell they were in deep trouble from the cloud that had settled over the family.
“I could see how sad he was, and I wanted to help him,” Shelby said.
Her father, not expecting much, said “well okay, see what you can do.”
“I just never expected her to take it to this level,” he said.
Days later, his 9-year-old daughter returned home with a loan from her grandmother, which she used to purchase chickens. Her father was baffled, and Shelby was undeterred.
She did the math, and realized that she could sell eggs locally and turn a profit. So she built the coops, bought the 50-pound bags of feed, and a bunch of chickens. At age 13, she had up to 135 chickens.
She became the youngest farmer in America to win the Animal Welfare seal of approval, according to CBS’s Steve Hartment in his ‘On the Road’ segment. Her free-range farm is healthy, safe, environmentally responsible — and saved her family.
Without Shelby’s help, her father says, “I think we would have been homeless.”
“Just — oh, we’d have lost it. She kept the wolf away from the door,” he said.
The farm turned out to earn $15,000 a year, and after a couple of years, Shelby’s mother got better. The family’s financial situation improved as well, allowing Shelby to put the money into a college fund.
Watch her story here.