Lisa Steele went from swanky Manhattan parties and working on Wall Street in the 1990s to become the most sought-after expert on raising chickens. It doesn’t seem like the two lifestyles could mesh, but Steele pulled it off, virtually living two distinct lives in the last three decades.
Today, Steele runs Fresh Eggs Daily®, the go-to website for anyone raising chickens. Steele has made her passion for raising animals into a thriving career. It has led to her becoming a renowned author, social media influencer, and television show host. It seems so unlikely that someone who worked for top financial firms on Wall Street would trade in the life it offered for a farm in Maine, but that is just what Steele did.
The jack-of-all-trades recently sat down to tell Totalprestige Magazine how she has accomplished so much thanks to her little chickens.
Lisa, you have an extensive resume and rich career experience. Fresh Eggs Daily® was your very own brainchild and it is thriving. First off, can you tell us about Fresh Eggs Daily® and its founding?
I never expected Fresh Eggs Daily to become a bonafide “brand”. It actually started out merely as a Facebook page on which I could share my chicken photos when my friends started getting tired of seeing them all over my personal page! Over time, people started following and began asking me questions and I realized I knew more about chicken keeping than I might have imagined, growing up around chickens from childhood. That led to me creating my website and writing blog posts to try and answer the more common questions I was fielding. I figured I would write maybe 10 or 20 articles and be done with it. Meanwhile, eight years and more than 1,000 articles later, I’m still writing.
Early on, I started gaining social media followers at a brisk clip. I think it was a bit of luck and being in the right place at the right time. It was 2009 to 2011 that I really saw a big surge of interest in backyard chicken keeping. That and my genuine passion, I think, is what set me apart early on and allowed Fresh Eggs Daily to really grow and stand out in the sea of chicken bloggers. I am thrilled to have launched the Fresh Eggs Daily brand of natural poultry feed supplements last summer. Modelled after what I feed my own flock, it’s just one more way to share my expertise and experience with my fans.
You are a fifth-generation chicken keeper. What are your earliest memories of keeping chickens and being on a farm?
I am! I actually grew up across the street from my grandparents chicken farm. They were honest-to-goodness chicken farmers, raising chickens in a huge two-wing chicken barn for meat and eggs. They supplied their own diner and also sold to other local area restaurants, and even the government during World War II. I spent a lot of time at my grandparent’s house and remember helping them feed their chickens. My parents raised chickens as well, but on a smaller scale. Both my parents were teachers and had no intention of being chicken farmers, but we always had a few chickens in our backyard and my brother and I were responsible for collecting eggs, I was in 4H, the whole deal. We had a mean rooster named Bojangles who would chase us around when we went into the coop. Happy childhood memories!
Fresh Eggs Daily: Raising Happy, Healthy Chickens Naturally is now considered a chicken keeping classic. It is your first book and has become an important piece of literature on chicken keeping. What inspired you to pen the book and how easy was it for you to write?
The online growth of Fresh Eggs Daily is what led to my first book Fresh Eggs Daily: Raising Happy Healthy Chickens… naturally (St. Lynns Press, 2013), which really was the first book of its kind. Focusing on natural chicken keeping which most books didn’t back then – and still don’t – it’s packed with advice for the backyard chicken keeper focusing on all natural methods. That speaks to those raising chickens because why have fresh eggs if they’re laid by hens eating chemicals or medications?
Although I’ve written four books since, my first book is still my best-selling title. I really enjoyed the writing process and even though it encapsulates information found on my blog, the style of writing for a book is so much different than writing blog posts or even freelance magazine articles, so that was a bit of an adjustment. I am told repeatedly by readers that they like my writing style because it is very conversational and doesn’t talk down to them. So, that’s good, I guess!
Not only have you written books about chickens for those who want to raise them, but you have penned a children’s book. Let’s Hatch Chicks! was published in 2018 and was long-listed for the AAAS/Subaru Prize for Excellence in Science Books for Kids. What inspired you to write a children’s book?
I had wanted to write a children’s book for a while after having the idea of two parallel stories, if you will, following one of my chickens who wants to become a mom, so she leaves her friends to sit on eggs for three weeks. Then, woven into that story, is a more “scientific” story of what happens inside an egg while it’s incubating. I love the idea of getting kids interested in raising chickens as I did, but I know how long the wait can be while eggs are incubating with nothing visible going on from the outside, but so much happening inside. Giving kids a peek at that process was the inspiration for the book, which has become popular with teachers who hatch in their classrooms, homesteaders and home-schooling families. Being nominated for the AAAS/Subaru Prize was just an amazing thing that I never could have anticipated.
Writing about chickens isn’t your only expertise. You also have a television show on every Sunday on a local NBC affiliate. How did you receive your very own television show and what has been the response from viewers?
The new TV Show “Welcome to my Farm” is actually my second show. I first was in talks with the local CW station about doing a “chicken lifestyle” show. The station manager happened to have chickens of her own and loved the idea. The show aired for two years on the CW (and YouTube/social media) before the station was sold. Instead of staying on with the new media company, the show producer, Hannah Sirois, decided to leave and form her own production company Drop by Drop Entertainment. That led me to turn down the offer to have the show continue on the CW, and instead, Hannah and I came up with a new show concept and “Welcome to my Farm” was born. We pitched it to NEWS CENTER Maine which is the local Maine NBC affiliate, and they loved the idea. The show premiered on February 24th on NBC and will air every Sunday at 11:30 am in Maine and New Hampshire, and is also available on Roku, Amazon Fire, and Fresheggsdaily.TV.
Prior to living on your farm in Maine, you worked for a short time on Wall Street. Can you tell us about your life while working in New York City and what motivated your move to the farm?
I graduated from college with a degree in business management and like many small town farm kids, knew there was a big world out there that I wanted to be a part of. NYC in the early 90s was an exciting place to be, I have to admit. I worked for Dreyfus Brokerage and Morgan Stanley and my life really was a blur of cocktail parties, movie premieres, charity benefits, five-star restaurants, celeb sightings, town car rides home from work, huge bonuses, just crazy stuff… trust me. I got a lot of use out of my little black dress. Every cliche you had heard or read about Wall Street at that time really is true. I had a good time, but honestly, I never really felt like I fit in. It was so far from country living that I knew I didn’t belong there permanently. Long story short, I met my husband who was in the Navy. We had a whirlwind romance and I found myself married and living in Pensacola, Florida. After a two year stint, he was transferred to Norfolk, Virginia and we found a small farm out in a rural area outside the city. We had horses and got some chickens and I knew my life had come full circle and I was right where I belonged. I do still have a little black dress in my closet, but don’t have much need for it these days!
Lisa, you have made the genre of chicken farming and keeping your own. Why exactly did you choose this arena?
I don’t think I had a choice in the matter! I think in life, we always end up exactly where we are meant to be. I look at the decisions and choices that led me here to where I am. Basically, the face of backyard chicken keeping, and I know that my grandmother is looking down and smiling. Carrying on my family tradition, but in such a different way than my grandparents did, I think would make her very happy. She lived to be 99-years old and during her last few years, I know she enjoyed my visits and being able to talk about chickens with me! Although she didn’t name all her chickens and didn’t have curtains in her coop, fundamentally, I think we raise our chickens very similarly. I have tried to revive and re-popularize some of the old-timers’ methods that she also used.
Do you advise other individuals seeking to become writers or television personalities to find an area they love and focus on it in the same way you have chickens?
Oh, I don’t think there’s any other way to succeed but to do something that you’re passionate about. Otherwise, your readers and fans will see right through you. Being genuine and authentic isn’t something easily faked. I would think it would be exhausting as well!
On your website, you refer to yourself as a social media influencer. In modern times, how important is social media to the life of an entrepreneur like yourself?
Social media is everything! Reaching nearly a million followers across my social media (blog, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter), I still realize that there are so many people who have never heard of Fresh Eggs Daily (but hopefully the TV show will change that!) I sometimes wonder how anyone even sold anything before social media. With one tweet, I can reach more people than I could reach having a brick and mortar store. I work with all the big names in the poultry industry, advertising for such companies as Blue Seal, Brinsea, Eggcartons.com etc. and have the luxury of handpicking which brands I want to work with, which is so nice. I know so many influencers will work with anyone willing to write a check and I think that dilutes the influencer’s brand so much. Being able to cherry pick my sponsors is a blessing. I think it speaks volumes with my readers, who definitely notice who I work with as well as who I don’t.
What is in store for the rest of 2019? Where is Fresh Eggs Daily® headed?
The remainder of this year I really am focusing on the TV show. I think that social media is so fickle and with Facebook really restricting what they are showing on any given timeline, and with video so popular these days, it makes sense to pour my energies into television. My fans really loved my first show, and so far, seem to be enjoying my new show. Plus, I really enjoy it. It’s a nice change from writing and taking photos of my chickens. I will also be adding some new products to my product line so that’s exciting as well.
Lisa, what is a day in your life like?
I actually don’t have a “typical” day. When I’m home, I divide my time between maintaining my blog and writing new content, posting on social media, working on whatever book I’m currently writing, and of course, caring for the chickens, cleaning the coop, collecting eggs etc. I also spend time with my husband, whether it be taking a walk in the woods with our dogs or heading into town for a nice quiet dinner. We have some really great farm to table restaurants here in Maine.
But my normal day begins around sunrise and I head out to let the chickens out and feed them first, then top off the bird feeders for the squirrels and wild birds. Once back in the house, it’s time for my first cup of coffee and I check my email and respond to as many as I can. Then the day might include an interview for a magazine, or maybe recording a podcast or radio show. I spend time cultivating my relationships with the brands I work with, have to send out invoices for ads I run on my site, do a lot of product testing and reviews, things like that. I like to cook, and try to squeeze in as much baking as I can, plus in the good weather I maintain our herb, vegetable and flower gardens.
I snap photos all throughout the day to use later on social media. I always cook a nice dinner, then after dinner usually relax with a glass of wine or cup of tea and go through and edit photos while we watch a movie or something on TV. I do travel a lot, doing public appearances, book signings, fairs and the like. I enjoy getting out and meeting fans in person, but it’s always so nice to come home to the peace and quiet of our farm here in Maine. Filming days are another story and turn into a whirlwind of lights, cameras, outfit changes, props and all that. They are always super fun! Trying to get the chickens to hit their marks can be a challenge, but it’s all worth it in the end to produce a great episode.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
I think the whole Wall Street thing throws people for a loop when they first meet me since my current attire consists mostly of flannels shirts, jeans and muck boots and my hair in a ponytail. But I think something else that few people know is that I played the flute in marching band in high school.
What makes you smile?
Oh, simple things like tulips, the morning sun, snow falling from the sky, a chickadee at the bird feeder. And of course the antics of our animals.
What scares you?
Public speaking. Not a fan of that. I’ve done a bit, but do my best to steer clear at all costs!
Do you have any hobbies?
I’m an avid knitter. Not that I have much free-time, but any time I can grab a chunk of time, I pull out my needles and a ball of yarn from my stash and get knitting. Now that we actually live somewhere that I wear scarves and mittens for a good part of the year, it’s actually practical. I love knitting mittens and cowls specifically.
Which historical figure do you most admire?
I think Audrey Hepburn. I used to watch her movies with my mother when I was a little girl and what impressed me most was her elegance and classic sense of style. She reminded me a lot of my Mom in fact.
Can you share two of your favorite quotes with us?
Actually, I have three and they are all attributed to Audrey Hepburn:
“I believe that happy girls are the pretty girls”, and “Life is a party, dress for it.” Those quotes are just so uplifting and positive. Also, “You can tell more about a person by what he says about others than you can by what others say about him.” which is a very sad but true commentary about social media and our society in general these days it seems.
If you had the power to change just one thing in the world what would it be?
I would make a law that everyone could raise backyard chickens!
For more information about Lisa Steele and Fresh Eggs Daily® https://www.fresheggsdaily.com/