The way Michael Lenagar sees it, Neola Farms has a bright tomorrow because it’s run in the ways of yesterday.
“No steroids, no antibiotics,” Lenagar says, sitting in the home he shares with his wife and farm-running partner, Charline. “The way it should be. The way agriculture is meant to be.”
The Lenagars, whose Neola Farms sits about 50 miles north of Memphis in the small Tipton County community of Holly Grove, have become popular fixtures at both the Saturday Memphis Farmers Market and a number of popular city restaurants.
“We have foreign countries that are calling us here, wanting our beef out of Tennessee,” Michael says. “We’ve actually Fed Ex’ed around the world.”
To Michael and Charline, the demand for their organic, Black Angus beef is directly related to care and dedication they bring to their farm.
Michael devoted himself to farming full-time in recent years after a career as a hazardous materials trainer with DuPont. “You see the guys in the space suit? That was us,” he says.
“I’ve always farmed — my daddy farmed,” Michael says. “My wife and kids were running this farm while I was on the road. When DuPont offered me a chance to retire, (I said), ‘Yeah, I’m going to go into the food business.’ ”
The farm, which takes its name from the Kansas birthplace of Michael’s father, has thrived in recent years as the Lenegar family (including their granddaughter, Riley) painstakingly care for each calf under their charge.
The phone at their small ranch house rings frequently with new orders, with Charline working hard to keep track while helping Michael with everyday chores.
“I couldn’t do it without Charline — I mean, it’s us, it’s she and I,” Michael says. “I’m proud of her.”
The Lenegars hope to expand their farm, but only to the extent that they can keep a watchful eye on quality.
“People want good food, and we’re going to grow it,” Michael says. “We have every intention of feeding folks. I know I’m doing it just like the old folks did. They figured it out and I’m not changing it. Comes back around, doesn’t it?”
is a cellist/arranger/composer who currently performs with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra as well as several well-regarded Memphis-based musicians and bands, including Mouserocket, Harlan T. Bobo, Rob Jungklas, Glorie, and String Theory.
He has contributed string arrangements and recorded with artists including as Cat Power, Two Way Radio, Susan Marshall, Todd Agnew, Al Green, the North Mississippi Allstars, Smokey Robinson, Rod Stewart, Marti Pellow, Snowglobe, Fingers Like Saturn, Vending Machine, Kallen Esperian, and The Lost Sounds. He has also performed on soundtracks for Memphis-based director Craig Brewer's films including "The Poor and Hungry" and "Black Snake Moan," in addition to Wong Kar Wai's "My Blueberry Nights."
Jonathan has also composed scores for several films: Memphis director Mike McCarthy's "Cigarette Girl" and True South Studios' sequel to their documentary "Two Million Minutes."
The Neola Farms Trio
Scott Best, bass
Jonathan Kirkscey, cello
Jessica Munson, violin
Lance Murphey, cinematography, editing, co-producer
John Hubbell, writer, co-producer
Amy Clithero Gill
John W. Moore