Engelbert Farms’ early farm history dates back to 1848, when ancestors from Germany planted roots in Conklin, N.Y. During the Civil War era, the farm moved to a different side of the Susquehanna River and remained in Broome County until they were uprooted by the Lackawanna Railroad expansion in the early 1900’s.
Great news for Tioga County, the Engelbert’s settled in Nichols in 1911 and have been there ever since. Located at 182 Sunnyside Road, every other dairy farm along the river and highway corridor for a distance of some 30 miles to Binghamton has been sold for development. For motorists traveling Route 17, Engelbert Farms may just be a quick glimpse near the Nichols exit, however the farm tells a remarkable story, which includes a resilience chapter of coming back after the flood of 2011.
Over the course of the last three decades, the Engelbert’s have learned that the more you work with Mother Nature the more successful you will be in the long run. And the Engelbert’s have had a long run since they changed their farming practices in 1981, when they “quit using chemicals cold-turkey” and by the late 1980’s realized that their multiple efforts resulted in positive changes toward long-term sustainability. No chemicals are ever used on their fields or in their processing, and no antibiotics or hormones are ever used on the animals. At Engelbert’s, cows and calves are raised in lush pastures and also outdoors, pigs-can-be-pigs.
For the Engelbert’s, healthy soil lends to healthy plants and animals, and Lisa commented, “To us, organic is all about integrity.”
The Engelbert’s are indeed proud of the way they farm. The first certified organic dairy farm in the United States in 1984, and where an extensive amount of time is devoted to maintain organic standards, the pages of Kevin and Lisa Engelbert’s chapters of farm history have now been turned, although they still work on the farm. Two of three sons, Joe and John, along with their families, are now the fifth generation of Engelbert’s to continue the legacy.
Supporting two more families going forward posed a challenge, so the Engelbert’s opted to diversify into beef, veal and pork production, and plan to expand that more in the future. As an effort to relocate part of their operations out of the flood plain, milking operations will move to a property located one mile up the road diagonal to Wappasening Creek. They will continue to work with Organic Valley, America’s largest cooperative of organic farmers and one of the nation’s leading organic brands.
The Engelbert’s opened their farm store in 2009, where organic meats and cheeses and in-season vegetables are sold, and plan to expand it soon. Part of the Finger Lakes Cheese Alliance, Engelbert Farms sells artisanal cheeses made in Ithaca, N.Y. from their organic milk. Customers will find other selections at the store, too, such as organic chicken and turkey marketed from Jordan Farms, along with items from other individuals and farmers like jams, honey, coffee, salsa and tomato sauce, to name a few.
“We have a loyal customer base here at the store,” shared Lisa. Part of her mission is to communicate the advantages of buying local, and added, “It’s so important to know where and how your food is produced.”
Going forward, Lisa will focus more on the farm store, and in addition, will continue her work with the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA).
Plans at the farm store include opening a kitchen upstairs to sell “grab and go” meals, such as homemade soups and other favorites. Lisa’s two daughter-in-laws, one of whom is interested in selling baked goods and the other, who plans to create personal care products like lip balm and soap, and all of which will be made with organic ingredients, will also be part of the store expansion.
Engelbert Farms attends selected events to promote their products and farm store, and was one of a dozen or more stops on the first annual Tioga County Farm Trail event held in October.
For more information about Engelbert Farms, find them on Facebook or visit their website, engelbertfarms.com. The farm store is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.