The half-acre Two Boots Farm sits at the end of a country lane in Carroll County, but the Hampstead suburbs aren't far away. And if you didn't know that Two Boots Farm was a working farm, you might think it was Elisa Lane's personal garden. On a cool Saturday afternoon, Lane, who founded Two Boots last year, was harvesting cucumbers and squash that will end up on the plates of restaurants in Baltimore. The farm also grows flowers and mushrooms. Before committing to the life of a farmer, Lane, 34, worked in construction and was a performance artist. As a member of an organization called Clowns Without Borders, Lane visited areas of the world in turmoil, such as Sudan, Egypt, Haiti and Kenya. "I was going to all of these places that have issues, and I was feeling like I loved what I was doing, but it felt like it was more of a benefit for me than the people I was there to help," she said. Lane said she started looking for something she could do that could bring the world more benefit. She learned to garden from her husband, Doron Kutnick, at their home in Philadelphia. When they moved to Baltimore in 2009, Lane and Kutnick settled in Reservoir Hill, where she and neighbors started a community farm. The couple started looking for a property where Lane could start farming full-time, eventually finding the property they call Two Boots Farm. Lane said about 20 percent of her harvest goes to restaurants, and the rest is evenly split between farmers' markets and Community-Supported Agriculture. Unlike some other farmers, Lane said she doesn't tailor what she grows for restaurants. "It's a very small farm," Lane said, "so I have to be very careful." Lane said she knows restaurants might prefer baby-sized kale but she grows big-leafed kale because that works better at markets. But keeping the restaurant trade helps Lane move produce that otherwise might not find a buyer, she said. Lane said she is just starting out with restaurants -- some of her customers include Forno, Dooby's and Bottega -- but she enjoys collaborating with chefs. She recalls a meeting last winter with Bottega owner Adrien Aeschilman where they sat down together with seed catalogs in preparation for her spring planting. That conversation led Lane to grow the constituent parts of a salad mix -- mustard greens, cress and various Asian greens -- that Aeschilman thought would not only taste good but look appealing on the dinner plate. Now, the salad mix is a mainstay at Bottega, and it's popular with farmers' market customers, too, Lane said. "It's just good to have diverse income," Lane said. "That's just a healthy business model."
Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun