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Life & Work with Mandy Castillo

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mandy Castillo.

Mandy, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
Our family has been farming in the Long Green Valley for over 100 years and six generations. John Mathias Prigel moved to the property, which is now Bellevale Farm as a sharecropper in 1895, and Prigels have been dairy farming here ever since. We are now diversifying our farming practices to enable our business to survive in changing times. Prigel Family Creamery will allow Bellevale Farm to be economically and environmentally sustainable and a continuing part of Long Green Valley’s agricultural heritage.

Bellevale Farm received its organic certification in 2008. Organic practices ensure the good health of our herd and the high quality of our milk. Our 150 milk cows graze fresh grass day and night. We prefer natural holistic remedies for the health of our cows instead of antibiotics and synthetic hormones. The average dairy cow on industrial farms only lives about four years, with two years of milk production. We breed our cows for longevity and strong bodies instead of high milk production so our cows will have “15 trouble-free years” of productive life. Our milk meets or exceeds quality standards and our cows’ health is excellent. Clearly, their lifestyle agrees with them.

Prigel Family Creamery will process milk from Bellevale Farm into fresh, nutrient-dense dairy foods from cows that graze on grass grown from organically balanced soils. We are committed to our community, to integrity in our stewardship of the land, and to the humane treatment of our animals. We acknowledge our dependence on God to provide and sustain our farm to make it economically viable for future generations.

The Creamery has been a wild ride, everchanging ride! We have added along the way and offer everything from ice cream catering, parties at the creamery, charcuterie boards, events and farm to table market and food. It always has and always will come back to doing whatever it takes to keep the farm going.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
We can call it anything but smooth! When we were building the creamery, our neighbors took us to court because they didn’t want us to build the building and ruin their “view of the valley.” The community was very supportive except for one neighbor, and they kept us In court for years at a heavy cost. Talk about a rough start. It feels like we have been trying to play catch up ever since. Also going from dairy farming to a retail shop, a processing plant, managing staffing, marketing,, rapid growth and just the daily highs and lows of being a small business. We have had to stop and change and grows and regroup so many times, but we are forever grateful to still be here!

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
This is a great question! and Very hard to answer. I spent many years in the service industry as an event and food service manager, wedding coordinator, even though by trade I was a Spanish teacher. (For one year while the creamery was first starting, I would teach in the morning and get to the creamery by noon to open up retail but then I quit teaching to focus full time on the creamery and my kids).

I feel like my experience as an events manager has transitioned me into what I am today. I remember my dad saying, “hey, sketch out what you Imagine the creamery should look like,” and from there, I have been able to create. When the creamery opened, I was head of retail and then decided to start our Ice Cream and Sweet Treats catering which turned into hosting events and private parties here at the creamery.

I have focused on creating community events and enrichments to bring people to the creamery and also tours to help promote dairy education. My new project has been our Market, where we use our meats and cheeses to make sandwiches, empanadas, cheese boards, and other savory snacks. We also currently offer some pretty cool meat & cheese boards for catering and pick up in the shop. My catering manager and I handle all our social media in-house, and I love the creative outlet that is. It’s a very personal way of connecting with our customers and giving them a glimpse of what we do.

I would say I’m most proud of all the things we have created since the land that the creamery sits on top of was just a field of grass. I also cannot say enough about the amazing team we have managed to assemble with their gifts and talents and faithfulness to this vision.

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