Monthly Archives: September 2016

Holiday turkeys with a higher purpose

You’ve heard it before. Our turkeys freely roam our pastures completely unconfined, and are never treated with antibiotics or steroids. They are slaughtered and hand-butchered on our farm in our zero-waste, USDA-inspected processing abattoir. Our turkeys are Non-GMO Project Verified, Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Humane and Step 5+ in the Global Animal Partnership program.

With these attributes, our turkeys surely will make a great centerpiece for your holiday meal. But this year, our birds have a mission that’s much bigger: to heal and restore the land.

Earlier this year, we purchased 250 acres of land that had been stripped of life by decades of monocultural row crop production. By transitioning to a wide variety of diverse species of plants and animals through holistic management, we are working hard to turn this soil from a dead mineral medium to one that’s teeming with life. This Spring, we took our first step toward restoring the land by moving cattle onto it to eat hay, break up the soil with their hooves, and urinate and defecate to add nutrients to the land.

Now it’s the turkeys’ turn. Following our Serengeti Rotational Grazing Model, these birds are pecking and scratching to open up the soil and evenly spread the fertilizer left by the previous herd. They’re adding more fertility to the soil by depositing manure, removing weeds that the ruminants won’t eat, and preparing the land for the new grasses that are beginning to grow. By simply engaging in their natural behaviors, the turkeys are serving a higher purpose by turning this land into productive pasture that will benefit future generations.

This year, we are especially thankful for our turkeys’ contribution to the organism that is White Oak Pastures, and we are excited to share their goodness with you. We hope you and your family will enjoy our holiday turkeys as much as we do; visit our website to purchase yours.

Photos by Laura Mortelliti.

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

Top 5 reasons to celebrate our 150th anniversary with us

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Join us the weekend of October 15th as we commemorate our 150th anniversary. We’ll make it a real celebration with our largest event yet. Over the years we’ve refined our traditions and skills, and like the wines Will Harris is well known to enjoy, we only get better with age. If you’re on the fence about what to do the weekend of October 15th, check out the top five reasons to spend it in Bluffton.

1. Grand re-opening of the White Oak Pastures General Store
We’re proud that now that we’ve put the artisanal labor back in agriculture, our little town can again support its own store. We’re putting the finishing touches on our restoration of Bluffton’s 175-year-old general store and we can’t wait to show it to you. Join us for a ribbon cutting ceremony and enjoy the expanded selection of products available, including ice cream.

2. Exclusive livestream of the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium
The Southern Foodways Alliance does amazing work preserving and promoting the diverse food culture of the American South. Their annual symposium is held in Oxford, Mississippi and tickets sell out quickly, but this year we are excited to be able to offer an exclusive live-stream of the event right here in Bluffton.

3. Local farm-to-table food
Lunch and supper will be available for our guests at the White Oak Pastures food truck, and you won’t want to miss Chef Reid’s surprise 150th anniversary signature burger. After a night of celebrating a century-and-a-half on our family farm, we hope you will join us for Sunday brunch in our on-farm Pavilion.

4. Music! Drinking! Dancing!
That wine we mentioned? There will be plenty of it. We’ll have a cash bar to wash down your fine meal with beer and wine, and we’ll welcome the locally famous Bo Henry Band from Albany, GA for a night of dancing in the streets of downtown Bluffton.

5. Be part of the rural revival
We’ve breathed life into our farm village that had slipped almost into oblivion. Take a ride around Bluffton by horse-drawn farm wagon or bicycle, get to know the people who produce your food, and celebrate the regenerative agriculture movement that is putting Bluffton back on the map!

Click here for full event details. We look forward to seeing you on October 15th.

Categories: Rural Community | Tags: | Leave a comment

Honey as pure as the land

At White Oak Pastures, our bees have been busy this summer making a sweet, golden honey that could only come from this unique place.

Our beehives are nestled in our eight-acre garden and orchard within our 1,000 acres of Certified Organic land. Our bees roam among our blackberries, muscadines, apples, peaches, pears, and nectarines, as well as the native flowering species found in our nearby pastures.

Not only do we have managed honeybee colonies, but we also see a plethora of naturally occurring wild bee colonies throughout the farm. This speaks to the biological health of our organism, in a country where the honeybee population is rapidly dwindling elsewhere. These bees come to us, choosing our pastures over other places in the region they could call home.

What really makes our honey special is the passion and enthusiasm of Luis Tellez, who tends to our bees. Luis is a third-generation hive master from Mexico, where the ancient art of beekeeping was passed down from his grandfather. Luis joined the White Oak Pastures family almost three years ago, when we had just one managed beehive here on the farm. With his attention to detail and love for our bees, he has grown the operation to eight managed hives that produced 20 gallons of honey for our end-of-summer harvest.

Our wildflower honey is raw (unpasteurized), and contains all of the natural pollen found in our flowering plants, as well as their rich floral and fruity flavor notes. Our newest batch of hand-spun and bottled wildflower honey is now available for shipping through our online store. We hope you’ll enjoy this unique taste of the land of White Oak Pastures.

Photos by Laura Mortelliti.

Categories: Regenerative Land Management | Leave a comment

Meet Mary, Queen of Brussels (Sprouts)

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Photo by Laura Mortelliti

As we kick off the Fall season of our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, we are excited to introduce you to one of our organic garden managers, Mary Bruce! We love the way Mary involves herself in so many different functions at White Oak Pastures: she’s also a leather craftswoman, a biodiesel chemist, and she oversees our pastured rabbit and honeybee programs. She is smart, engaged, and always has great ideas for making improvements on the farm. Meet Mary, and catch up on what she’s up to this Fall!

You began your career here as an intern. What motivated you to work your way up to a manager?
When I began working here I had no idea how many moving parts were in this farm ecosystem. My internship was really dynamic, and there were opportunities at every turn. I was lucky enough to be able to work with so many diverse departments. I soon realized that managers were entrusted with Mr. Will’s blessing to go out and conquer. The ability to orchestrate new projects, implement systems, and feel proud of the work that I was doing made me want to invest in the farm.

We have 10 different species on the farm. Which is your favorite?
The guinea fowl. They are wild, uncontained and sneak into the garden all the time! Those birds are just fun to watch, they look as though they are launching an attack when they travel in herds and let out battle cries as they advance through the open pasture. I have been startled by those feisty birds more than once. In addition to their entertainment value, they are the most succulent and flavorful poultry that I have ever eaten. The complexity of their taste is unmatched in stocks, soups, sauces, grilling, and roasting. If you haven’t yet taken the leap, make sure you invite guinea to your next dinner party!

What is the most satisfying part of your job?
Being able to fully engage in a project. There are so many opportunities to team up with other departments in order to make the system more dynamic. We have been using the rabbits to “mow down” garden crops that we are finished harvesting and fertilize the land that they are grazing. We have also introduced a set of piglets to the garden that act as four legged tractors. They till, eat roots and debris, and break up the compaction. Using animals as tools for change has really altered the way I view farming.

What is your favorite meal to cook at home?
Tacos, burritos, and carnitas with marinated steak, pulled/ground pork, and even Mediterranean style tacos stuffed with our lamb. My favorite farm fresh toppings include: vinegar cabbage slaw, onions, microgreens, radishes, pickled carrots, homemade chipotle garlic aioli (from our pastured eggs). We eat like kings on the farm. We have the freshest produce, and most scrumptious proteins. You cannot go wrong when you have all of this great food at your fingertips.

What has been your proudest moment since working here?
I have been blessed to work on a lot of diverse projects during my time here and each one had its pinnacle.  Whenever something that I have directly had my hands on has been complimented or appreciated it really makes me proud of the work that I do. Two standout moments would be our first retail account for leather goods, and the first successful batch of biodiesel. Most recently, I have been delighted with the experimental hay pile garden. That patch of pasture is teeming with life above and below the surface, with so many plant species, beneficial insects, and even beautiful displays of fungal fruiting bodies. I am really proud of the habitat that is forming, and the things that it is teaching me.

What are you most looking forward to for the Fall season?
I am most looking forward to our annual CSA dinner (stay tuned for details!). This will be our third season hosting a dinner for our members. Last year was uniquely special; the full menu was crafted and prepared by the very same staff that plants, harvests and packs our CSA shares. Our members had the chance to spend time on the farm, see the full the process, and connect with their growers and farmers. This dinner gets to the heart of the CSA philosophy, connecting eaters with their farmers.

There’s still time to sign up for our Fall CSA at a prorated rate! Click here for details.

Categories: CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), Staff Spotlight | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Land, livestock, and the pursuit of a new logo

 

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Selling premium, value-added meat and poultry to consumers requires a good amount of marketing, which is not something that comes naturally to us here at White Oak Pastures. Fonts, color schemes, photos and logo designs weren’t handed down from previous generations like land stewardship and livestock husbandry. But, as we’ve done with so many changes during our rapid growth, we adapted to and embraced this new component: logo design.

In the early 2000s, one of our first tasks in building a marketing platform was to pick a name for our website. For a century, what we all know as White Oak Pastures was actually called Tenac Oak Pastures. Will Harris received great advice from a neighbor: “Don’t call your farm something people can’t easily spell. Do you want to spend the rest of your life spelling the word Tenac?” Tenac Oak is the local name for White Oak. But, since Tenac isn’t in most everyone’s normal vocabulary, Will decided that White Oak Pastures would be an equally appropriate name. Our farm is three miles from the Kolomoki Indian Mounds, and Kolomoki translates to “Land of the White Oak.” The rest is history!

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The second task was to pick a logo. Back in the early 2000s, the only product we had to market was grassfed beef. Thankfully, our logo didn’t turn out to be a cow, since today we raise 10 species of animals. Instead, we reflected on the true definition of the word brand: “an identifying mark burned on livestock with a branding iron.” For generations, the Harris family branded our cattle with the same “circle-H” that you see in the logo today, which stands for the “H” in Harris. In an effort to reduce infliction of pain on our animals, we stopped branding them more than 30 years ago. But what better way to brand our products than with the same mark that previous generations used to differentiate our live animals from those of our neighbors?

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Our old logo, early 2000s to 2016

Back then, we decided to make the Harris “H” the main component of our farm logo. We proudly used that logo during the last busy 10 years of business. Today, in our 150th year, we raise 10 different species of animals, market all of these to passionate customers, grow vegetables, tan hides, compost, house overnight guests, and many other things, and the “H” family brand still communicates all of this to the world.

However, over the last 10 years, we found that we were constantly explaining the connection between the “circle-H” and the words “White Oak Pastures.” It seemed folks struggled with the correlation, and we couldn’t really blame them. Knowing that we needed some guidance, we hired Egg Branding to help us consolidate our message. After months of discussion, we are excited to reveal our new logo (top of this page), which still proudly includes the “circle-H” while putting more emphasis on the amazing “organism” (as Will calls it) that is White Oak Pastures. What would our brand be without the history of who we are and where we came from? We hope you like our new look, and the hard work and dedication it represents.

Join us October 15th to celebrate 150 years of building the White Oak Pastures brand and culture. Click here for event details.

Categories: Animal Welfare, Regenerative Land Management, Rural Community | Tags: | Leave a comment

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