Life on the Farm: Interview with Buck Wiley

Good Morning! It finally stopped raining! The pastures are well saturated, the ducks are swimming, we’ve had a couple of really exciting visitors on the farm and it’s almost the weekend! What a great day! You’re probably thinking it can’t get much better than this, but you’re wrong! I conducted another interview this week, with a really important and special guy at the farm. Without further ado, meet Buck…

Justin “Buck” Wiley began working at White Oak Pastures in July of 2009. He was hired as a butcher and worked hard to prove himself until he was promoted to Beef Plant Manager. Buck takes pride in his work and in making our customers happy. He manages 38 employees and 35 head of cattle each day in the Red Meat Abattoir. He arrives at the plant early in the morning and is typically one of the last people to leave. He carries a lot of responsibility, but also has the pleasure of working with some of his best friends every day. He’s a great guy, with a huge heart and a constant smile on his face…and yes, ladies – he’s single! We couldn’t be happier to have him as part of our work family!

1. What’s your favorite part of working at the farm? THERE’S NEVER A DULL MOMENT. THERE’S ALWAYS A NEW ADVENTURE GOING ON FOR A MANAGER TO TACKLE EVERYDAY. ALL OF US LOVE NEW CHALLENGES AND ADVENTURES.

2. Do you plan to retire as a WOP cowboy? YES! I’LL BE HERE UNTIL THE COWS COME HOME.

3. It’s a Friday night in Bluffton, Georgia…where can we find you? IN THE BEEF PLANT UNTIL AROUND 7PM FINISHING UP A LONG WEEK. THEN ON DOWN TO THE PAVILION FOR A NICE DINNER AND A COLD BEER TO START PLANNING OUT THE NEXT WEEK.

4. What’s your favorite Will Harris quote? “YOU TAKE CARE OF THE LAND AND ANIMALS, AND THEY WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU.”

5. You began your career here as a butcher. What motivated you to work your way up to Beef Plant Manager? I WAS SO IMPRESSED WITH EVERYTHING GOING ON AT THE TIME, WHICH WAS 3 YEARS AGO. I HAD NO IDEA WE WERE GOING TO BE ALL THAT WE ARE TODAY, BUT I KNEW I WANTED TO BE A PART OF THE EVERYDAY PROCESSES OF WOP AND TO NOT ONLY CUT MEAT.

6. What’s the funniest thing you’ve witnessed at the farm? THE DAY WE TRIED TO COORDINATE A DANCE IN THE CUTTING ROOM CALLED “HARLEM SHAKE.”

7. What’s your favorite hobby, outside of work? HUNTING, SPORTS AND OUTDOORS

8. If you weren’t at WOP, where would you hope to be employed? I NEVER WANT TO FIND ANYWHERE ELSE TO BE EMPLOYED.

9. WOP is a unique place to live, work and play. What do you think makes it most unique? ALL THE CONTINUING CHALLENGES THAT GO ALONG WITH HAVING SO MANY DEPARTMENTS WITHIN THE COMPANY, AND BEING ABLE TO HELP WITH THE LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION OF WOP.

10. What’s the biggest challenge you face on a daily basis in the beef plant? KEEPING UP WITH CONSUMER DEMAND AND THEIR EVER-CHANGING SPECS. WE SELL TO GROCERY STORES, CHEFS AND INDIVIDUAL CONSUMERS, WHICH ALL HAVE MANY DIFFERENT SPECS. IT’S A CHALLENGE EVERY DAY.

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Winter CSA 2014 Week 6

What a lovely wet morning. The birds are serenading me through the window & the sun is hiding her face. Mornings like these make you feel as though the whole world has slowed down. Whether you read this post over morning coffee, or during your evening glass of wine please prepare yourself with enough time for some reflections.

This past weekend was the Georgia Organic’s conference, this is a great program connecting Georgia’s food web. Attendees & presenters came from all over the state along with visitors from our neighboring states. Georgia Organic’s is unique in that it is the only state centric program of this magnitude in the southeast. Grower’s, chefs, grocers, community activists, eaters, home gardeners, professors, researchers & students in various agriculture focused majors were all in attendance. It provided for a very interesting dynamic, with loads of wisdom from leaders in every field.

If you have not yet visited their site I encourage you to check out what events, & projects are happening in your part of the state. For home growers & eaters they have a plethora of information on getting started & troubleshooting.

This conference was a culmination of my first year of farming. You have all shared in a year of my thoughts & growth as you have read the CSA blog. You have shared in the army of gnats, the sweetness of melons & the mercy of the weather patterns. Our farm is so grateful for your continued support, your choice to be a part of our CSA has required sacrifice in many forms: time required to prepare meals, the financial commitment, scheduling to pick up your box, among many other sacrifices.

A question was presented in one of the discussion classes, it has since lingered like a fog at the edge of my thoughts. Think on this question and try to answer it for yourself & your family.

What do we need to sacrifice in order to make the local/organic movement sustainable?”

As a collective most people will say one of the largest obstacles for moving over to a healthier/organic/local/natural “diet” is the prohibitive cost. I want to challenge this notion, for an alternative perspective. What if it is not that the food is too expensive, but rather we do not value food?

The average American household spends 10% or less on food expenses, whereas Europe…. spend between 15-20% on their diets. If you doubled your grocery budget, would it be as prohibitive? If you increased your grocery budget, you would have to sacrifice portions of your cable/smart phone/going out/online shopping/etc. Is it a sacrifice worth making? Is your long term health worth giving up some present indulgences?

Other thoughts could be as simple as frequency & volume. We are jokingly referred to as the “supersized nation” our meals are portioned to sizes that are more than what is needed by our daily energy requirement. We are eating in excess, and it shows. If we ate smaller portions, we would not need large volumes of organic/local produce & meats. The topic of frequency is a touchy subject as well, we are taught to eat meat protein at each and every meal. The only way that an average American family can afford to eat to like that, is to eat commodity produced meats. We all know what that looks like for the animal, the environment and for our health. I am not advocating for not eating meat but rather eating better quality, less frequently. Feed your family a chuck roast or tenderloin once a day rather than “cellulose injected meat like products” three times a day. If you need higher protein intakes, eat eggs they are inexpensive and a complete protein packet.

If cost still seems prohibitive, be creative think outside the box. Organ meats are an inexpensive nutrient dense option, buy in bulk (purchase ½ or ¼ of an animal) you can split the cost with a friend, start a garden to offset some of your vegetable needs, save scraps(veg, meat & bones)to make broth/stocks, learn to cook/pickle/preserve/can/ferment. Any steps that you can learn so that you don’t have to purchase “produced products” saves you money. If you learn how to “break a bird” (check youtube), you can eat all of the beautiful pieces as well as using the bones & scraps for soups.

The sacrifice is not only a financial burden, but one of time. It takes time to cook, time well spent, but time just the same. As our work days become longer, our time in the kitchen becomes smaller. Believe me I know what a burden cooking can be, we leave the field after 8+ hours in the heat/rain/cold etc. the last thing I want to do is spend another hour in the kitchen working. We get it. However, there is this wonderful invention known as the crockpot. Or plan ahead, I like spending Sunday’s in the kitchen prepping veggies for quick meals during the week, or making meals ahead of time.

For you out there feeding a family, we support your struggle. You are making a wonderful choice for your family, even if they don’t always appreciate weird vegies & strange meals. Stay strong, you are protecting their health and healing the earth with each thoughtful meal you prepare. It is difficult to make a healthy choice for your family if they aren’t on board. Pinterest is a wonderful resource for making meals that are appealing to the pickiest eaters!

The next time you struggle with eating well, whether it be cost or time, reconsider your options. Give up the weekly visit to Starbucks in favor of a cartoon of pastured eggs, or going out to the movies on Sunday in favor of entertaining yourself in the kitchen with cooking meals while watching Julia Childs on youtube. You always have options, you can alter your perspective on a problem.

I stared you with a question, and I want to leave you with a quote:

“You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough” –William Blake

Please send me your thoughts & struggles to my email, I would love to continue this discussion: Mary.Bruce@whiteoakpastures.com

Organic Share List:

Pecans: Raw, muffins, scones, cookies, pies, desert pies, ice cream toppings.

Braising Mix or Salad Greens: These specialty greens have a variety of uses that are sure to tickle your taste buds. Sauteed sides, hearty salads, stir-fry creations and so much more.

Brussel Sprouts: You will have a stalk of little glorious cabbages in your share this week. They are highly coveted on the farm so enjoy them fully!

Sprouts OR Spinach: Please! Please! Please! Check out their website. This will give you tips & tricks on best sprout practices. Our first Spinach leaves have arrived! This highly desired plant is nutrient dense & wildly versatile.

Carrots OR Beets OR Rutabaga: Sweet tender and ready to eat raw; carrots can be included in salads, roasted, braised, & in soups. Try beets pickled, in a salad, roasted with goat cheese, as a dessert sweetener, or in juice. Rutabagas are perfect for roasting, smashing & creaming. They are a lovely side accompaniment.

Arugula: This nutty green can be eaten raw, enjoyed sauteed, or even added to sandwiches & soups.

Swiss Chard: Wonderful greens for several culinary options! Showcase these beauties in your next quiche, sauteed side, or salad creation!

Chinese Cabbage: This elegant green can be sauteed, stir fried, eaten raw, added to soups, stews, dumplings, spring and egg rolls!

Garlic: Spicy earthy heat. A root with sensational properties. Include in tonics, roasted, stir-fry, pickled creations, dressing, and freshly juiced

Rosemary: Breads, soups, herb rubs, olive oil infusions.

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2015 Main Season CSA Announcement

Happy Spring Season!

Enrollment for the 2015 Main Season is now open!

The 2015 Season Will Run March 16 – Nov 16

For all of our valued members, thank you for choosing to continually support our farm. We love you.

For anyone out there that is interested in getting a taste of seasonal organic produce, consider signing up for our 2015 season.

It Consists Of:

  • 34 weeks of certified organic, handpicked veg & fruit goodness
  • 10% discount on White Oak Meat purchases (online, or at market)
  • Discount on Eggs from our Pastured Laying Hens
  • New crops including, but not limited to: corn, decorative gourds, & sprout kits!
  • Reusable Grocery bags for vegetable transport
  • A collaborative cookbook
  • Three Farmer’s Markets: Albany, Columbus, & East Atlanta
  • Two new cities for CSA delivery: Atlanta & Thomasville!
  • The Refer A Friend Program (see application for details)
  • Higher Quality Standards for the produce that is provided to our members
  • A harvest feast hosted by your farmers, bringing together our community of members

You can find our application on the 2015 CSA Application tab at the top of the Blog. We are looking forward to sharing the harvest with our local communities!

A year in photo review:

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Life on the Farm: Interview with Jodi Harris

Last week, you guys had the privilege of getting to know Jenni Harris. Today, I want to introduce to all of you, Jodi Harris Benoit. She’s the fifth generation of the farm, little sister to Jenni, Farm Events Coordinator and Agritourism Manager. She graduated from Valdosta State University in 2012, fulfilled her year off the farm with a local trucking company, and thankfully, made her way back home! Although she has only been here since January 2014, she has already learned what it takes to keep this farm running, and willingly wears many different hats. When she isn’t planning workshops for our wonderful friends and customers, making sure the cabins are ready for our guests or taking a stroll on one of our 3 horses, you can typically find her helping her husband, John Benoit, in the pastures. John just happens to be the Livestock Manager. It’s a true family business, I tell ya!

Everyone, meet Jodi…

1. What brought you back to the farm? My family brought me back to the farm.. I never intended to live anywhere else.

2. What’s it like working with your dad, older sister, husband and sister-in-law? It’s the best thing in the world to be surrounded by my family everyday. I never dread coming to work. Doing what we love to do together is such a blessing.

3. What’s your biggest accomplishment since starting here a year ago? Dad was a bit reluctant, but we purchased 4 cabins and renovated the pond house on the farm. This has been my dream since the beginning of White Oak Pastures. My parents lived in the pond house right after they married in 1977. I’m so glad we were able to fix it up and let our friends enjoy such a special and secluded spot on the farm.

4. What are your goals for the next year? Professional and personal? I would love for us to start renovation on the old Herman Bass Store in Bluffton. We bought it in 2013, but with all the other renovations going on around the farm, we had to add it to a growing list of to-do’s. My long term goal is to outgrow our cabin capacity. I don’t mind begging dad to build a nice lodge one bit! :)

5. What’s your favorite meal at The Pavilion? Beef Tongue Tacos! Don’t knock it ’til you try it!

6. What’s the best…and worst…part of living in Bluffton, GA? The best part – being close to my family and the farm. The worst part – I’ll let you know if I find something that isn’t pleasant.

7. We have 10 different species on the farm. Which is your favorite? Oh, how I am enjoying our baby goats, but like a true Harris, I’ll always be a beef girl .

8. What do you like to do when you aren’t planning farm events, booking cabins, answering phones or greeting customers? Riding my horses and spending time with my John Boy!

9. Choose one word to describe White Oak Pastures. Diverse

10. If you didn’t work at the farm, where would you be? I hope I never have to find out…

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2014 Winter CSA Week 5

2014 Winter CSA Week 5

Greetings from south Georgia & apologies for late arrival of the blog.

After completing a marathon migration from Michigan to Georgia, I can proudly say I am so glad to be back home. Over the past 11 months Bluffton has become my home, and the farmers, butchers, farmers & Harris’ have become my family. Last week I began my journey north to Detroit, picking up my partner & spending time with my parents. It was wonderful, but it made me greatly appreciate my time on the farm.

The most obvious difference is the weather; we had over 16 inches on the ground and more fresh snow falling by the hour. The temperature varied between the 30’s and below freezing. The traffic was also quite menacing. Atlanta is rough in a moving truck, when you are used to a town with no traffic signals.

However, we were greeted with a large heaping of southern hospitality from the moment our moving truck arrived at our new home. Ryan, my farm manage & good friend, arrived with his wife to help us move in. This morning’s trip to the grocery store was more of the same kindness, an attendant even offered to host us for dinner since we were new to the area! This is a warmness that I have come to know and appreciate, whereas it took Greg a moment to digest. Where we are from, most people don’t linger long to exchange pleasantries with strangers, let alone invite them for dinner.

Our move is reminiscent of something Jenni Harris shared with me, “White Oak pastures is worth more than a simple special occasion, White Oak pastures is an organism that thrives seven days a week, 24 hours a day in the hot in the cold & in the rain, White Oak Pastures is a lifestyle” When I first arrived, I felt like a guest, just passing through. However, over the weeks & months of spending time on the farm it became a life saturated with experience & close knit relationships.

For starters, I traded in my blue Michigan license for Georgia’s pink peach card. Followed by, explaining to my family why I had chosen this path, and that it would not be a pit stop, but rather a long term commitment. The step that made my transition an immersion was fulfilled yesterday as we moved Greg and our two precious Bengal kittens into our new home.

Both Greg & I are just one example, of the transformative power of White Oak. Families from large cities like, Atlanta, Brooklyn, Detroit, Macon, Pittsburgh & even a transplant from Spain have arrived at our doorstep drank the water, and decided to make this place their home. Our farm offers tranquility of spirit, the sense of community, a worthwhile work day, and the most beautiful sunrises.

Families come from far & wide to be a part of this farm not because of what is produced, but rather how Mr. Will has masterfully orchestrated this closed loop system, where each species of flora & fauna is cared for with respect. Our animals are honored, and our fields are well nurtured & allowed proper rest. People can get behind a something where intrinsic value is actualized. White Oak Pastures showcases its value every single day, workers are treated like family, herds & fields are always on the minds of the staff. Our specialty products manager, Amber said “The baby lambs, goats, and pigs are almost too cute for my heart to handle. Why would I ever leave this beautiful, thriving, family and farm?”

When you sign up for a CSA, purchase eggs, place an order for grass fed beef, or eat at our on-farm restaurant you are directly participating in our long term sustainability efforts. Every great thing comes with a price, for the families that live and work here, they can expect long busy days & an hour’s drive for the nearest movie theater. It is worth the sacrifice, it is an intentional decision & way of living. The same is true for those who purchase from us. They are choosing to cast votes with each dollar they spend. You are choosing to support a local family business that treats its livestock with dignity from conception to death, and that cares for the health of the soil that the microbes & plants live in. In a world where commodity is king and flavor & animal welfare suffer in the low price marketplace. Our labor intensive products provide jobs to a depleted economy; they also allow our staff to revive specialized techniques such as leather tanning, candle making, hand butchering, canning/pickling, and even the job of head cowboy, yes that’s right we have cowboys!

In a market saturated with buzz words, and “engineered food stuffs” it is hard to know what you are purchasing and what you are consuming. Believe me when I say this, we are transparent. We allow our customers to view the entire farm, from the grassy pastures to our USDA inspected abattoirs, you are welcome to see where you food comes from.

When I walk into the grocery and pick up a carton off eggs in the grocery I now think to myself “who collected and packaged these eggs?” I have the luxury of knowing these people by name, and so do you. You have the unique opportunity to be as invested as you choose. You can have lunch with us in the restaurant, or pull weeds with us in the garden. We are always here and always excited to meet people who love our meats & veggies as much as we do.

So the next time you are debating on where to eat dinner on a Friday night come visit us, or the next time you plan your grocery list keep us in mind.

On to the veg goodness of the fifth box in a series of six!

Organic Share Items:

Pecans OR Baby Chinese Cabbage: Raw, muffins, scones, cookies, pies, desert pies, ice cream toppings. This elegant green can be sauteed, stir fried, eaten raw, added to soups, stews, dumplings, spring and egg rolls!

Lettuce OR Arugula OR Braising Mix: These specialty greens have a variety of uses that are sure to tickle your taste buds. Sauteed sides, hearty salads, stir-fry creations and so much more!

Carrots: Sweet tender and ready to eat raw; they can be included in salads, roasted, braised, & in soups.

Micro Greens: Sandwiches, burgers, salads, quiche, frittata, mini greens that can go on anything.

Rosemary: Breads, soups, herb rubs, olive oil infusions.

Sweet Potatoes: These beautifully sweet roots can be enjoyed in pies, soufflés, casseroles, fries, roasted, smashed & more!

Sprouts –French Garden Mix: http://sproutpeople.org/growing-amber-waves-of-grain-sprouts/ Please! Please! Please! Check out their website. This will give you tips & tricks on best sprout practices.

Cabbage (Heirloom OR Traditional): Cabbage rolls, cabbage slaws, cabbage salads, pickled cabbage, fermented cabbage, steamed cabbage, raw cabbage, your choices are limitless. Carrots: Sweet tender and ready to eat raw; they can be included in salads, roasted, braised, & in soups.

Garlic: Spicy earthy heat. A root with sensational properties. Include in tonics, roasted, stir-fry, pickled creations, dressing, and freshly juiced.

Bunching Onions: Beautiful aroma of onions wafts in the air when these fresh green babies are present. Soups, fried rice, salad, omelet, grain salads, pizza, scallion pancakes, scallion noodles.

Swiss Chard – Wonderful greens for several culinary options! Showcase these beauties in your next quiche, sauteed side, or salad creation!

***Photos to arrive tomorrow!

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Life on the Farm: Interview with Jenni Harris

Today, I interviewed Jenni Harris, 5th generation of White Oak Pastures. We all know the typical questions asked during an interview about the farm, so I wanted this one to be a little different. If you have any additional questions for her, please feel free to ask in the comments section!

Jenni graduated from Valdosta State University in 2009. She moved to Atlanta and worked at Buckhead Beef for one year, before moving back to the farm. Her dad, better known as Will Harris, gave all three of his daughters the option to work at the farm, but only after working for someone else for at least a year. Jenni fulfilled that duty, and started working as the Marketing Manager at White Oak Pastures immediately after. She has now immersed herself into several different roles at the farm, but her daily job consists of making wholesale customers happy. She spends a lot more time in front of her computer these days, but every now and then you can find her feeding abandoned baby lambs, greeting customers in the farm store, and riding around on the 4-wheeler keeping a check on the cows.

1. Atlanta and Bluffton couldn’t be more opposite. What led you back to the farm? ATLANTA WAS GREAT, AND I WAS ONE OF THE FEW FOLKS FROM RURAL AMERICA TO ENJOY THE CITY, BUT, I ENJOYED IT KNOWING IT WAS TEMPORARY. I KNEW I WANTED TO RAISE CHILDREN WHERE I WAS RAISED, I WANTed THEM TO HAVE THE EDUCATION, PASSION, RESPECT, AND DISCIPLINE THAT I WAS RAISED WITH YEARS AGO.

2. What’s your favorite part about working on the farm? THE PEOPLE. WHETHER IT’S OTHER FOLKS THAT WORK ON THE FARM WITH ME, OR CUSTOMERS THAT WE DEAL WITH WEEKLY, THE PEOPLE IN THE SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE INDUSTRY ARE SOME OF THE BEST IN THE WORLD. I WOULD NOT TRADE MY RELATIONSHIPS WITH THIS GROUP FOR ANYTHING.

3. What do you consider your biggest accomplishment since working here? BECOMING ME. AS THE 5TH GENERATION OF WHITE OAK PASTURES, AND WORKING ALONGSIDE MY FATHER, I FOUND IT HARD TO ESTABLISH WHAT I “WAS” OR “WANTED TO BE.” IT SOUNDS SILLY, BUT DECIDING HOW I COULD CONTRIBUTE WAS A DAILY STRUGGLE FOR ME, BUT THROUGH 5 YEARS OF FIGURING OUT WHAT I HATED AND WHAT I LOVED, I FINALLY FOUND “ME.”

4. Future goals? Professionally and personally? I WANT A FAMILY TO SHARE THIS FARM WITH. I WANT TO SHARE THIS FARM WITH NOT ONLY MY CHILDREN, BUT EVERYONE ELSE THAT CONTRIBUTES TO IT. ALL OF THESE PEOPLE ARE WHO I CONSIDER “FAMILY.” GROWING THIS FAMILY WILL CONTINUE TO ADD VALUE TO WHAT IS ALREADY SO STRONG. PROFESSIONALLY- I JUST WANT TO KEEP WALKING THE JOURNEY THAT WHITE OAK PASTURES HAS BEGUN.

5. If you weren’t at the farm, where would you be? THAT’S A HARD QUESTION, BUT PROBABLY IN SOME BORING, STRAIGHT-LACED CORPORATE COMPANY, ANXIOUSLY WAITING ON MY QUARTERLY REVIEW TO PROVE THAT I WAS DOING “ABOVE SATISFACTORY.” INSTEAD, I GET TO LIVE EACH DAY, KNOWING I AM DOING SOMETHING MEANINGFUL.

6. You’re on many different boards and a part of several organizations, how do you have time for it all? I THINK IT’S SAFE TO ASSUME I’M NOT THE BEST BOARD MEMBER IN THE ROOM. I’M ONLY ON BOARDS THAT ARE RELATED TO WHAT WE DO AT WHITE OAK PASTURES. THANKFULLY, THEY ARE ALL FORGIVING BOARDS, WHEN I’M DOUBLE BOOKED OR OUT OF TOWN. HONESTLY, THESE BOARDS ARE A WAY TO LEARN HOW WHITE OAK PASTURES CAN PLAY A BETTER ROLE IN THE BIG PICTURE. YOU KNOW THE SAYING, “I CAN’T SEE THE FORREST BECAUSE OF THE TREES.” THESE BOARDS ARE A WAY TO GET AWAY FROM THE TREES, SO I CAN SEE THE FORREST.

7. We get this question a lot, but do you think WOP will ever have dairy cows? SOMEONE SMART ONCE TOLD ME TO NEVER SAY “NEVER.” ONLY TIME WILL TELL IF THERE IS A PLACE IN THE MARKET FOR WHITE OAK PASTURES DAIRY.

8. What’s your favorite meal at The Pavilion? ALL OF IT, BUT MORE SPECIFICALLY, THE FARMER JOHN BURGER, NAMED FOR MY FAMOUS BROTHER-IN-LAW. THE BURGER CONSISTS OF WHITE OAK PASTURES BEEF, HOME-MADE CHEESE AND BREAD, WHITE OAK PASTURES LETTUCE AND TOMATO (WHEN IT’S IN SEASON, OF COURSE) TOPPED OFF WITH ONE OF OUR PASTURE RAISED EGGS.

9. If someone came to the farm for the first time, knew very little about Grassfed and Pasture Raised animals, what would you recommend for them to purchase? GROUND BEEF IS THE “GATEWAY DRUG” FOR WHITE OAK PASTURES. OUR GROUND BEEF IS ONE OF MY PERSONAL FAVORITES, BUT ALSO SOMETHING THAT’S EASY TO COOK. IF YOU CAN’T COOK OUR GROUND BEEF, THEN YOU SHOULD RECONSIDER PREPARING ANYTHING ELSE THAT HAS BEEN RAISED OUTSIDE EATING GRASS OR BUGS AND GRUBS.

10. What’s your favorite meal to cook at home? I LOVE TO COOK EVERYTHING! RARELY IS IT PERFECT, BUT ALWAYS IS IT INTERESTING. I LIKE DIFFERENT THINGS, LIKE DUCK AND SAUSAGE, BUT MY GIRLFRIEND LIKES CHICKEN AND SPAGHETTI. EVERY MEAL IS A COMPROMISE…

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Check in next week to learn a little more about Jenni’s younger sister, Jodi Harris.

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Life on the Farm: Zero-Waste and Proud of it!

White Oak Pastures is unique in so many ways, but something that stands out to me is our zero-waste protocol. This is something I believe really sets us aside from other farms. I mean, lets be honest, this is one of the MANY things that sets us aside. You may be thinking, what does she mean by “zero-waste?” Well, this is so exciting…let me tell you!

First of all, you are probably aware of the fact that we slaughter, under USDA inspection, 5 days per week. We slaughter 35 head of cattle per day, as well as 1,000 chickens. The other species are on an as ordered/needed basis. This leaves us with a lot of blood, bones, guts and water to clean it all up.

Here’s a list of the different ways we make our farm operate with zero waste:
Blood – With all of those animals, you can imagine there’s a good bit of blood. We capture the blood from each slaughter and use it in our aerobic/anaerobic digester, which breaks it down into fertilizer that we can apply to our pastures.
Bones and Viscera (guts) – Any that aren’t sold as meat or pet treats are composted in a method that was designed by Cornell University. For 2 years, we use this layered system, which stacks a carbon source, animal parts, carbon source, animal parts, and so on. After the 2 years of turning these stacks, we are left with rich material that’s great for our land. This method has helped us, along with good land stewardship, to increase the soils organic matter on our farm from .5% to over 5%!
Hides – When the cowhides are removed, they are taken to the “hide barn” where we prepare them to be sent for tanning, or we start the process of making rawhide pet chews. We use our tanned hides for rugs and leather making such as, wallets, bracelets, coasters, etc. We tan the rabbit, goat and lamb hides by hand. This process is very time consuming, labor-intensive and we love every second of it!
Beef Fat – The fat is collected from the cutting room and used in one of three ways: sausage making in the kitchen, soap and candle making or biodiesel. Our sausage is delicious, our soap and candles smell amazing and we can’t wait to ramp up biodiesel production in the warmer months of this year!
Skulls – the cow skulls that aren’t purchased by our customers, are painted and used for decorations around the farm.
Teeth – we are working on a few different ideas for joining our leather jewelry pieces with some of the sun-bleached teeth. It’s a thin line of making the jewelry look unique, or making it look a bit gross or morbid. It’s a work in progress, people.
Water – The water used to wash down the processing rooms, is pumped through a septic system into a waste water lagoon. The water is later applied to the pasture through an irrigation system. We are able to collect the rich nutrients that would otherwise be lost. It’s genius! (I can say that because I had no part in this amazing plan.)
Vegetable Waste – This is fed to the rabbits and let me tell you, they love organic veggies!
Meat and Vegetable Waste – This is fed to our black soldier flies, whose larvae is fed to our chickens. We love this new program and can’t wait to watch it grow!
Eggs – Our cracked or “reject” eggs are fed to the hogs. The hogs can apparently smell the eggs coming because they all run to the gate to greet me each time I have a bucket to feed!
We also have a 50,000 Watt Solar Voltaic Array that collects sunlight and turns it into electricity. We use Solar Thermal Technology to heat the water used during processing and clean up.

I hope you now have a better understanding of what zero-waste means to us, and why we are so very proud of it!

Doing the right thing isn’t always the easy way, but we want to make things better today than they were yesterday, everyday.

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Winter CSA Week 4

Resilience is a lovely trait to possess.

Some creatures have such a willingness to thrive no matter what the odds. Our vegetable crops display this beautifully. This winter has dealt our vegetable farm quite a devastating hand. Firstly, sub-freezing temperatures, followed by flash flooding in fields.

Water is life, water is death. A plant’s relationship to water is a delicate one. Too few droplets and the plant starves, too much and the plant drowns. In the case of tomatoes & melons one rainfall can cause the fruits to split open right on the vine. The majority of a plant’s weight is water, and if it is allowed to freeze the cells burst causing the leaves to go limp & die.

With all of that in mind, two hundred feet of onions (approx. 1600 plants) were under water last Friday. Most of the beds were washed away, along with the protective row cover. However! After a survey this morning, a majority of the little plants still clung to the soil they were planted into. It was a refreshing sight. Other crops in the fields are also bouncing back, the chard, Brussels, Chinese cabbage, lettuce, and the newly planted crops.

I know that I don’t give the crops enough credit, they are meant to thrive in the elements. They do all the work, we just tend to them. It is a humbling perspective to realize, we think that we do so much of the work, when in reality they are tremendous powerhouses. Although, they are making a comeback, they are not ready for harvest. So, our staff got together to brainstorm what this week’s share would look like. Our final thoughts resulted in homemade yogurt, honey/pecans, & onion transplants!

Yogurt:

Our staff Cheese Monger, Jay Barrows, worked diligently this weekend to bring us fresh yogurt. The milk was sourced from a local dairy, Working Cow Dairy, which specializes in Low Pasteurized Organic Milk. Much like our farm theirs is family operated. If you have not had the pleasure of enjoying their milk & cream we highly recommend it. Back to the yogurt! It is best if you eat it within two weeks from receiving it. It has not been sweetened, we are leaving it up to you to experiment with.

Honey OR Pecans:

Our first collection of Raw Wild Honey, was harvested this summer by Lori & Louise. We thought it would be the perfect pairing with your yogurt, or even wintertime teas! When it arrives, it may appear as a solid; pollen trapped in the honey causes a slow crystallization. It can be enjoyed in this state. If you would like to pour it, we recommend submerging the vessel in warm (not boiling) water.

OR

This bag of handpicked, un-cracked pecans comes from our on farm pecan grove. They are easy to crack by hand or with a tool. We hope that you enjoy them with raw, in yogurt or paired with delicious baked goods.

Transplants:

We are really excited to send home some Onion Transplants home. You now get to share in some of the production at home. The container they are planted in is bio degradable, you can plant it directly into the back yard. However, we recommend that you only keep one transplant in this container for final planting. Each onion should have 6 inches of space, giving it enough room for roots & a bulb. These transplants can be directly planted into soil when you pick them up! Depending on weather conditions your onions should be ready late May or early June.

Organic Share Items:

Pecans OR Honey: Raw, muffins, scones, cookies, pies, desert pies, ice cream toppings.

Cabbage (Heirloom OR Traditional): Cabbage rolls, cabbage slaws, cabbage salads, pickled cabbage, fermented cabbage, steamed cabbage, raw cabbage, your choices are limitless. Carrots: Sweet tender and ready to eat raw; they can be included in salads, roasted, braised, & in soups.

Garlic: Spicy earthy heat. A root with sensational properties. Include in tonics, roasted, stir-fry, pickled creations, dressing, and freshly juiced.

Sprouts –Amber Waves of Grain Mix: http://sproutpeople.org/growing-amber-waves-of-grain-sprouts/ Please! Please! Please! Check out their website. This will give you tips & tricks on best sprout practices.

Watermelon Radish OR Head Lettuce: Radishes can be found in, slaw, pickles, relishes, soup & sandwich garnishes. A fresh head of triple washed salad goodness.

Chinese Cabbage: This elegant green can be sauteed, stir fried, eaten raw, added to soups, stews, dumplings, spring and egg rolls!

Onion Transplants: Plant (6in spacing), water (rain depending), harvest when sizeable (May-Jun).

Yogurt: Freshly made organic yogurt. Enjoy as a sweet or savory treat.

Rosemary: Breads, soups, herb rubs, olive oil infusions.

Sweet Potatoes: These beautifully sweet roots can be enjoyed in pies, soufflés, casseroles, fries, roasted, smashed & more!

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Life on the Farm: Upcoming Events

Hello again! We have some really fun events coming up on and off the farm! I want to share them with all of you! We are excited about filling up the 2015 calendar with fun activities, classes, workshops, dinners and all sorts of events. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to share!

First, we’re delighted to have Jim Ozier, Georgia’s very own Eagle Coordinator, with us on January 31st. He will teach us all about the many Bald Eagles we have on the farm. They have been so much fun to watch throughout the year. We’ve had tons of people drive by the farm and stop to take pictures of these beautiful creatures! Honestly, I’ve never been into bird watching, I thought it was something that “those old people do,” but after moving to the farm and watching these Bald Eagles each day, I’m now a huge fan! This event will be a full day on the farm! It’ll include a farm tour, the presentation by the Jim Ozier, lunch and a walk in the pastures to see the birds in their natural habitat.

Next, we are going to our very first CrossFit event! We will be a vendor at the “Battle of the Boxes” at CrossFit Sacrifice in Columbus, GA. I’m so excited to be a part of this and love that these super fit, athletic, health conscious people are our customers…or will be after I tell them about the wonderful things we do here at White Oak Pastures! This will take place on Saturday, February 7, 2015. I believe it’s an all day event! If you’re in the area, come play with us!

What about a Valentine’s Dinner on the farm? Yes, please! This is, of course, on February 14th. A four-course meal that will include: appetizer, salad, entrée, dessert and a glass of champagne. Chad, the guy that does all of the amazing decorations at the Pavilion, will surely have it looking like a sweet little love nest! Maybe we’ll have a photo booth, too! Fingers crossed!

Now, March 14th is certainly a date to remember! It’s our First Annual Hooves & Horns Ruff Run! This is a 5k with 10 -12 obstacles, similar to all of the other muddy runs you guys have been participating in, but this one just so happens to take place on the largest Certified Organic Farm in Georgia! I am super pumped! We will have the race, live music, lunch and lots of fun! We are encouraging people to bring coolers and tents! Let’s be real honest here, I’m not a runner, but I will most certainly participate in this race! The carpenters are working hard to put the obstacles together and plan the course, the Farm Events Manager has worked hard to secure a great band and get the word out, and everyone else at the farm is just sitting around twirling our thumbs waiting for the go-ahead to test out the obstacles! We hope to have a great turn out so we can start planning for Ruff Run 2016!

There are plenty of other classes we plan to offer this year, but I’ll update you guys when I have more detailed information! You can also stay updated on our Facebook page!

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Life on the Farm: Labeling

Hi everyone! I’m Amber! I’m the Speciality Products Manager here at the farm. I’ve lived and worked on the farm since June 2013. I moved from Atlanta, and yes, it was a culture shock! I do a little bit of everything around here… from pet treats to tallow soap and candle making, leather goods and all of our social media pages. I’m also in charge of our Pasture Raised eggs. It all keeps me very busy, but I’m not complaining! I love being here and being part of such a wonderful farm and family.

Before moving to Bluffton, I lived alone and didn’t cook a lot, but when I did, I thought I did a pretty good job with the groceries I purchased. Yes, I was picky, mostly about the price, but I wanted to feel like I was supporting the most humane treatment of animals for what I could afford. After moving to the farm and learning how White Oak Pastures truly cares about the life of each animal, the environmental sustainability, and the quality of each product sent out to our customers, I wish I had learned about this place years ago! I have thought a lot about the green washing of each label placed on products today. There’s a lot of attention being brought to this issue right now, and I want to help you truly understand the difference in our farm and others that claim to do what we do.

When you shop for quality food for you and your family, how do you know everything on the label is true? There are so many words used today, it can be quite confusing. There’s Free Range, Pasture Raised, Cage Free, Grassfed, and tons more. But how do you know the true meaning behind each label without doing hours of research? It comes down to this… KNOW YOUR FARMER. If you have visited the farm where you buy your meat and eggs, you don’t have to think twice about the label. You’ve already seen it with your own eyes. You know the farmer, farming practices, you know the treatment of the animals and land and you know exactly how the animals are raised and slaughtered.

If you aren’t lucky enough to visit your farmer, here’s a little help on understanding the difference in the labels (with the help of http://www.georgiaorganics.org):
Free-Range (laying hens) – Typically, free-range hens are not caged, but are inside barns or warehouses and have some degree of outdoor access. There aren’t any requirements for the amount, duration or quality of outdoor access. There are no restrictions regarding what the birds can be fed. Beak cutting and forced molting through starvation are permitted.
Free-Range (chickens) – The USDA allows for any chicken raised with access to the outdoors to be labeled “free-range”. Nowhere does it state that the chickens have to actually go outdoors; ACCESS is the only legal binding verbiage of that rule. They may still be raised in the same overpopulated poultry house type production and be labeled “free-range”. Certified organic chickens may also be raised like this. Each hen has 67-87 square inches of space (an 8.5 x 11 inch piece of paper has 93 square inches).
Cage free – meaningless and intentionally misleading. The term “cage free” is only relevant for eggs and egg-laying hens. Chickens and turkeys raised for meat in the U.S. are not, and never have been, raised in cages. The Cage Free label on chicken or turkey packages serves no other purpose than to capitalize on the popularity of the ‘cage free’ label for eggs and profit from consumers’ ignorance of industry rearing methods for meat birds.
Pasture Raised – for us, this means our laying hens and broiler birds are on pasture 24/7, completely unconfined. They have access to a house, which is used for protection from rain, cold weather or predators, such as coyotes. The doors on the houses are not closed and the birds are not forced to spend any time inside, they choose this on their own.
Grassfed – the large and small ruminants (cows, goats and sheep) are on pasture and allowed to express their natural instincts and graze on grass and haylage. Some companies use the word “grassfed” but you have to read the fine print because the animals may be “grain finished.” This means they are fed grains towards the end of their lives to fatten them up a bit. We do not feed any grains to our cows, goats or sheep.

I hope this helps you better understand the true meaning of each label you may see at your local grocery store or Farmer’s Market.

Please feel free to come visit us! We love showing our guests exactly what we do. We take pride in being 100% transparent with how we raise, slaughter, butcher and package each species on our farm.

I look forward to writing each Thursday and hopefully hearing back from y’all!

Categories: Uncategorized | 8 Comments

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