Meet the brother-sister duo behind these incredible, edible eggs
BY JOSHUA CAUDILL
“What I like is, by buying local, we are not just keeping the money in the local economy, we are getting a more intimate relationship with who is providing our nutrients and then also, getting a fresher product. You can see behind the veil. There’s no funky ‘Oz.’ This really is free range, this really is grass-fed, this really is a chicken doing what a chicken wants to do.”
That’s how Lynn Rushing describes the operations at Annabelle and Michael’s eggs.
The farm off Jacks Creek Pike is home to the local brother and sister-run company, who are among Lexington’s youngest entrepreneurs. Michael (13) and Annabelle (11) began homesteading on their farm with their parents, Lynn and Bob Rushing, six years ago, and now supply restaurants and other farms with their eggs.
They started out with a couple of chicks from a school incubation project — which soon turned into a realization about how delicious these eggs were — and from there, the organic farmers knew this would be a business the children could run themselves.
The locavore trend isn’t some bandwagon the family jumped on. Lynn explains, “Years ago, if you didn’t grow it yourself or you didn’t have your own chickens, your own ducks, your own geese, you got it from your neighbor or you bartered, you gave them butter — that’s how we fed ourselves before supermarkets.”
A number of clients come and visit for duck eggs, goose eggs, and chicken eggs. For many years, the Rushing family has sold at the Good Food Co-op and For Pete’s Sake farm, as well as many other clients.
One of the clients that Annabelle and Michael’s Eggs supplies is Ramsey’s Country Store. When manager Ashley Mason was looking for the best local eggs online one day, she stumbled upon the brother-sister team.
“It was a fluke. I got online and looked for local eggs and it brought up Michael and Annabelle; when I contacted them I found out it was two little kids,” Mason said. “Annabelle was nine at the time and Michael was eleven, they’re wonderful kids and little entrepreneurs. I can call them up, and they will deliver the eggs that day. It’s crazy sounding, but the eggs are still warm.”
“This really is free range, this really is grass-fed, this really is a chicken doing what a chicken wants to do.”
Angie Quigley, who runs For Pete’s Sake Farm, witnessed the growth in Lynn’s children over the years in character and in harvesting. It brings back fond memories for Quigley.
“They remind me of my father and his generation. I grew up in the country and we didn’t have all the chores obviously that Michael and Annabelle have now, but my dad’s generation, that’s what they did. They lived in the country, they had their own animals, they had large gardens so it wasn’t even a chore, it was a matter of survival and a daily practice of sustainability,” Quigley said.
“They’re very responsible, very smart, constantly learning, constantly reading books about the farm, about how to protect their flock from predators. They’re enthusiastic about their jobs. They love what they do. They don’t think there is anything abnormal about it so I don’t even know if they consider themselves entrepreneurs. They just consider themselves productive human beings on the planet.”
At 11 and 13, Annabelle and Michael understand the concept of business and more importantly, the concept of generosity. Most kids would do chores for maybe a toy or an electronic device but these kids use their money from their business account for their organic feed for the chickens, ducks and geese, and on giving back to the community.
“To pay the expenses, tithe to our church, donate to McConathy Farm, Lexington Humane Society, Kentucky Equine Humane Center and military missions,” Annabelle said. “For fun money, we get to do Scouts and fun activities like camping.”
Michael and Annabelle are homeschooled by their mother, allowing them to balance their day with farm life and learning. They read four hours a day, make frequent trips to the library, and seek out fun learning adventures. They recently went to Fort Boonesborough, took a culinary class, attended bee school, and went to goat school.
“We got a lot of time when we’re not doing homeschool,” Michael said. “We’re not sitting at a desk all day.”
They take flying lessons, horseback riding lessons, martial arts, and help with seniors. They’re also very involved at Walnut Hill Church and Michael is a First Class Scout in the Boy Scouts of America.
Annabelle makes sure every animal on the farm has a name, and spends a lot of time talking to her rabbits, all 22 of them, taking care of her favorite, “Kit Kat” and tending to the chickens, while doing all of her other farm chores before breakfast.
She has brought along baby bunnies when delivering egg orders, and then there was that time where the family found a young gosling with a lame leg. They gave up a bathroom in the house so it could use the tub for water therapy. They named her “Gloria” after the receptionist at their veterinary clinic. Annabelle would carry it around everywhere and it even slept beside her bed in a laundry basket.
It’s no surprise that Annabelle’s long-term plans consist of having a large farm and rescuing animals. The siblings are already saving money to purchase more farmland and have even discussed who gets which animals.
But Michael wishes he could have had some additional help. “I want to work a big farm. The only problem is, my mom only had two kids. She should have had like 20 because we have plenty of room,” Michael said. “We could have had a baseball team.”
Two siblings running a business could cause conflict for some, but Annabelle and Michael understand their daily tasks and play to their strong suits. Annabelle collects, cleans, and packages the eggs. Michael is usually the one who does the feeding and keeps the chickens, ducks and geese alive long enough to lay the eggs. They each have a side of the garden to take care of.
But they’re still brother and sister and it’s amusing to listen to them discuss their working relationship in a way that one would expect from young siblings. She smirks as she admits that “Sometimes it can get off course.”
Her brother casually sums up the benefits of the relationship, “If she wasn’t around, I would have to do her chores,” Michael said.
This article also appears on page 5 of the April 2018 print edition of Ace.
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