Sammy's legacy stuck. "I wanted to learn more," Neill says. "I started going to conferences and talking with other organic farmers. The more I learned, the more I knew there was no going back. I just put the hammer down." He had to sell half of his Holstein dairy cows to finance the transition from conventional to organic, the best half. It was one of the hardest things he's ever had to do, Neill says, "but the amazing thing is that after three years of grazing on healthy pastures, what was the bottom half of my herd now looks as good as the top half I sold."
The remaining 100 cows are not the only ones who've benefitted from the change, Cori says. Their oldest child, Neill II, is in college now and hasn't yet decided what he wants to do, but says that when he does decide, he hopes he's as passionate about it as his Dad is about organic agriculture. Their oldest daughter, Morgan, did a high school biology project on sugar content in legumes using the measuring tools and parameters her Dad had only recently learned to use on the farm. And two of the top cows that were not sold belonged to their second daughter, Alison, the family Animal Whisperer. One of those cows, Sweetheart, went all the way to State Fair under Alison's capable care. Alison's focus extends beyond the animals, too. She's been the one to spearhead the family recycling program.
As for Neill, Cori says, "he was always pushing to increase production because that's what the conventional model of agriculture preaches. No matter what he did, he was never satisfied." Recently, the Lindley's hosted over 400 visitors on a farm tour organized by the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association. As Cori watched him talking to the various groups, "I noticed how happy he is, how satisfied." Neill adds, "I have so much more energy now. This has opened so many doors."
Neill took over the farm from his father, Darryle, in 1982 when he was in his early 20's. His dad, however, continued to work the farm with him. As a 4th generation Carolina farmer and a gentleman, Neill doesn't worry much about folks in the community who look at his farming methods with a skeptical eye, but he did worry about how his dad would handle Neill's decision to transition from conventional to organic. "I didn't want my Dad to feel like the farm was going backward when we were building up the soil and trying to restore balance and the crops were weedier than he was used to. The first year we couldn't afford to do much other than apply lime to our pastures, but I remember reading that if at first you can't afford to do anything, just the fact that you're not putting out the bad stuff means that your healing process has already begun." They kept talking about what they were doing, and they got through it.