More than 15 years ago, Lisa Wheeler Duff packed up her family and moved from Los Angeles back to the East Coast to be closer to family. The former teacher, who taught Biology in South Central LA before giving birth to her first child, never imagined this move in locale would also be a move in careers.
“We took the big leap and moved to rural Maryland. We found a small farmhouse in northern Baltimore County; a place to grow food and family,” Lisa says. “I didn’t know it would become my livelihood — I was just thrilled to have a flock of chickens and land to grow all the food I wanted.”
The farmhouse and land was zoned agricultural. In order to keep that zoning active, Lisa knew she had to make money from it. She started by buying a few chickens for egg production. Her family suggested buying six to start, but she bought 25. “I started selling eggs and vegetables at the local mom’s club I belonged to and, when I met other moms over play dates, they were interested in buying vegetables,” she says. “My first CSA was born from the moms I met through my children.”
The sole owner and manager of Oak Spring Farm in Freeland, Lisa grows organic produce on about half of the farm’s four-and-a-half acres. She sells produce, including tomatoes, radishes, carrots, lettuces, butternut squash, eggplants and other seasonal vegetables, through local farmers markets and a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.
“I have done every job on this farm. As a successful entrepreneur, I realize that it doesn’t make sense to do every job anymore,” she says. “The heavy lifting and manual labor is best left to younger, hardier bodies these days. I hire out jobs that I don’t love or am not efficient at. But, the truth is, there isn’t a job on this farm I ask anyone to do that I haven’t done myself.”
Lisa believes knowing and trusting your food source is an important part of being truly nourished. “We help the community connect to their food source and know their farmer,” she says. “We help close the gap and give people the knowledge they crave about where their food comes from, understanding how to live sustainably with respect for the environment and the earth. I love being a farmer.”
As a female entrepreneur, it means a lot to Lisa to be an independent, financially and emotionally secure businesswoman. “I am so grateful to do what I love, no matter the profession,” she says. “I never intended to be raising three children or run a farm on my own, but that was the choice I found myself making. I am a nurturer, which translates easily to growing food lovingly and holistically, with intense regard for the land and the soil.”