Monthly Archives: December 2016

Meet Our Leather Crafter Alena Ivakhnenko


If you visit our General Store in Bluffton you’ll notice our leather workshop tucked in the back corner. Our leather crafter Alena works here daily and has hand-made almost every leather product on our shelves.  Alena grew up in the Ukraine and spent most of her childhood in her grandmother’s garden. There she developed a deep connection with agriculture and the natural world.


Once she realized it was possible to turn the outdoors into a career and a lifestyle, Alena began focusing on gaining experience and worked in Ching Animal Sanctuary, the Utah Conservation Corps and the Alaska Forest Service. She hopes to work her own farm in the future and also educate high school age teenagers about agricultural career options.


Alena applied to White Oak Pastures as an intern in the Garden Program. While working in the garden, Alena listened to the Farmer to Farmer podcast. This podcast highlighted the opportunity for value-added product creation in the farming off-season. Alena hopes to work with value-added products such as leather with her own farm and saw the White Oak Pastures leather crafting position as an opportunity to learn a life-long skill.


While Alena’s background in photography lent her a visual eye, she has never worked with her hands in a craft like this before. However, she applied her hard work ethic and artistic eye and grew the leather department immensely. Alena finds it very rewarding to “experience what goes in to developing and expanding a business”.

mortelliti_lowres-2179The most gratifying aspect of her job is the “appreciation from people who get the products I make with my own two hands”. Alena finds it “satisfying to see something that I made from start to finish that people are using”.

A difficult part of her job is performing repetitive tasks while still maintaining attention to detail. Working with hair-on leather is also very hard and she will occasionally get “hair splinters”.  Our leather is very thick and working with it can be quite time consuming. There is also a fair amount of problem solving regarding stitching and cutting since each hide is unique.


The goats and turkeys are Alena’s favorite White Oak Pastures farm animals. The goats are “silly and cute” and the turkeys are “super sweet and really intelligent birds”.

Customers often come in to our General Store and see Alena working in the leather shop. However, they do not automatically assume that the leather she’s crafting comes from our own cattle. Alena sees this as a symptom of our consumer society’s isolation from the product supply chain. She feels our leather department plays an important role in helping consumers reevaluate how they see the product supply chain. Alena feels strongly that a zero-waste approach to farming is important for the future of sustainable farms and how they think of revenue.



Categories: Rural Community, Staff Spotlight, Zero-Waste | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Employee Spotlight: Small Ruminant Manager Matthew Cantrell

It’s lambing season here at White Oak Pastures. Our pastures and woods are speckled with 200-300 tiny newborn lambs tailing their mammas as they learn about being  pasture-raised sheep. Behind the scenes is our Small Ruminant Manager Matthew Cantrell.


Matthew grew up in California ranch country and was always involved in the farming lifestyle. Prior to his career at White Oak Pastures, Matthew managed a diversified farm in South Carolina and prior to that, he was an English teacher. However, farming and nature pulled him out of the poetry classroom and back into the fields.

 There is also a poetry in farming. If one spends the day watching Matthew work our sheep and goats with his herding dogs, this is readily apparent. “Farming connects me to what’s reality- what’s really important,” Matthew says. “I can’t imagine doing anything else even though it’s incredibly hard sometimes”. Matthew manages 1500 animals: about 1000 sheep and 500 goats. He has an intellectual, respectful relationship with his herd. He makes sure the “innate value” of the animals is respected and that they are “treated with dignity”.  Matthew works long hours to make sure his animals are happy and healthy and feels that “their value is not relative to human need for them- their value has to be honored as much as I’m able”.


Farming has always been conducive to family involvement. Matthew’s family occasionally joins him in shepherding. He is a dedicated father and husband. His four children (ages 12, 10, 6 and 4) are all home schooled. Matthew views shepherding as a unique opportunity to raise his children with an “intimate experience and understanding of real life, real things- dirt, plants, animals, life and death”. Matthew and his wife Leah take pride in their farm lifestyle which allows them to live morally and with intention. His oldest daughter, Hannah (12), helps nurse orphaned or sick lambs back to health. Matthew jokingly calls Hannah the “small ruminant neonatal specialist”.


Matthew works by himself most of the time and relies heavily on his three herding dogs: Pancho, a Border Collie, and Oakley and Annie, Working Kelpies. Both breeds trace their lineage to farm collies in Northern England and thus have similar working styles which compliment each other. “I rely on them every day. They’re incredible. They’re my best friends. I couldn’t do what I do without them”. Matthew views herding dogs as a more natural way to move livestock. There is an instinctual relationship between herding dogs and ruminants which usually precipitates a calmer response. Herding dogs also “rate stock”, i.e., anticipate what the ruminants will do which helps the shepherd move sheep in a low-stress, efficient manner.  

As a shepherd, Matthew works to foster responsible natural resources management while caring for the welfare and nutritional needs of our flock. He is also constantly working long-term to develop a resilient flock which will naturally thrive in the environment of our farm.


Categories: Animal Welfare, Regenerative Land Management, Staff Spotlight, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Reviving An Old Tradition: Holiday Goose


Our geese are free range and have 250 acres of pasture and tree coverage to forage in and explore. We raise Embden geese, a weather-hearty, robust, pure white breed. Geese are herbivores and their beak design makes them the best grazing poultry species.


We supplement our birds’ diet with non-GMO feed which in turns adds organic material such as available nitrogen back into the soil in the form of manure. Our geese live full, free range lives while contributing to our farm’s regenerative agriculture model.

You won’t find goose in your everyday supermarket, but we are proud to say that we can send a pasture-raised, non-GMO goose right to your doorstep. Goose is a traditional dish across the globe and Christmas goose was the much-anticipated holiday dish in Europe for centuries.



Tis the season for this hearty, traditional dish. Our chef Reid Harrison has prepared a simple and delicious recipe on how to prepare this rich, delicious bird. Watch our video here to see how easy it is to prepare a pasture-raised holiday goose for your next cold weather get-together.  Our recipe is as follows:

Citrus Five Spice Christmas Goose 


1 10lb White Oak Pastures Goose

2 Oranges

1 Lemon

2 TBL Chinese five-spice powder

2 TBL Kosher Salt

Black Pepper

Small handful each of parsley, thyme and sage sprigs


3 TBL clear honey

1 TBL thyme leaf


Calculate the cooking time (approximately 10-12 minutes per pund). If the goose is ready-trussed, then loosen the string and pull out the legs and wings a little – this helps the bird cook better. Check the inside of the bird and remove any giblets or pads of fat. Using the tip of a sharp knife, lightly score the breast and leg skin in a crisscross. This helps the fat to render down quicker while roasting.

Zest the lemons and limes. Mix with Kosher salt, the five-spice powder and pepper to taste. Season the cavity of the goose generously with salt, then rub the citrus mix into the skin and sprinkle some inside the cavity. Place the zested fruit and the herb sprigs inside the bird and set aside for at least 15 mins. Do this a day ahead to allow the flavors to really penetrate into the goose for the best flavor, and lighten your load on cooking day.

Preheat oven to 450̊ F. Place goose on a wire rack in a roasting pan. Roast the goose for 15 minutes at 450̊ F then turn the heat down to 350̊ F and allow to cook for about 45-50minutes. Drizzle with the honey and sprinkle with thyme leaves. Finish roasting for another 30-45minutes until deep golden brown and crispy (cover the goose with foil if it is starting to brown too much).

Every 30 mins or so, baste the bird with the pan juices, then pour off the fat through a sieve into a large heatproof bowl. You will end up with about a quart of luscious fat – save this for the potatoes and any other veg you might want to cook. At the end of the cooking time, leave to rest for at least 20 mins, covered loosely with foil. The bird will not go cold, but will be moist and much easier to carve.



Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Blog at