Neill and Cori Lindley had been conventional dairy farmers for decades when they decided to switch to organic. Now their farm in Snow Camp is part of the Organic Valley’s farmer-owner cooperative.
The Lindleys had to restore their land, removing residual chemicals and rebuilding depleted soils. A wall of hanging gourds provide housing for insect-loving purple martins, which Neill refered to as his “pesticide” these days. During our tour, we saw cows on pasture and calves with their mothers instead of separated as they are at many dairy farms. The herd vet explained how seldom the cows have health concerns, due to their healthy lifestyle.
Organic Valley creates regional networks of farmers across the country. The company receives high-quality organic milk from small family farms, while families like the Lindleys receive support during the transition to organic farming and beyond. Cori once said, “Organic Valley has been so supportive. 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.” The milk from the Lindleys’ grass-fed Holsteins goes to a North Carolina dairy-processing plant that is certified to handle organic products. After being pasteurized and packaged, the milk goes to local grocery shelves.
“Our focus is on quality these days, not quantity,” said Neill. He is enthusiastic about the changes organic farming has brought to his dairy, and 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.”