Monthly Archives: July 2016

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 (click here for details!). 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 | 29 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

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