Lindale Dairy - Snow Camp, NC
by Elizabeth Friend, WSM Contributing Writer
That’s my ‘pesticide’ these days,” smiles Neill Lindley, pointing to a tower of gourds that provide nesting space for insectivorous purple martins. “They eat just about everything.”
After a quarter century of conventional dairy farming, Neill and Cori Lindley made a choice that would change their lives: they decided to go organic. This was no small feat, as 50 years of traditional farming had taken its toll on their land.
The process of organic certification is long and hard. Animals can be certified after a year, but land requires at least three years of work to remove residual chemicals and rebuild depleted soils. Following consultation with veterinarians and soil experts, the Lindley’s decided to join Organic Valley’s farmer-owned co-operative, Cooperative Regions of Organic Producer Pools, CROPP. Although Organic Valley is a national brand, the co-op eschews large-scale factory farming and instead works to create regional networks of farmers across the country. This partnership is mutually beneficial. Organic Valley receives high-quality organic milk from small family farms, and folks like the Lindley’s receive vital support during the transition to organic farming and beyond.
“Organic Valley has been so supportive,” says Cori. “They really put the farmers first. The people in the co-op want to be a part of the local community. They make an effort to learn about the area and support our local organizations.”
Organic Valley works to maintain the link between local farmers and local markets. The milk from the Lindley’s 100 grass-fed Holsteins goes to one of two North Carolina dairy processing plants that are certified to handle organic products. After being pasteurized and packaged, the milk goes straight to local grocery shelves.
As part of the process of transitioning to organic farming, the Lindley’s downsized their herd from 300 to 100 cows. “Our focus is on quality these days, not quantity,” explains Neill, who runs the dairy with his father and two assistants who have worked with the family for many years. Neill is enthusiastic about the changes organic farming has brought to his dairy, and hopes to rebuild his herd back to 300 once the farm’s transition is complete. He is also eager to recruit other farmers to join the organic revolution.
“I just want to get more people to try this. It’s tough, but you really feel the benefits every day. You see it in the animals; you see it in the land. It was gut feeling I had to go organic, but it was the best decision I ever made.”