Colo. girl hatches plan to boost family's finances

Shelby Grebenc
Shelby Grebenc
CBS News

(CBS News) DENVER - On a clear Colorado morning, the sun shines kindly on 13-year-old Shelby Grebenc. It admires her red hair and warms her way to school -- a professional courtesy, perhaps, for this fellow ray of light who's seen her share of dark times.

A few years ago, Shelby's mother Nancy was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. MS isn't a death sentence, but in Nancy's case, for a while, it might as well have been.

"She couldn't walk. She couldn't feed herself," Shelby said. "She was pretty much dead on the couch."

Jonmichael and Nancy Grebenc
Jonmichael and Nancy Grebenc CBS News

"I couldn't get out of bed," Nancy said.

"And she ended up in a nursing home, and, man, it was tough," Shelby's dad, Jonmichael, added.

Jonmichael works in a water treatment plant outside Denver. Shelby's mom was a pharmacist. They made pretty good money, but the nursing-home bills alone were bankrupting the couple. Shelby, of course, was told none of this, but knew all of it.

"Because I could see how sad he was, and I decided to help him," she said.

"And I said, 'Well, OK, see what you can do,'" said Jonmichael. "I just never thought she would take it to this level."

What Shelby did was basically start farming -- at the age of 9. She got a loan from her grandma and bought chickens -- lots of chickens.

Shelby Grebenc's chickens
Shelby Grebenc's chickens CBS News

"I have 135, about," she said.

Never mind she didn't come from a farming family. Never mind the 50-pound feed bags. Shelby was determined to tackle this. She'd run the numbers and figured there was money in eggs, if you did it right, which she did.

Shelby became the youngest farmer in America to win the Animal Welfare Seal of Approval, which basically means her chickens have the life.

"I have to make sure the chickens get out, they get to eat bugs, they get to be chickens," Shelby said.

Pair that comparison with home delivery and you've got yourself a winning business model. Her company makes about $15,000 a year.

Asked where the family would have been without Shelby's business, Jonmichael said, "I think we would have been homeless. We would have just -- we would have lost it. She kept the wolf away from the door."

Today, Nancy is a little better -- as are the family finances. Shelby can now put all the profits into a college fund, although should the need arise again, she said family remains her first priority.

And that's why, whether she stays in farming or not, Shelby Grebenc will always be one good egg.

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  • Steve Hartman
    Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.