Monthly Archives: January 2015

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.

Categories: Animal Welfare, Regenerative Land Management, Rural Community | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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!

Categories: CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) | 4 Comments

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!

Categories: Rural Community | 8 Comments

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: Animal Welfare | 8 Comments

2015 Winter CSA Week 3

Wishing you a lovely morning. The lingering fog has ushered in two sleepy eyed days in a row. I have always been entranced by fog. It has this beautiful ability to add dimension to the atmosphere. Most days I do not think much about the air that I breathe & walk through. However, on a foggy day I cannot help but think about the invisible landscape that surrounds us. On this foggy morning I encourage you to take a moment to appreciate the air that we so often take for granted.

This fog, although lovely and mysterious, set the tone for a very somber morning yesterday. Upon inspection of our high tunnels & row covers we were horribly disappointed to find all of our lush leafy greens had been destroyed by the cold snap. Usually this far south most of our cold weather precautions (row covers, high tunnels) are enough to protect our crops from the cold. Unfortunately, below freezing temperatures have hit our fields three times this winter causing devastation among our crops.

Yesterday, as Ryan & I checked under each of our row covers, we were broken hearted to see that the freeze had burst all cells of the leaves. These  protective measures were meant to protect our beautiful winter crops cabbage, kohlrabi, lettuce, cilantro, beets, carrots, Swiss chard, radishes, and so many varieties of Asian greens, all of which were taken out in the freeze.

We wanted to share this with our members, we want to be transparent & also for you to share in the experience. You may notice some frost bitten tips and slight discoloration on the leaves of our leafy greens (head lettuce, kale, tops of root vegetables, etc.)

We thank you in advance for your understanding, our crops & harvests are at the mercy of the weather. The good news, is we still have a beautiful share box to provide this week. Thank you again for you continued support, we look forward to seeing you at the Columbus & Albany farmer’s market this weekend!

New Share Items:

Micro Greens: This container of miniature plants is bursting with nutrients & flavor. We seed flats of carrots, kale, Swiss chard, peas, lettuce mixes, spinach & other leafy greens. Allow them to begin to grow and once they start developing edible leaves, we harvest them inside the green house & package them. They are perfect as a garnish on burgers, salads, sandwiches, & so much more! This is a small sampler for your enjoyment. We will start carrying them at market for you to purchase if it is something you are interested in.

Pecans: Handpicked, un-cracked pecans 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 or paired with delicious baked goods.

Bunching Onions: A mild version of their bulby sister, the onion. These green stalks can be chopped and used as a garnish or featured as the centerpiece. In such dishes as the blackened scallion noodles.

Daikon Radishes: This thick root veggie, is dual purpose. We use it as a cover crop to protect our fields, along with growing it as an edible crop. It can be julienned and dressed as a salad, it can be roasted to enhance its sweetness.

 Organic Share Items:

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

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

Head Lettuce: A fresh head of triple washed salad goodness.

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.

Broccoli OR Kale OR Beets OR Beet Greens:

Broccoli is wonderful Fresh, steamed, char-grilled, stir-fry, casseroles, a great addition to any pasta dish!

Kale: Pesto, wraps, sauteed, stir-fry, creamed, risotto, braised and incorporated into soup and stews. Try pairing with bacon! Sauteed with onions and garlic or torn as a salad mix, get some greens in your daily meal adventures. 

Beets: Try beets pickled, in a salad, roasted with goat cheese, as a dessert sweetener, or in juice.

Beet Greens: Perfect for salads, soups/stews, frittata,

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

Sprouts –Pea Carnival Mix: http://sproutpeople.org/growing-carnival-pea-sprouts/ Please! Please! Please! Check out their website. This will give you tips & tricks on best sprout practices.

Watermelon Radish: Radishes can be found in, slaw, pickles, relishes, soup & sandwich garnishes.

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.

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

Daikon Radish: Soups, Asian Noodle dishes, pickled, slaw, sandwich garnishes.

Categories: CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.