Thank you to Lisa Engelbert of Engelbert Farms in Nichols, N.Y. for being part of this edition of Tell Me More About. Engelbert Farms is owned by Lisa and her husband Kevin. It is a family owned and operated business with her sons and their families also participating in day-to-day operations. According to their site: “Engelbert Farms, LLC is a certified organic dairy farm, certified by Vermont Organic Farmers (NOFA-VT). It is a true family farm, farming in the same location since 1911. Kevin, Lisa and their sons Joe and John all actively work on the farm. Their other son, Kris is often around helping out, too.”
I recently visited their farm store and highly recommend their homemade cheeses, especially the lemon and thyme moovache which is only in stock during the summer months. My children and I had a sample and agreed it was the best cheese we have ever tasted.
Tell Me More About is a feature where I showcase artists, business people, businesses or simply every day people with an interesting story.
Can you tell me a little about your farm, how long you’ve had it and how you got started in farming?
I grew up on a dairy farm in Athens, Pa. When my older brothers decided they didn’t want to farm, my dad sold the cows and took a job off the farm. I’ve always loved animals and loved to grow things, so farming always had a special place in my heart. The Engelbert family had been farming in Nichols since 1911, and in the Southern Tier of New York since 1848. My husband, Kevin and I got married in 1980, and took over management of the family farm from my father-in-law. In 1981, we started farming organically, and became certified organic in 1984. We didn’t know it at the time, but we were the first certified organic dairy farm in the US! We are first and foremost an organic dairy farm, but when our sons graduated from college and came back to the farm, we realized we needed to diversify to be able to support more families. Our operation now includes organic meats (beef, pork, veal), cheeses, small-scale seasonal vegetables, and field crops. With the exception of the small amount of milk that is kept back to be made into cheese, all of our milk is sold through Organic Valley.
What does your farm offer the community?
We have a farm store on the farm to sell our organic, farm-raised meats, cheeses and vegetables directly to our customers. Every piece of our meat is traceable back to the day the animal was born, and our cheeses are made by hand exclusively with our milk. Later in the summer, as vegetables are harvested, we have potatoes, garlic, onions, and other seasonal vegetables available. Products from other sustainable farms are available as well – eggs, chicken, turkey, honey, maple syrup, jams & jellies, salsa and pasta sauces. We also sell meat and cheese to stores and restaurants in the Valley, as well as Endicott, Binghamton, Ithaca and Watkins Glen, and as far as the Hudson Valley and Long Island. Our farm is part of the Tioga Farm Trail, and the Finger Lakes Cheese Alliance. Several times a year, we have an open house on our farm and offer samples of our cheeses and smoked sausages, as well as farm tours. Both my husband and I have been heavily involved in organic agriculture at the state and national level, and have done presentations at numerous workshops and field days on organic farming over the past 35 years.
How is farming changing today? What is the future of farming?
Farming has always been a challenging profession, but it keeps getting more difficult to do business and make a profit. Regulations, taxes and land prices continue to increase, putting more and more burden on farmers. Farms are getting bigger and bigger and small farms are getting squeezed out. I would love to see farms start getting smaller and more diversified, with their products being processed and sold regionally. In my mind that would contribute to national security with less imported food, reduced miles that food travels to get to the consumer, and would provide a fresher, safer, more traceable product. I believe to be truly sustainable and profitable in the future, farms will need to sell as much as possible of what they produce directly to the consumer.
What is the most rewarding part of owning a small farm?
My favorite part of owning a family farm is dealing directly with our customers and talking with youth groups. We have met some incredible people over the years, and have made many new friends. It is very rewarding to know that we are providing high-quality, healthy products. We like to know who our customers are, and our customers appreciate knowing how and where their food is grown. When we get thank you notes from customers and from kids that have come for farm tours, it makes us feel like we’re making a difference, and makes all of the hard work worthwhile.
Where can people find out more about your farm and what it offers?
Our farm store is located right on our farm just east of the Village of Nichols, at 182 Sunnyside Road in Nichols, NY- look for the little red building attached to the yellow barn. We’re open Friday and Saturday 10 to 3, year round, unless it’s a holiday. Our website is www.engelbertfarms.com and we have an Engelbert Farms Facebook page, which I try to keep active with what’s happening on the farm.
To submit ideas for a Tell Me More About … feature email lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the contact form under Info at the top of the page. People featured in Tell Me More About are from various walks of life, backgrounds and jobs because we all have a story to tell.