Do you ever look back at your life’s course of events and identify which decisions were the BIG ones?
And I don’t just mean where you went to college, who you married, or how many kids you have…
Sometimes there’s a decision, seemingly minimal, if the flow of things that looking back made a BIG change.
Do you sometimes wonder how did I get from here to there?
My story has varied when I’ve been asked ‘How did you become a farmer?’ There were some seemingly small choices that have been monumental in getting me here.
My path to farming
We moved from Los Angeles to this Freeland farmette in 2006, sight unseen. We had flown cross country more than once and had been outbid on a couple of places. When this place came on the market Steve asked ‘Do you want to fly with Henry (the 7 month old) to look at?’ I said ‘No thanks let’s just make an offer, it looks good’.
A few months later we arrived at Oak Spring Farm with key in hand; our 3 year old, Sammi, and 7 month old, Henry, in tow.
Home sweet country home.
As soon as we were settled in I started a small garden.
Fast forward a few years- I started a small CSA for friends and neighbors to cover my costs and to share all the beautiful food I was growing.
It was so satisfying cooking, canning, freezing, pickling all my own produce and feeding my family Oak Spring Farm meals.
The Beginner Farmer Training Program
In 2011 a friend and neighbor, Jes, told me about The Beginner Farmer Training Program through Future Harvest CASA. She said ‘Lisa, you’re a perfect fit for this program.’
She was right.
Back then we went to the Baltimore County Ag center on Shawan Road every Wednesday evening January – March for our weekly classes.
Listening to all the different farmers and learning about all the different programs available to farmers was mind blowing. A whole world was opening up for me.
Finding a community of people who loved and believed in growing healthy food the same way I did and who had a set of values similar to mine was so exciting.
Jack & Beckie Gurley of Calvert Gift Farm in Sparks were my BFTP mentors. I went every Monday to work a full day weekly from April- October. I learned so much every week.
The classes, field days, workshops and working with the Gurleys built my confidence and my skills. Jack is an excellent and patient teacher. I would get ideas every week and apply them on my farm and garden beds. I learned how Jack put together his CSA, how he structured his fields and tunnels, his crop schedule, crop rotation, cover cropping, and so much more. Being able to see how a successful, established farmer runs his farm is worth a hundred training manuals.
After a conversation with 2011 graduate Denzel, a who came by for a visit with Jack, I got the number of the sous chef to Woodberry Kitchen. My first wholesale account was born.
Graduating from the Beginner Farmer Training program gave me confidence, knowledge and skills that I could not have gotten in such a short amount of time anywhere else. Over the next couple of years I had a CSA of 50 members, several wholesale accounts and helped start the Hereford Farmer’s Market.
Little did I know that just a short three years later my husband and I would go through a tumultuous divorce.
My husband was the bread winner. My farm earnings paid for a family vacation and the kitchen remodel but we sure didn’t depend on farm profit to pay the bills.
But I knew my passion; growing food. So when he said we had to sell farm and I had to go back to teaching I said ‘The kids and I are staying here.’
With my training and experience from the BFTP I was confident enough to say ‘I’m going to make a living farming’.
He said ‘You can’t make any money farming.’
I’m not gonna say it was easy.
Even so, in two years I was able to buy the house and get a loan from Farm credit. I met Keith Wills at a Future Harvest CASA Conference and told him my story. I told him I knew I had an uphill battle but that I would be in touch. Thank you Keith Wills. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for the support and the benefit of the doubt.
I cried the day Keith called me to say my loan was approved.
I could keep my kids in their home. I could make a go at farming for a living.
I know my purpose on this Earth.
#1 being a mom.
#2 growing and sharing food and community.
Honestly and truly the Beginner Farmer Training program made it possible for me to make a living farming.
The program guided me with practical experience and the gift of networking. Networking has been a huge part of my being a successful farmer.
I LOVE the BFTP. I fully believe in the program and it’s ability to successfully train farmers. So much so that I am a mentor in the program.
In addition I will be speaking about my experience at an upcoming Future Harvest event that I’d like to invite to.
If you feel strongly about supporting local, sustainable food and agriculture and you’d like to spend a relaxing afternoon sipping on local brews and delicious wood fired pizza please join me Sunday September 25th at 12noon for Future Harvest’s