Neill and Cori met in college, and Cori laughs when she reminisces about the first time Neill took her home to the farm to meet his family. "I was a city girl, you know, and I remember we just kept driving and driving out to the middle of nowhere and I wondered where the heck he was taking me." Finally they arrived at the farm and drove up to the house built in 1890 by Neill's great grandfather, fronted by a century oak tree, flanked by a granary and backed by the gambrel roofed barn. "I loved it all," she says.
Other than the fact that the house has been added onto and impeccably restored under Cori's tasteful supervision—she is a professional corporate designer—the Lindley's farm looks pretty much the same, right down to the "grove" of dried white and purple painted gourd bird houses on poles that attract the farm's only pesticide: purple martins. The idea had actually come from Neill's grandfather. "After he died, we realized something was missing besides my grandfather," Neill says. So he mounted the gourds on poles and the birds returned. "We love to watch them in the evening as they put on a show."
Until a few years ago, Lindale Farms was a 500 acre conventional dairy and crop operation. It was Neill Lindley's cousin, Sammy, who farmed nearby, who introduced him to the good things that were going on in organic agriculture, things Sammy had learned after touring organic farms with another North Carolina Organic Valley farmer, George Teague. Sammy was dying of cancer at the time, but as sick as he was, he felt it was important to tell Neill everything he'd seen and learned about this "new" kind of farming. Neill was worried about how to grow crops without chemical inputs, though he'd become less comfortable using them over the years.