30 Days: Neill Lindley, Lindale Farms

The picturesque Lindale Farms has been in Neill Lindley’s family since the late 1800s. His great-grandfather’s home, built in 1890, is shaded by a centuries-old oak tree at the top of a flat hill, where cows and goats freely roam.

Lindale Farms is the first and only organic dairy farm in Chatham County, North Carolina, and one of a handful of regional dairies in the Organic Valley Co-op.

Neill began farming in 1982 after studying agriculture at North Carolina State University. He wanted his father, Darryle, to take a break, yet his father continued to work with him. Though they were met with skepticism from neighbors, they slowly transitioned from a conventional to an organic operation. It also took Darryle some time to get used to the idea.

When he joined the co-op, Neill told Organic Valley: “I didn’t want my Dad to feel like the farm was going backward when we were building up the soil and trying to restore balance and the crops were weedier than he was used to. The first year we couldn’t afford to do much other than apply lime to our pastures, but I remember reading that if at first you can’t afford to do anything, just the fact that you’re not putting out the bad stuff means that your healing process has already begun.”

Yesterday, we took a trip out to visit Neill. Though we had a cloudy few days here in North Carolina, the sun shone brightly for us yesterday. High up on two poles forming giant T’s, a slew of white and purple gourds swayed and bobbed. Neill told us they are birdhouses to attract Purple Martins, which he calls “natural pesticide.” His grandfather first put them up, hoisting Neill onto a ladder as a kid to help clean them out. The Purple Martins naturally migrate from Brazil to the same place every year, one of those spots being Lindale Farms. They take care of insects on the ground, keeping the pastures free from pests.

On his switch to organic, Neill told us, “We don’t feed our cows. We feed our soil.”

100 cows graze on his pastures, and he says his transition to organic means no veterinarian visits and fewer cases of mastritis, a common ailment for dairy cows that affects the milk they produce.

Neill was also awarded a TCRF grant this year for his work on planting various herbs on pasture to aid in a fully organic goat dairy operation (something difficult to do naturally). He currently provides the milk for award-winning cheesemakers Goat Lady Dairy.

Lindale Farms also houses an almost five-acre test plot for RAFI’s organic wheat project through our Breeding for Organic Production Systems project. The fields are just sprouting!

Thank you, Neill, for maintaining integrity in your family farm and consistently letting nature takes its course. By doing so, you are an inspiration to all farmers. You were a wonderful host and we can’t wait to see more wheat!

To nominate your favorite farmer or food hero for RAFI’s 30 Days of Thanks, click here.

Follow along every day at rafiusa.org/30daysofthanks

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