The USDA's Federal Safety and Inspection Service recently proposed regulations that will allow certain state-inspected plants to ship meat and poultry in interstate commerce. This impressive development is part of USDA's larger initiative, "Know Your Farmers, Know Your Food," which seeks to develop economic opportunities within regional and local food systems. Secretary Vilsack and Under Secretary Mande are to be applauded for such a far-sighted decision, one which could have a transformational effect on independent livestock producers.
When she was 10, while most American children are asking their parents for allowance money and believe that eggs come from the grocery store, Shelby Grebenc was soliciting her grandmother for a loan of $1000 to start her own pasture-raised egg business. Shelby and her parents live on four acres in Broomfield, Colorado, 20 miles outside of Denver. She began caring for laying hens when she was just 6-years old. “Dad was trying to teach me to be an adult,” she says, so he gave her chores—watering, feeding and letting out the family’s small flock of chickens. In the summer, she loved it. When it was 20 degrees F during Colorado’s winters, she hated it, but that didn’t keep her from learning everything involved in pasture-raising chickens and starting her own business selling eggs to help expand the family’s income when her mother, Nancy, who has multiple sclerosis, was in a nursing home.
Shelby’s Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World (AGW) standard Leghorn, Ameraucana, Rhode Island Red and Plymouth Rock laying hens roam on pasture all day, eating bugs and giving themselves dust baths and roosting indoors at night. Although balancing her business with her 4.0 grade point average and an abbreviated social life can be full of challenges, keeping the chickens safe from predators is Shelby’s biggest concern. It requires that someone is always home to lock the poultry into a well-secured coop at night, and feed, water and let them out onto pasture in the morning. Shelby isn’t fazed by this responsibility, however. It takes her about an hour each day to feed her hens, put out fresh water, and collect and clean the eggs. Her flock currently has 130 hens, which produce between 28 – 56 dozen eggs a week.
What do her peers think about Shelby’s entrepreneurship? They’re “astonished,” she laughs, when she goes to the bank and, using her Colorado state-issued ID, withdraws money to buy feed. While some friends think it’s pretty cool, those that don’t have a familiarity with animal agriculture think “it’s gross. Many don’t understand farming,” explains Shelby. “As my dad says, it’s part of life, BUT it is our job to make sure [our] animals have the best, most enjoyable life possible while we have them. I love my animals and I make sure they are happy but I also understand the outcome.”
Shelby sells most of her eggs to neighbors in Broomfield. Customers can call her or look for the big yellow sign she places at the end of her driveway when she is available to make sales. She and her dad will also deliver eggs within one mile of their home. Shelby doesn’t have any plans of giving up her business anytime soon. “I’ll definitely raise [chickens] forever,” she states. “I love chickens. They’re interesting and fun.”
For more information about Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW pasture-raised chicken eggs from Shelby’s Happy Chapped Chicken Butt Farm, contact Shelby at 303-883-4427 or email@example.com.