Farming certainly involves plenty of work throughout the year. For this Notes from the FLX Farm column, Lisa Engelbert of Engelbert Farms describes the work her family is doing even before planting and harvesting begins in the Spring. Engelbert Farms in Nichols was the first organic dairy farm in the United States and today it is known for its organic cheeses, meats, and produce.
EFL: Could you please describe some of the daily tasks involved this time of year in running your organic dairy farm?
Our sons are running the farm now, so I don’t have day-to-day tasks. My job now is growing vegetables and marketing our products. We sell most of our products through our farm store and also sell directly to stores, restaurants, buying clubs, etc. I keep track of our processing schedule—for both meat and cheese. Making soups and other offerings from our kitchen is a year-round job as well.
Our sons’ daily winter tasks include feeding the animals, cleaning the barns, milking the cows twice a day, breeding cows, repairing equipment, trying to keep up with paperwork, and purchasing seeds needed for the year. In the Spring/Summer/Fall, in addition to the above, they also raise all of the feed for our animals—that includes getting the fields ready to plant, planting, cultivating to keep weeds down, and as crops mature, harvesting and storing the crops.
EFL: Could you please explain some of the different procedures or processes that you have on your organic dairy farm versus a conventional dairy farm—and/or how that might influence your products?
The main difference is that we use no synthetic substances on our land or animals. We cultivate our corn and soybeans to control weeds rather than spraying them. Our cows are intensively grazed during the grazing season and are fed only a small amount of grain. Organic farmers are required to build organic matter in their soil by incorporating natural substances like manure, straw, hay and other materials used for bedding.
EFL: Could you please describe an issue or experience related to the farm that is on the top of your mind right now?
Increasing taxes and regulations are always at the forefront.
EFL: What are two or three things that you wish more people knew about farming (in general or dairy farming in particular)?
I wish people really cared about where their food comes from, and I’m not talking about the grocery store. During the supply chain disruptions of the pandemic shutdown, local farmers could still supply necessary products like meat, milk , cheese, etc. In my opinion, the global supply chain puts our country at risk. Companies and processors have gotten so big that if any one part of the system fails, it affects the food supply. In the past, there were small creameries and slaughterhouses in many communities. If we could get back to regional food production and processing, it would be better for everyone.
EFL: Could you please explain how you and your family might split up the work of running the farm?
As I mentioned, our sons are running the farm. They do all of the planning, purchasing and day to day work on the farm. My husband still helps them with fieldwork. I run our store and wholesale business, and grow vegetables.
EFL: What are some resolutions or priorities you may have for the farm in 2021?
Our priorities are pretty much the same every year – get crops planted and pray for favorable weather.
EFL: Where can people find your products?
Our farm store is located in the Creamery Building on River Rd in Nichols. We carry a full line of farm-raised, certified organic meats, cheeses and seasonal vegetables from our farm. We also carry products from other local sustainable farms and businesses. The store is open year-round Thursday and Friday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. We’re open for additional days/hours in the summer.
EFL: What are some of the greatest rewards of starting and/or running the farm?
One of the greatest rewards for us is seeing our sons take over the farm. They are doing a great job—we’re incredibly proud of them!
The From the FLX Farm column aims to help people understand the hard work and dedication involved in farming from a first-hand experience to show why it’s important to support Finger Lakes farmers by buying local! If you are a Finger Lakes farmer who would like to share your work and experience for this column, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.