Craig and Wendi Niebruegge of Kingsport are faith-driven in their dedication to being “good stewards of the land” they feel blessed to farm.
“I think God's called us to be stewards of this land. I feel it very strongly," Craig said. "[And] we do try to steward this land in the best way we know how. We do everything all natural and we don't do chemicals. Our animals don't get any antibiotics or growth hormone.”
The Niebruegges live and work on Indian Brook Farm, 70 acres of grassy land (30 acres are leased) in Indian Springs on Hwy. 126, a place historically known as a spot where Indians would “camp and drink from the springs.”
Indian Brook, once a tobacco farm, is now a pasture-raised cattle and free-range chicken farm - producing organically-grown beef, eggs, vegetables and herbs for local health-conscious citizens.
Wendi said Indian Brook is classified as a Century Farm because the maternal side of her family has maintained consistent ownership and run of the farm for over 100 years.
“My great-grandparents [Hudson] purchased the first tract of what was to become this farm in 1909,” Wendi explained. “My grandfather, mother and my siblings and I were all born and raised on the farm, named Indian Brook by my grandparents for the spring-fed creeks which run through its center and naturally irrigate the land even in drought.”
Wendi's parents, Haynes and Jewel Pendergrass, own Indian Brook Farm and reside in a house on the land, only a short Bobcat ride away from the Niebruegge home. Craig and Wendi farm in partnership with them.
“My parents are the reason we can do this,” Wendi said. “They make it possible for us to farm; it's been a blessing.”
Indian Brook Farm is entirely family-run. Everything from hay bailing to checking cows, harvesting vegetables and washing eggs is done by the sweat of the Pendergrass and Niebruegge families alone.
“We just get out there and do it,” Craig said.
Haynes and Jewel are in their 70s, but still devote their full attention to the farm's maintenance, alongside Wendi. Craig works full-time at Eastman, in addition to spending every evening on the farm, and even the Niebruegges' three young daughters - Emma Grace, Rachel and Maggie - assist in the daily upkeep of the operation, earning time to swim by working on the farm.
“They love helping do chores,” Wendi said. “And, I love the lifestyle... There's so many family opportunities out there... You're working together, you're putting up hay bales and you're working as a team, as a family.”
Wendi admitted she didn't always cling to the prospect of farm living as an adult, however. It was Craig who encouraged her to get back to her roots.
“I don't know that I ever would've ended up back here had it [not] been for Craig,” Wendi said. “He really had the desire to come back here and farm.”
The couple met and married 12 years ago in South Carolina. When they first visited Wendi's parents, Craig (whom Wendi titled a “natural” on the farm) “fell in love with the area, especially the land...
“I've wanted to farm my whole life,” he said.
After many visits, the Niebruegges moved to the Tennessee farm in 2005, nestling into a house in an adjacent subdivision. In 2007, when the Niebruegges and Pendergrasses made an executive decision to start using only liquid, organic fertilizer on their plants and the hay fields which feed the livestock, the community took notice.
“We have been blessed by the response that we have had from people,” Wendi said. “People love our beef; people love our eggs.”
Whether people are concerned with what the animals are fed, animal welfare or simply want to support a local farmer, “we have just tons of support,” Wendi said.
Crops and meat sold to the public out of the Niebruegges' carport “farmer's market” aren't genetically modified like most mass-produced foods. No chemical fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides are utilized on the farm. Weeds are picked by hand and Craig orders natural predators like lady bugs and green lace wings to rid the garden and farm of insect pests. Indian Brook Farm is licensed and inspected by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture for the sale of beef and eggs; their beef is also USDA-inspected when processed.
As far as produce like tomatoes and squash, Wendi said what they sell depends on the bounty of the harvest.
“Anything in excess of what we need, then we offer that to sell to our beef and egg customers as well,” she said. We also sell products like strawberries, honey, potatoes and onions for other local farmers.”
Craig and Wendi Niebruegge agree that farming by simple, organic means with their family is “the way God intended it to be for us.”
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