White Oak Pastures: Nose-to-tail, farm-to-door

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We believe our farm is one-of-a-kind. We’re fiercely proud of our vertically integrated system, which allows us to raise animals on pasture, slaughter and butcher them in our USDA-inspected on-farm abattoir, and ship them directly to the well-informed consumers who want to support this type of agriculture.

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Jenni Harris, with a lot of help from our Comptroller, Jean Turn, began to focus on the potential of our online store in 2014 to share White Oak Pastures products with people who aren’t close enough to shop in person. We are able to reach a broad base of customers who have made the decision to put a high priority on the source of the food they eat, so we can sell every part of our 10 species of animals from the nose to the tail. Today, we ship hundreds of packages weekly through the mail. Here’s how it works:

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Sabrina Carnley runs the front of the shop, receiving online orders and working with our internet fulfillment crew to get them filled. She’s also your go-to for questions about everything from shipping to how to cook chicken feet.

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All orders are packed on our farm, not in some order fulfillment center in the middle of the country. Most of our products are frozen prior to being shipped, which ensures a safe temperature of the meat when it arrives at your home. Your box will contain a cooler packed with dry ice to keep your products cold.

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Between managing the South Georgia heat and the sub-zero freezer temperatures, these guys are responsible for keeping perishable product in good condition. Justin Chaddick (right) oversees frozen inventory, packing, and shipping. LJ Richardson (left) and Deion Wallace (middle) put the orders together and pack them up. We ship throughout the 48 contiguous states, to any address where UPS will deliver.

Shop online and keep these good folks busy! For more details on our online store and shipping process, see the list of frequently asked questions on our website.

Categories: Staff Spotlight | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The secrets of the ancient Kolomoki Mounds

The Kolomoki Mounds site is the largest and oldest tribal mound complex east of the Mississippi. Located just west of White Oak Pastures outside Bluffton, Georgia, these eight mounds were hand-built by some of the earliest inhabitants of the area, the Swift Creek and Weeden Island cultures. Building these mounds was a monumental task, toting dirt one basketful at a time. The largest mound, the size of a football field at the base and 56 ft high, required more than two million basket loads of soil.

These early hunter-gatherers had to have been very prosperous to be able to engage in an extravagant extraneous activity like mound-building, and the reason this was possible is the high productivity of the land.

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There’s something special in this little strip of land right through here that’s about 15 miles long and just a few hundred yards wide. We call it the Bluffton Ridge, and it’s the area where the Appalachian Mountains have gone underground and project like a finger under the coastal plains weather pattern.

Generally, the land in the coastal plains is sandy and of poor quality. But in this ridge we’ve got uneroded, incredibly rich mountain soil. We’re also in a highly productive weather pattern, with optimal rainfall and temperatures. It’s the perfect storm of weather and geology, where plants and animals grow and produce really well.

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These tiny Appalachian rocks are treasure chests of minerals.

It’s interesting to note that the people of ancient Kolomoki built the mounds right next to this strip of land, but not on it. They knew this soil was special.

From 350-600 A.D., Kolomoki was the largest settlement north of Mexico. These early Native Americans were the first of many prosperous inhabitants who thrived on the rich soil of the Bluffton Ridge.

Andrew Jackson defeated the Creek Nation in 1814, and founded Bluffton in 1815. The Creeks inhabited Southeast Alabama, Southwest Georgia, and North Florida, but Jackson and the early Europeans chopped their way through the jungle with purpose, founding Bluffton before any other city in the region.

Before the industrialization of agriculture drove people away in the mid 1900s, Bluffton was a prosperous city, too. Will Harris’ grandmother attended Bluffton’s Pine Plains Boarding School for Girls, where she learned to paint oil on canvas and studied Emily Post etiquette during the era when girls weren’t commonly taught to even read or write. Bluffton had one of the first concrete swimming pools in the state back in 1920, called The Bluff. And in 1924, a successful initiative called the “Lord’s Acre” was featured in Time magazine, in which farmers in the Baptist Church congregation each donated one acre of production as a tithing. In the era of “40 acres and a mule,” most farms couldn’t afford to donate an acre of production, but because of that highly productive mountain ridge soil, it was possible in Bluffton.

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Kolomoki translates to “Land of the White Oaks,” and it is now our turn to care for this little strip of land. At White Oak Pastures, we’ve tapped into the richness of this soil to build one of the 17 accredited Savory Hubs around the world, and we proactively support nature’s food chain using only sun, soil, and rain to grow organic sweet grasses for our animals to eat. Regenerative agriculture is a core value of White Oak Pastures, for the sake of our animals, our environment, our community, and for those who will inhabit this land after we’re gone.

Categories: Regenerative Land Management, Rural Community | Tags: , , , | 9 Comments

Day in the life of John Pedersen, Hog Manager, midwife to the sows

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Photo by Laura Mortelliti

It’s a farrowing affair and not for everyone. But it takes a talented, caring person to raise some of the smartest animals on the planet. Unlike factory hog production that confines sows in gestation and farrowing crates, we raise all of our pigs on pasture, completely unconfined. It isn’t easy or convenient, but it is the right thing to do. Our Hog Production Manager, John Pedersen, does a brilliant job caring for them, and we’re excited to introduce you to him on this week’s blog. Read on to get a glimpse into a day in the life of our favorite pastured pig farmer.

Q: Why did you get into farming?
A: I started contemplating farming as a potential career about 7 years ago after my son Nicolaus came into this world. My food focus switched from a solely sustenance approach to a source of preventative healthcare and high nutrition for my family and me; we began searching for local farmers to provide us with the food we felt would be best. During the search for food and educating ourselves to the farming practices in our area we learned about regenerative farm practices that not only provided nutrient dense protein and vegetable sources but also was extremely respectful of the animals grown and the land/soil used to raise them, and I wanted to be part of it.

Q: What has been your proudest moment at work?
A: Being the “midwife” to the hogs (thank you for the new nickname…) brings with it many proud moments every time a new litter is born. Anyone who has had a child enter their life will be able to relate to this. Caring for a pregnant sow or gilt and then being there for that new litter of piglets is so satisfying.

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Photo by Angie Mosier

Q: What’s your favorite daily chore?
A: My favorite and most satisfying daily chore is checking on the piglets and mommas. They are on a specific diet that we daily feed utilizing five-gallon buckets and when they see the truck coming they dance and squeal and hop around like you would imagine a puppy would when seeing its owner after a long day away at the office. It’s precious!

Q: What is your favorite food in our on-farm dining Pavilion?
A: I have coined a new slogan for anyone dining at the Pavilion, “Support the Pork.” Every meal that Reid and his team prepare with pork quickly becomes my favorite. Support the Pork!

Q: If you could trade roles with someone on the farm for a day, who would it be and why?
A: All of the employees at White Oak Pastures have extremely diverse, rewarding and challenging roles. Each of us are passionate about our programs and we frequently work together. I miss working with cows and really enjoy working with our livestock manager John Benoit. He wears many hats and I couldn’t handle all of his responsibility, but I do have fun working with cows when I have the chance.

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Q: What’s the best, and worst, part of living in Bluffton, GA?
A: I grew up in very suburban/urban locations and enjoyed all that those places have to offer, most importantly, the diversity of restaurants which ironically is the best and worst part of living in Bluffton. We have the best restaurant right here on the farm but regrettably the only restaurant in Bluffton.

Q: What is your favorite meal to cook at home?
A: I love a good seared pork chop, salt and pepper only. The flavor that comes through on our pork is amazing and needs no amendments. Support the Pork!

Q: Choose one word to describe White Oak Pastures.
A: “Pioneering”

Shop our pastured pork online

Categories: Animal Welfare, Staff Spotlight | Tags: | 8 Comments

We’ve got balls at White Oak Pastures

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Castration of male animals is a common practice in the livestock industry. Said to reduce aggression, the practice likely came about with the confinement of cattle in crowded conditions where the animals aren’t free to roam and express natural instinctive behaviors. As Will Harris says, you just can’t keep a bunch of bulls in confinement; it’s like the worst prison movie you’ve ever seen.

For over 100 years, White Oak Pastures castrated everything on this farm that wasn’t named Harris. It’s one of the practices we did away with in our transition to a kinder, gentler agriculture, in an effort to reduce the infliction of pain on the animals. Global Animal Partnership, Animal Welfare Approved, and Certified Humane all have thick manuals that detail what good animal welfare looks like. To meet the highest standards in these programs, we don’t perform any physical alterations on our animals, including castration, dehorning, or branding.

While the term ”bully” comes from the behavior of bulls, we don’t have a problem with aggressive bulls out on open pasture. If a big bad bull wants to bully a little bull, the little guy can just keep on walking. He has more incentive to get away than the big bull does to pick on him, and he has enough space to do so.

Fried Grassfed Beef Testicles Recipe

Our cattle are humanely processed in our on-farm abattoir. When our mature bulls are slaughtered, we offer grassfed beef testicles to our customers as part of our commitment to ensuring no part of the animal goes to waste. Sometimes called “Rocky Mountain oysters” or “cowboy caviar,” these are a unique and novel nose-to-tail treat. They are typically served fried as an appetizer, and would be a great surprise for your dinner guests or as a culinary adventure for yourself or your family.

This Harris family testicle recipe has been passed down through many generations. We hope you’ll give it a try and let us know what you think!

Ingredients
1 pack White Oak Pastures grassfed beef testicles
2 eggs
1 cup flour
Your choice of oil, for frying
Dash of salt and pepper
2 tbsp milk (optional)
Small handful of parsley for garnish (optional)
Ketchup or cocktail sauce for dipping

Preparation
Whisk eggs in a large bowl with milk, and in a separate large bowl season the flour with salt and pepper. Parboil the testicles in boiling water with a splash of salt for 1-2 minutes. Allow to cool. Peel the outer membrane from the testicles, and slice the testicles into medallions. Dip medallions in flour, then the egg mixture, then the flour again. Repeat this step for a thicker breading. Fry medallions in hot oil for several minutes, until crispy and brown. Remove from pan and allow to drain on paper towels.

Fried Bull Testis

Photo by Laura Mortelliti

Categories: Animal Welfare, Kitchen | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Creating a bee-friendly environment (it’s easier than you think!)

 

Bees are responsible for a lot more than just producing that sweet golden honey we love. Did you know that on average, we rely on bees to pollinate every third bite of food we eat?

This is one of the fascinating facts our beekeepers shared at our recent beekeeping workshop here on the farm. We welcomed folks from all over Georgia, as well as Alabama, Mississippi, and Kentucky, to learn about honey bee biology and behavior, hive maintenance, honey harvesting, and the crucial ecological role bees play.

It’s important to do what we can to promote pollinator well-being. Whether honey bees, flies, wasps, beetles, or butterflies, we depend on insect pollinators for much of our food and our health. In case you missed our workshop, here are some tips from our organic garden crew on how we can all help bees by creating a bee-friendly environment in our own backyards.

  1. Let areas of your property lie fallow. This will encourage the growth of natural grasses and wildflowers, and provide habitat and food for pollinators.
  2. Plant flowers that are good sources of nutrition for honeybees. Fragrant herbs are a favorite. You can find lists of plants native to the Southeast that encourage pollinator habitat here and here.
  3. Plant a fruit and vegetable garden. Growing your own food will let you appreciate the work pollinators do, and will provide them with a variety to choose from.
  4. Don’t use pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides. Even organic pesticides can be harmful to bees. When buying plants to put out in your garden, make sure they haven’t been treated with pesticides, either. If spraying is a must, do so at times when bees are not out foraging and when flowers are closed (late evening is best).
  5. Provide a water source, whether a pond or a puddle, where thirsty bees can fill up. Just watch out for mosquitoes!
  6. Encourage native mason bees by building them a bee house for cover and a place to raise their young.
  7. Lawns that are highly managed and manicured do virtually nothing for pollinators. Jazz up your lawn with some low-growing wildflowers such as dandelion and white clover to make it a bee hotspot.
Categories: Regenerative Land Management | Tags: , | 1 Comment

The many dogs of White Oak Pastures

The internet loves dogs, and so do we. Dogs play several vital roles in the organism that is White Oak Pastures, as companions, livestock guardians, and herding dogs. We couldn’t operate our farm without them. Here’s to the many dogs of White Oak Pastures and all the ways they contribute, in loving memory of our most loyal friend, Ox.

Companion dogs
If you’ve ever visited our farm, surely you were greeted by this cast of characters when you arrived. They’re our very own welcoming committee, and they love tagging along during farm tours and gathering with visitors in our on-farm dining pavilion. Their family tree looks like a southern family reunion. Meet Cud, Regal, OJ, and Roxi.

Livestock guardian dogs
Livestock guardian dogs have been bred for thousands of years to sense danger and protect livestock from predators, and we have enormous gratitude for their role. But all dogs don’t get treated the same on a farm. If you’re not very careful with guardian dog puppies, they will bond to the person who’s feeding and playing with them instead of bonding with the species you want them to guard. To avoid this, we focus on keeping puppies in close proximity to the species they are supposed to protect. We keep them fed and watered, but show very little social attention, which isn’t easy when they’re this cute!

Herding dogs
Used for moving animals in a controlled manner, you want herding dogs to bond to the herdsman or woman, so the dogs can specifically follow their directions and do their bidding. These dogs are both companions and tireless workers that are capable of performing the work of several people. Like livestock guardian dogs, their instinctual relationship with livestock is one that has evolved over thousands of years.

Our dogs don’t mind working hard all day, knowing a never-ending feast of meat and organs fresh from our processing abattoirs awaits them. Our dogs eat ground beef, ground chicken, ground pork, and anything else they find on the ground. They also enjoy the pet chews we make out of everything from chicken feet to cattle noses, and even hides, as part of our commitment to following a zero-waste model. Whether a companion, guardian, or herding dog, living on a farm is a pretty good gig, and we are grateful for all of them.

 

Categories: Animal Welfare | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Bringing a ghost town back to life

Today, there are only two businesses in the town of Bluffton, GA: a post office and a seasonal peanut elevator. The only thing you can buy in Bluffton is a stamp, and the only thing you can sell is a truckload of peanuts. However, this won’t be the case for long. We’re on a mission to revive our little ghost town, building by building.

The industrialization of agriculture has not been good for the economic well-being of rural America. All across the country, small farming communities like Bluffton have fallen into oblivion as agriculture has become commoditized and centralized. If we can pull this off, Bluffton will be a thriving little town that sunk into oblivion and was returned to being a thriving little town through regenerative agriculture.

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Panoramic view of present day Pine and Church Streets

We are in the midst of reconstructing Bluffton’s 175-year-old general store, last owned by Mr. Herman Bass in the 1970s. This store was a cornerstone of the community back when the town was thriving, but for the past 40 years it sat abandoned, acting as a time capsule for general stores past.

We found a lot of cool slice-of-life artifacts inside the old store: canned goods and soda bottles, tools, and stacks of historical records. In order to work on the foundation of the building, we took up part of the sidewalk that had been poured over 75 years ago. Underneath, we found a single-shot, breech loading 12-gauge shotgun which surely has a fascinating story behind it. Our favorite piece of history is the hand print and signatures of Will’s mother, Eloise, and aunt Allene, in the concrete across the street. They were left when this concrete was poured in the 1930s.

We’ve been busy planning and rebuilding, and we’ll open Bluffton’s general store the weekend of October 15th as we celebrate White Oak Pastures’ 150th year. We’re proud that now that we’ve put the artisanal labor back in agriculture, our little town can again support its own store. Sustainable farming, the same girl that brought Bluffton to the party, is now bringing it back. We’re excited to continue serving our community and to offer an expanded selection for our customers. Y’all come and see us!

Categories: Rural Community | 25 Comments

Pastured Poultry Week is a-comin’ to Georgia! Make your reservations now.

PPW 2016Every week is Pastured Poultry Week at White Oak Pastures, but we love partnering with chefs to really get the word out. On July 11-18, chefs in Atlanta, Savannah, and Brunswick will feature pastured poultry on their menus to celebrate humanely and sustainably raised pastured poultry.

A lot of people are learning about the benefits of grassfed beef, but awareness of pastured poultry lags behind. That’s why we need your help spreading the word about Pastured Poultry Week.

According to Compassion in World Farming, the founder and sponsor of the event, the vast majority of the 9 billion chickens raised for food in the U.S. are raised in confinement, in overcrowded conditions where the birds can’t express their instinctive behaviors. These chickens are bred to grow so quickly that they suffer from lameness and strain on their hearts and lungs.

At White Oak Pastures, we are proud to raise a slow-growing chicken breed that takes twice as long to reach market weight, and our birds spend their entire lives on pasture, free to roam, scratch, peck, and dustbathe. Our pastured chickens are certified by Global Animal Partnership at Step 5+, Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Humane, and verified by the Non-GMO Project.

We will have pastured chicken, guinea, goose and turkey available for Pastured Poultry Week. Support the chefs who support White Oak Pastures by making your reservations now. Our pasture raised poultry will be featured at the following restaurants, in addition to those who may be purchasing our pastured poultry through a distributor like US Foods, Sysco, Buckhead Beef, or Turnip Truck:

Gunshow, TAP, Sway at Hyatt Regency, Farm Burger, Kaleidoscope, Miller Union, Cooks & Soldiers, Emory Hospital, and Seed Kitchen and Bar.

Check out the Southeastern Sustainable Livestock Coalition’s website to see the entire list of participating restaurants. Please tell your friends and family, and help make Pastured Poultry Week 2016 a big success.

Categories: Animal Welfare | Tags: | Leave a comment

Grassfed goat is back in stock + lemon herb goat meatball recipe

Recently on our blog we’ve written about the power of browsing and land clearing through small ruminant animals. Meanwhile, grassfed goat has been out of stock in our online store for a while. We’ve been able to enjoy having our goats on the farm, but haven’t been able to share their goodness with you. Today we’re excited to have grassfed goat back in stock for our online shoppers, and to share Chef Reid’s delicious lemon herb goat meatball recipe!

Goat is the most widely consumed meat in the world, but we have less experience eating it here in the U.S. The tender, flavorful protein tastes similar to beef, but is a bit sweeter and slightly earthy. A great way to introduce goat to people for the first time is by making familiar foods like meatballs. This recipe is very easy to make, and takes just 15 minutes. Give our grassfed goat a try and let us know what you think!

Ingredients
1 pound White Oak Pastures ground goat
Handful of parsley, finely chopped
Handful of green onions, finely chopped
Handful of rosemary, finely chopped
1 egg
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. breadcrumbs
Juice of half a lemon
Dash of salt and pepper

Preparation
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix by hand. Form mixture into approximately 2 ounce meatballs and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for 7 minutes.

Categories: Kitchen | Tags: | 3 Comments

We’ve got guts. Lots and lots of guts.

“In nature there is no waste.” -Dr. George Washington Carver

A byproduct of our red meat abattoir is a lot of intestines and guts. It’s not as much waste as there would be in an industrial plant that processes up to 100 times more animals than we do, but it’s still a lot. Most people would throw all those intestines away. We’re full-circle at White Oak Pastures, so we feed ‘em to black soldier fly larvae, which our poultry devour, and then fertilize our land with their feces. Win win win win win!

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We breed native black soldier flies inside an old grain silo that stored corn for the cattle before we transitioned to grassfed. The flies lay their eggs here, and then we move the eggs into large grey tubs where they hatch. Interesting fact: adult black soldier flies don’t eat, or even have functioning mouths; they spend their short 5-8 day lifespan searching for a mate and reproducing.

Their larvae, however, eat any and all organic material. We take the intestines from our abattoir and feed them to the black soldier fly larvae (see the larvae in action here). They eat and grow, and when they’re ready to pupate, they self-harvest by crawling up the ramps on the sides of the tub and dropping into a bucket.

The larvae serve two really important purposes: eating up that organic material from our red meat abattoir, and producing a protein- and fat-rich feed source that we use to supplement the diets of our pastured poultry. Today’s chickens evolved from jungle fowl in Southeastern Asia, and they are naturally omnivorous, hunting and foraging for bugs, grubs, and even small reptiles and mammals. We strive to emulate nature at White Oak Pastures, and with our black soldier fly program we go to great lengths to provide our poultry a very natural feed supplement.

They say the early bird gets the worm, not the corn and soy mix. Mother Nature has some really cool ways of doing things, when we work with her.

Categories: Animal Welfare, Regenerative Land Management | Tags: , , , | 13 Comments

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