Mississippi teen raises her own food on farm

Farm Forum

RAWLS SPRINGS, Miss. (AP) – Do you wonder what goes into your food or where it comes from?

Hannah Crenshaw doesn’t; at least not anymore. She knows exactly where her dinner comes from – her backyard.

Hannah, a Petal High School freshman, has been raising her own food – including chickens, rabbits, goats and turkeys, among other livestock – at her Rawls Springs home for the last several years.

You might think Hannah’s parents or other relatives may have introduced her to this hobby – which is admittedly unusual for a 14-year-old – but she got the idea completely on her own.

When Hannah was in sixth grade, she got a sudden itch to raise chickens – a concept which completely took her mother, Missy Crenshaw, by surprise.

“Her dad and I grew up in the city, so we were like, ‘We’re not getting chickens,'” said Missy Crenshaw. “But she researched it, and she would check books out of the library about (raising chickens) – just stuff her dad and I couldn’t believe.”

So Hannah talked her grandfather, Frank “Parge” Ingram, into building a small chicken coop. Soon after, she was able to get some baby chicks from a friend.

Hannah, an active member of her local 4-H Club, was interested in showing her chickens in poultry contests, but was unable to find a Forrest County group that she could participate in. The 4-H Club officials recommended that she show goats instead.

Hannah used the money she saved from selling eggs to buy a couple of dwarf goats, and Ingram came to the rescue once again by building a pen to accommodate them.

Today, the Crenshaw household boasts around 50 chickens, 30 rabbits, eight goats and two horses on their farm – which is affectionately named Parge-A-Rosa Farms after Hannah’s grandfather.

And although Hannah’s parents help out with the farm, her mom insists the entire venture belongs to the teenager.

“She really does almost everything by herself,” said Missy Crenshaw, a biology teacher at Petal High. “We don’t have a background in how to manage livestock – what we know, we only know because she educated us.”

Hannah’s father, Chris Crenshaw, is the physical plant director at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Hannah wakes up every morning around 5:15 to take care of all the animals, which includes feeding and watering, collecting eggs and milking the goats – several of which have won prizes in local shows.

After she finishes those tasks, she gets cleaned up and heads to school at 7:30 a.m. Most teens may balk at getting up so early, but Hannah said it doesn’t bother her as long as she can relax while doing the chores.

“I have to sit and get some coffee before I get started,” she said. “It takes about an hour. I could get it done quicker, but I don’t like to be in a rush.”

The Crenshaw family gets use out of every animal they raise – on a good day, Hannah can expect to get about 20 eggs, and Crystal, her oldest milk goat, produces about a gallon of milk a day.

And the milk isn’t just used for drinking – Missy Crenshaw and Hannah use it to make soap, which they sell at local retailers such as Corner Market.

Even the two quarter horses get a workout – Hannah races and shows them in 4-H competitions. The rabbits, however, are used almost strictly for meat – the only process Hannah doesn’t get involved in.

“My mom does (the killing and cleaning),” she said. “Because I raised them, I can eat them but I just can’t watch that.”

Hannah and her mother also are members of the Pine Belt chapter of Gaining Ground, an organization dedicated to protecting the earth and helping people develop healthy living and eating habits.

Missy Crenshaw said implementing the methods they learned in Gaining Ground has given the family new perspective on food manufacturing.

“It really changed the way we look at our food,” she said. “We’ve become less dependent on the food sources we used to have … and now we have more control over what goes into our food.”

The Crenshaws also make their own bread and pasta at home, and purchase organic flour and sugar.

Margaret Thomas, vice president of Gaining Ground, met Hannah at a meeting in January and said she embodies the organization’s principles.

“I think she’s a step ahead of the mainstream in our area, and she fascinates me,” Thomas said. “I wish that there were more people around that knew some of her secrets that had some of the drive … to do the things that make us more self-sufficient.”

And Hannah isn’t planning on slowing down any time soon.

Her short-term goals include adding pigs and cattle to the farm, and when she finishes her education she plans to be a large animal vet.

Missy Crenshaw does not doubt Hannah’s ability to follow her dreams.

“It’s really amazing, everything she does,” Missy Crenshaw said. “She’s just a throwback to our previous generations.”