Monthly Archives: March 2016

Organic spring vegetables at White Oak Pastures

We just kicked off the Spring season of our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Our Organic Farm Managers, Ryan Carnley and Mary Bruce, and our garden team are busy planting, harvesting, washing, packing, and delivering organic produce to our wonderful CSA members.

Here is how it works: we offer “shares” to the community, which consist of 6-8 unique produce offerings each week of the season. Members pay a fee at the beginning of the season in exchange for a weekly delivery of fresh vegetables, fruits, and nuts.

The arrangement is mutually dependent and mutually beneficial, which builds a lot of trust between our farmers and our members. Our CSA members’ support allows us to operate seasonally and year-round because we have a consistent customer base. As nature dictates the outcome of the growing season, our customers share the risk with us. We call them our CSA family because we experience the ups and downs of the seasons together.

The CSA program is unique in many ways. Our members get the opportunity to eat both locally and seasonally, learning about and experiencing the variety of produce that is available each week in Southern Georgia. Customers also get to know our farmers and ask questions, having face-to-face interactions each week on delivery day.

It’s not too late to sign up for the Spring CSA at a prorated rate. This season, a share might include the following items: kale or collard greens, carrots or beets, bunching onions, spinach or spring mix, swiss chard, broccoli, pac choy or tatsoi, and blackberries. Here in our garden, we love all of the seasons and we hope you will, too!

Categories: CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) | Tags: | 2 Comments

Our chickens of the woods

Chickens were born to scratch and peck, which is exactly what they do at White Oak Pastures. Our chickens are completely unrestricted, and they could walk to Atlanta if they wanted to. This lifestyle is ideal for them, but it makes our job a heck of a lot harder. We think it is worth it, and our customers do, too.

We utilize the Serengeti Rotational Grazing Model, grazing large ruminants, followed by small ruminants, followed by birds. Our poultry like to scratch through cow manure, which is one of the many benefits of having chickens in the pastures. They eat the bugs and redistribute the nutrients, instead of leaving them in piles. Our hens have the option to lay eggs in our mobile pastured poultry houses, or they can lay them anywhere else on the farm they choose.

We have learned that most of our biological diversity occurs in the “edge.” These days, many of our hens are gravitating toward the bushier, shadier parts of our pastures near the forest edges. Our Laying Hen Manager, Sam Humphrey, explains that domestic chicken breeds are descendants of the red junglefowl, whose natural habitat was the edges of forests where two biological systems are together teeming with life. Here, chickens have cover from predators, and there is a wide variety of leaf litter, seeds, and bugs for them to eat. It’s very natural for our hens to want to be there foraging, nesting, roosting in the limbs, and dust bathing in the dirt. None of these behaviors are possible on a factory farm, which produce and market those ever-so-popular eggs labeled “cage-free.” Our eggs have deep yellow and orange yolks, as opposed to the light yellowish-grey yolks of hens kept in confinement with poor diets. Ours also have a rich flavor and a great nutrient profile as a result of our hens’ own nutritious diet. 

Right now with the warm weather and lots of sunlight, our hens are laying about 5,500 eggs each day. Our egg crew is busy collecting eggs two to three times a day, seven days a week. For them, it’s like an Easter egg hunt every day at White Oak Pastures. Once the eggs are collected, they are taken to our candling, washing, and sorting room where they are prepared to be shipped to grocery stores, restaurants, and other distributors. Our eggs are also available for purchase in our online store to be shipped to you directly. We hope you enjoy our delicious, pasture laid eggs!

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Categories: Animal Welfare, Regenerative Land Management | Tags: , | 2 Comments

New kids on the farm

The business that we run is the most simple business in the world. We own land, and we own animals. We spend our days doing the right things for both. The animals breed, have young, they grow, we slaughter them, we sell the meat and poultry for money that we use to pay our expenses, and it all starts again. It is very simple, but it is also remarkably complex. There are a lot of moving parts.

Some of the great joys in our work are the birthing seasons. Goats kid, rabbits kindle, hogs farrow, sheep lamb, cattle calve, poultry hatch. This is part of a cycle of birth, growth, death, and decay. Everything we do here is in support of that cycle.

Each spring we welcome new goat kids to our herd as they are born in our pastures. Our Small Ruminants Manager, Matthew Cantrell, ensures that they live a peaceful, healthy life, caring for them and watching over them along with his dogs, Oakley and Pancho.

We are excited to have goats on our farm, as goat is the most consumed meat in the world. We believe that our customers who are currently buying our beef, lamb, poultry and rabbit will also like our goat.

Please enjoy our photo gallery of our mama goats and their new kids, in their nursery in our pastures. This is the way we believe animals should be born and raised.

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

Second Annual 5K Ruff Run

We had a blast this Saturday at our second annual 5K Ruff Run! Contestants were challenged by 14 obstacles throughout our pastures, while the two days of rain prior to the event added a whole other level of difficulty. You can do a mud run anywhere, but where else can you do an obstacle-filled race on a farm with 10 species of livestock looking on?

The event was organized by our Tourism Manager, Jodi Harris Benoit, one of the fifth-generation of Harrises on the farm. Jodi wanted to offer something different, as our guests often visit the farm more for the educational component. Fitness is important to many of our customers, and this was a chance to get outside in the spring weather, get muddy and have fun, while learning about where your food comes from at the same time.

Tim Hauber, our Construction and Maintenance Manager, used his architectural background to design and build obstacles one runner described as more difficult than a military training course. Some of the challenges included climbing walls, a barbed wire crawl, a frame of monkey bars, a tire climb, and finally a mountain of hay bales to scale before crossing the finish line.

Our farm animals got in on the action, too, with one of our hens laying an egg in the hay bale obstacle after the race!

Guests also enjoyed our after-run activities, including a mechanical bull, cowboy joust, cornhole, paintball, beer and music, while Chef Reid served up pastured and grassfed sandwiches from the White Oak Pastures food truck.

Thank you to our community for coming together for a really unique and fun event. We can’t wait to see y’all again next year!

Categories: Rural Community | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Flavor of Georgia: Chef Reid’s pastured chorizo sausage

This week, White Oak Pastures’ Chef Reid was a finalist in the 10th Annual Flavor of Georgia contest hosted by the University of Georgia. Our pastured Chorizo Sausage was showcased in the Meat & Seafood category, and made it to the top three of 12 contestants. Products were judged on flavor, texture, ingredient profile, and how well the products represent Georgia.

Chef Reid is a graduate of the famed Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Chicago. He joined the White Oak Pastures team almost three years ago, and continues to grow our on-farm dining Pavilion. It is Reid’s love and passion not just for food, but where it comes from, that inspires him to continually take pride in the way he prepares and preserves the season’s harvest.

We produce our Chorizo Sausage from pasture-raised hogs that freely roam our farm, rooting and wallowing in the mud, and never treated with steroids or antibiotics. Our hogs make wonderful pasture companions with our goats and sheep in our Serengeti Rotational Grazing Model.

At the event, we were honored to be among so many great farmers and food producers in the state. Even though we didn’t take home the top prize, we were thrilled to be a finalist showcasing the Flavor of Georgia. And, Chef Reid’s delicious Chorizo Sausage is the winner every day here on the farm!

Categories: Staff Spotlight | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Peanut pride

March is National Peanut Month. Peanuts are the official state crop of Georgia, and for good reason: nearly half of the peanuts produced in the U.S. each year are grown in our state. This time of year, folks across Southwest Georgia are celebrating the peanut industry and its importance in our community. We don’t grow peanuts here at White Oak Pastures, but we have found many uses for the byproducts of the peanut industry that work within our zero-waste philosophy.

Here is what we do with the unused peanut waste we pick up from the local peanut processors:

We add human-grade ground peanut paste to our chicken feed, creating a lipid-rich, protein-rich, low-cost feed for our birds.

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In all things we do, we try very hard to emulate nature. Peanuts are one of the most natural foods for hogs. Look at a hog’s nose: it was made to root under the soil for food. Look at a peanut: it grows two inches beneath the soil. A perfect combination! Most of the hogs in the U.S. are fed a GMO soy and grain feed. We are proud to supplement our hog feed with GMO-free peanut paste.

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Wildlife goes “nuts” for it, too!

Credit - BackLight Photography
Photo Credit: BackLight Photography

 

We use peanut shells for bedding in our poultry brooder houses. Chicken and turkey poults, ducklings, goslings, and guinea fowl keets all stay warm and safe in this bedding in our brooders until they are old enough to go out on pasture.

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Peanut shells act as the carbon component for composting the ground meat and poultry waste from our abattoirs. This compost is used as a soil amendment to feed the microbial population in our pastures. Using this rich compost, we never have to rely on synthetic fertilizers to keep our grass growing green.

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Categories: Regenerative Land Management | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Savanna project: 1,200 new pecan trees throughout our pastures

As environmental stewards, planting trees is one of our many responsibilities. Years of watching nature has taught us that the most diversity occurs in the edge or boundary of two of ecological habitats, where we see more wildlife and microbial growth. During the last decade at White Oak Pastures, we have planted about 1,000 trees along our fence lines each year to create this edge.

This February, we planted the first of 1,200 new pecan trees throughout our pastures. This year’s planting will be quite different than tree-planting in years past as we are not focusing on that edge effect, but it will provide a completely different set of benefits than previous years.

Pecan trees are the last to foliate in the spring, so the sun will get to the pastures when it is needed most. In the summer, foliage will protect our livestock and land from the heat and sun, and pecans will fall on the pastures to feed the animals. The trees will be spread out far enough that they do not over-shade the grass.

Right now, the young pecan trees are protected by circular steel fences called Arbor Shields, which deter the livestock and allow natural organic growth.

We’re excited to watch the trees grow throughout the years, and see the animals enjoy the extra shade and food. Eventually, our pastures will resemble the African Savanna.

Categories: Regenerative Land Management | Tags: | Leave a comment

How to prepare aged grassfed steaks

Our animals are athletes. They spend their entire lives roaming our lush pastures and eating sweet grasses, as nature intended. Because our cattle’s muscles see a lot of activity, we recommend aging our grassfed steaks to allow enzymes and microbes to break down the tissues to make the meat more tender and flavorful.

The wet aging process is as simple as keeping the vacuum-sealed steak in your refrigerator for 21 or more days. Aged grassfed steaks are also available for purchase in our online store.

Check out our new how-to video where Chef Reid demonstrates how to prepare our aged grassfed steaks without overcooking and losing all of the delicious flavor.

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

Craft revival: Jamie Bush turns animal byproducts into artisan goods

DSC_0876Jamie Bush joined the White Oak Pastures family in 2014. She has a lifelong passion for farming, having grown up raising horses and goats on her family farm in Waycross, GA. She came to White Oak Pastures to learn everything she could about large-scale regenerative farming that offers much more than just good, fair food.

Jamie has a vital role in our effort to tap into ancient traditions that respect animals, the environment, and human health. A few of her responsibilities on the farm include making candles, soap, lip balm, and gardener’s salve from our beef tallow, and making pet treats from parts of livestock that would otherwise go to waste, including poultry feet, heads, and necks; cattle trachea, esophagus, and penises; and the ears and noses of cattle and pigs. These items are part of our line of specialty products, and our commitment across the farm to follow a zero-waste model.

According to the United Nations, 22% of meat in the U.S. food supply chain is wasted. With nine billion animals slaughtered annually, that’s roughly two billion farm animals thrown away every year. A hero of ours, Dr. George Washington Carver, told us, “In Nature there is no waste.” We endeavor to run our farm by this standard, and our commitment to the animal is to utilize all of the parts.

Growing up as a girl, Jamie never thought, “I can’t wait to dehydrate duck heads and chicken feet, and weave bull penises together to make pet treats.” But when our Specialty Products Manager, Amber Reece, made the suggestion, Jamie was excited to give it a try. Jamie appreciates seeing our customers enjoy our tallow products, knowing that what goes on the body is just as important as what goes inside. She also loves watching dogs happily devour our pet treats. For her, it’s a powerful feeling to be part of a system that’s creating a net positive impact on the planet.

Our artisan goods are available for purchase on our website. Please contact amber.reece@whiteoakpastures.com for more information.

Categories: Animal Welfare, Staff Spotlight | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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