Author Archives: amberreece1

Our Blog has Moved

In the spirit of celebrating the new year, we’ve moved our blog! You’ll still be able to read all of our articles here, but all new posts will be available on http://blog.whiteoakpastures.com/blog/

Be sure to follow us there for all our new news, events and other interesting things happening around our farm.

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Life on the Farm: Q&A with Will Harris

will harris

1. Do you remember your first day “taking over” the farm? Can you describe it for us?
EXCEPT FOR MY 4 YEARS AT COLLEGE, I HAVE LIVED AND WORKED ON THIS FARM ALL OF MY LIFE.  I HAVE NEVER WANTED TO DO ANYTHING EXCEPT RUN THIS FARM.  I MAJORED IN ANIMAL SCIENCE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA IN PREPARATION FOR DOING THIS.

WHEN I GRADUATED FROM COLLEGE, I EXPECTED MY FATHER TO GO AND SIT ON THE PORCH SO THAT I COULD RUN THE FARM.  HE HAD A VERY DIFFERENT IDEA.

HE WAS AN ONLY CHILD, AND I WAS AN ONLY CHILD.  EITHER OF THESE WAS PRETTY UNUSUAL FOR OUR GENERATIONS.  IT WAS UNHEARD OF THE STACK THEM.

WE WERE LIKE TWO BROTHERS, FATHER & SON, BUSINESS PARTNERS, AND BEST FRIENDS.  WE COULD HUNT & FISH TOGETHER, EAT & DRINK TOGETHER, BUT WE COULD NOT WORK TOGETHER.  HE WAS THE ORDAINED KING, AND I HAD OPINIONS THAT I JUST COULD NOT KEEP TO MYSELF.  WE PISSED EACH OTHER OFF.  IT WAS BAD.

HE WAS TOO SMART TO LET US LIVE IN A COMBATIVE SITUATION. HE AVOIDED THIS BY MAKING ME GET AN OFF FARM JOB IMMEDIATELY AFTER GRADUATION.  I BECAME THE REGIONAL MANAGER OF A FARMER COOPERATIVE.  WE RAN COTTON GINS, PEANUT MILLS, FERTILIZER BLENDERS, AND GRAIN ELEVATORS.  IT WAS GREAT EXPERIENCE FOR ME AND I COULD NOT HAVE DONE THE THINGS, IN THE MANAGEMENT OF THIS FARM, THAT I HAVE DONE IF I HAD NOT HAD THIS EXPERIENCE FORCED ON ME.

BUT… I ALWAYS LIVED ON THIS FARM, AND WAS ALWAYS VERY INVOLVED IN WORKING ON THE FARM.  I WORKED 40 HOURS EACH WEEK FOR THE CO-OP, AND OVER 40 HOURS MORE EACH WEEK ON THE FARM.  I ONCE COMPLAINED ABOUT HOW I WORKED ALL OF THE TIME.  DADDY SAID “YOU DON’T WORK BUT HALF OF THE TIME”.  HE MEANT 12 HOURS OF THE DAY, 7 DAYS PER WEEK.  HE SAID THAT IF A MAN WANTS TO “ACCUMULATE SOMETHING” HE NEEDS TO WORK MORE THAN HALF OF THE TIME.

ONE HOT DAY, IN 1995, DADDY DROVE HIS PICK UP TO WHERE I WAS BUILDING A NEW FENCE IN THE PASTURE.  HE SAID “DO YOU WANT THEM DAMN COWS?”.  I SAID “HELL YES I WANT THEM DAMN COWS.  THAT IS WHY I’M BUILDING THIS DAMN FENCE”.  HE SAID “TAKE THEM”, AND HE DROVE OFF.  AND THE TRANSFER OF OWNERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT WAS DONE.  WE HAD NEVER DISCUSSED ANY SORT OF TRANSFER BEFORE THIS AND, EXCEPT FOR THAT EXCHANGE, WE NEVER DID AFTER EITHER.

I KNOW THAT DADDY GAVE IT UP THAT DAY BECAUSE HE WAS BEGINNING TO FEEL THE FIRST SIGNS OF DEMENTIA.  HE NOR I NEVER ACKNOWLEDGED IT, BUT THAT WAS THE DEAL.  IT SLOWLY KILLED HIM OVER THE NEXT FIVE LONG AND SAD YEARS.

AFTER THAT DISCUSSION ON THAT HOT DAY, HE NEVER TOOK ANY SORT OF ACTIVE ROLE ON THE FARM.  NONE AT ALL.  IT WAS VERY TRAGIC THAT IT HAD TO BE THAT WAY.

2. On January 1, 2014, two of your daughters were officially back on the farm and White Oak Pastures employees. What was that day like for you?
THE BEST DAMN TIME OF MY LIFE.  THE STORY ABOVE WILL GIVE YOU INSIGHT AS TO WHY.

3. I just picked up my first batch of layers today. Although I feel responsible for the current layers in the pasture, I feel more bonded to, or just more responsible for the ones I got today. It’s the first ones I hope to raise from start to finish. How did you feel when you bought/slaughtered/sold your first cow?
YOU ARE EXPERIENCING THE STEWARDSHIP OF THESE CHICKS. STEWARDSHIP OF YOUR OWN LAND AND ANIMALS IS THE CLOSEST THAT PEOPLE CAN EVER COME TO FEELING THE COMPASSION OF GOD FOR HIS SUBJECTS.  MOST PEOPLE NEVER GET THAT.

4. What do you look forward to the most about retirement? Or do farmers every truly retire?
MY RETIREMENT WILL CONSIST OF GRADUALLY HANDING OFF DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES, UNTIL I HAVE NONE LEFT.  WHEN THERE ARE NONE LEFT, IF MY HEALTH IS GOOD, I WILL RIDE A HORSE AROUND THE FARM ALL DAY EVERY DAY.

 

If you have any questions for Will, please leave them in the comments section and I’ll do my best to get an answer for you!

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Life on the Farm: Words of Wisdom by Will Harris

will smiling

An article posted in the American Grassfed Association newsletter, that I thought you all may enjoy…

“At this time I feel compelled to talk about the market that we are operating in.  We are in uncharted territory with regard to the prices that our livestock is bringing.  I think that we all need to give some consideration to how we got to this point.  Here’s my take on this:…

Congratulations to all of us.  Today we are producing livestock in the most profitable period of time in anyone’s recollection.  This is great, and we are grateful…but it ain’t always going to be this way.

We must not lose sight of the fact that our current economic success is the result of the nation’s diminished supply of animal protein (primarily beef).  This diminished supply is a result of ruminant herd liquidation, which came about due to many years of unprofitable calf, lamb, and kid production.That is to say that our current year’s profits in the livestock business were bought and paid for by our prior year’s losses.  Mine and yours.

This cyclical supply & demand, profit & loss, is a function of the commodity beef business.  There is no protection from this cycle for producers who raise calves for ultimate sale to multi-national protein companies.  It is a way of life (and death).

AGA members have opted to exit this system.  We endeavor to raise our animals for sale to more sophisticated consumers.  These are consumers who have studied our nation’s meat and poultry production systems.  Many of these more informed consumers have made lifestyle changes regarding what they eat.  These consumers choose to pay a little more to buy meat and poultry that allows them to be raised in a manner that is more sustainable, humane and fair.

AGA members who have exited the commodity system pay a high price to get out.  Production, processing, and marketing meat and poultry from a non-commodity system is much more difficult, riskier and more expensive for the producer.  Producers can easily add value to their products and not be able to extract this added value from the marketplace.  It ain’t easy.  In fact, it is damned hard.  In fact, it is the hardest damned thing that I have ever done in my life.

AGA members who have exited this system face hardship from many fronts:  National livestock organizations vehemently oppose mandatory country-of-origin labeling that helps prevent the importation of “grassfed” beef without the knowledge of consumers.  Multi-national protein companies brilliantly word smith, green wash, and trick label their products to hopelessly confuse consumers.  Government bureaucracies heavy handedly impose regulations that are not applicable to small operations.  This list goes on and on…

These difficulties are part of what makes me proud to be part of the American Grassfed Association.  This grassroots (no pun intended) organization is one of the few places where like-minded producers can unite in an effort to understand the forces that stand in the way of our journey to gain a sustainable, humane, and fair livestock production system.”

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

Life on the Farm: New York Times!

Hey everyone! Can you believe we made it onto the front page of the food section in THE NEW YORK TIMES? We are so excited to be included and we’re all still on cloud 9! What an honor! It was lots of fun having the writer, Kim Severson, down on the farm with us. If you haven’t already, please check it out:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/11/dining/at-white-oak-pastures-grass-fed-beef-is-only-the-beginning.html?_r=0

Thank you all for your continued dedication, loyalty and support of our farming practices. We can’t continue to do what we love without you. If we could sit down with each of you face-to-face to say “thank you,” we would.

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Life on the Farm: Interview with Buck Wiley

Good Morning! It finally stopped raining! The pastures are well saturated, the ducks are swimming, we’ve had a couple of really exciting visitors on the farm and it’s almost the weekend! What a great day! You’re probably thinking it can’t get much better than this, but you’re wrong! I conducted another interview this week, with a really important and special guy at the farm. Without further ado, meet Buck…

Justin “Buck” Wiley began working at White Oak Pastures in July of 2009. He was hired as a butcher and worked hard to prove himself until he was promoted to Beef Plant Manager. Buck takes pride in his work and in making our customers happy. He manages 38 employees and 35 head of cattle each day in the Red Meat Abattoir. He arrives at the plant early in the morning and is typically one of the last people to leave. He carries a lot of responsibility, but also has the pleasure of working with some of his best friends every day. He’s a great guy, with a huge heart and a constant smile on his face…and yes, ladies – he’s single! We couldn’t be happier to have him as part of our work family!

1. What’s your favorite part of working at the farm? THERE’S NEVER A DULL MOMENT. THERE’S ALWAYS A NEW ADVENTURE GOING ON FOR A MANAGER TO TACKLE EVERYDAY. ALL OF US LOVE NEW CHALLENGES AND ADVENTURES.

2. Do you plan to retire as a WOP cowboy? YES! I’LL BE HERE UNTIL THE COWS COME HOME.

3. It’s a Friday night in Bluffton, Georgia…where can we find you? IN THE BEEF PLANT UNTIL AROUND 7PM FINISHING UP A LONG WEEK. THEN ON DOWN TO THE PAVILION FOR A NICE DINNER AND A COLD BEER TO START PLANNING OUT THE NEXT WEEK.

4. What’s your favorite Will Harris quote? “YOU TAKE CARE OF THE LAND AND ANIMALS, AND THEY WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU.”

5. You began your career here as a butcher. What motivated you to work your way up to Beef Plant Manager? I WAS SO IMPRESSED WITH EVERYTHING GOING ON AT THE TIME, WHICH WAS 3 YEARS AGO. I HAD NO IDEA WE WERE GOING TO BE ALL THAT WE ARE TODAY, BUT I KNEW I WANTED TO BE A PART OF THE EVERYDAY PROCESSES OF WOP AND TO NOT ONLY CUT MEAT.

6. What’s the funniest thing you’ve witnessed at the farm? THE DAY WE TRIED TO COORDINATE A DANCE IN THE CUTTING ROOM CALLED “HARLEM SHAKE.”

7. What’s your favorite hobby, outside of work? HUNTING, SPORTS AND OUTDOORS

8. If you weren’t at WOP, where would you hope to be employed? I NEVER WANT TO FIND ANYWHERE ELSE TO BE EMPLOYED.

9. WOP is a unique place to live, work and play. What do you think makes it most unique? ALL THE CONTINUING CHALLENGES THAT GO ALONG WITH HAVING SO MANY DEPARTMENTS WITHIN THE COMPANY, AND BEING ABLE TO HELP WITH THE LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION OF WOP.

10. What’s the biggest challenge you face on a daily basis in the beef plant? KEEPING UP WITH CONSUMER DEMAND AND THEIR EVER-CHANGING SPECS. WE SELL TO GROCERY STORES, CHEFS AND INDIVIDUAL CONSUMERS, WHICH ALL HAVE MANY DIFFERENT SPECS. IT’S A CHALLENGE EVERY DAY.

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Life on the Farm: Interview with Jodi Harris

Last week, you guys had the privilege of getting to know Jenni Harris. Today, I want to introduce to all of you, Jodi Harris Benoit. She’s the fifth generation of the farm, little sister to Jenni, and our Tourism Manager. She graduated from Valdosta State University in 2012, fulfilled her year off the farm with a local trucking company, and thankfully, made her way back home! Although she has only been here since January 2014, she has already learned what it takes to keep this farm running, and willingly wears many different hats. When she isn’t planning workshops for our wonderful friends and customers, making sure the cabins are ready for our guests or taking a stroll on one of our 3 horses, you can typically find her helping her husband, John Benoit, in the pastures. John just happens to be the Livestock Manager. It’s a true family business, I tell ya!

Everyone, meet Jodi…

1. What brought you back to the farm?

My family brought me back to the farm.. I never intended to live anywhere else.

2. What’s it like working with your dad, older sister, husband and sister-in-law?

It’s the best thing in the world to be surrounded by my family everyday. I never dread coming to work. Doing what we love to do together is such a blessing.

3. What’s your biggest accomplishment since starting here a year ago?

Dad was a bit reluctant, but we purchased 4 cabins and renovated the pond house on the farm. This has been my dream since the beginning of White Oak Pastures. My parents lived in the pond house right after they married in 1977. I’m so glad we were able to fix it up and let our friends enjoy such a special and secluded spot on the farm.

4. What are your goals for the next year? Professional and personal?

I would love for us to start renovation on the old Herman Bass Store in Bluffton. We bought it in 2013, but with all the other renovations going on around the farm, we had to add it to a growing list of to-do’s. My long term goal is to outgrow our cabin capacity. I don’t mind begging dad to build a nice lodge one bit! 🙂

5. What’s your favorite meal at The Pavilion?

Beef Tongue Tacos! Don’t knock it ’til you try it!

6. What’s the best…and worst…part of living in Bluffton, GA? The best part – being close to my family and the farm. The worst part – I’ll let you know if I find something that isn’t pleasant.

7. We have 10 different species on the farm. Which is your favorite?

Oh, how I am enjoying our baby goats, but like a true Harris, I’ll always be a beef girl.

8. What do you like to do when you aren’t planning farm events, booking cabins, answering phones or greeting customers?

Riding my horses and spending time with my John Boy!

9. Choose one word to describe White Oak Pastures.

Diverse

10. If you didn’t work at the farm, where would you be?

I hope I never have to find out…

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Life on the Farm: Interview with Jenni Harris

Today, I interviewed Jenni Harris, 5th generation of White Oak Pastures. We all know the typical questions asked during an interview about the farm, so I wanted this one to be a little different. If you have any additional questions for her, please feel free to ask in the comments section!

Jenni graduated from Valdosta State University in 2009. She moved to Atlanta and worked at Buckhead Beef for one year, before moving back to the farm. Her dad, better known as Will Harris, gave all three of his daughters the option to work at the farm, but only after working for someone else for at least a year. Jenni fulfilled that duty, and started working as the Marketing Manager at White Oak Pastures immediately after. She has now immersed herself into several different roles at the farm, but her daily job consists of making wholesale customers happy. She spends a lot more time in front of her computer these days, but every now and then you can find her feeding abandoned baby lambs, greeting customers in the farm store, and riding around on the 4-wheeler keeping a check on the cows.

1. Atlanta and Bluffton couldn’t be more opposite. What led you back to the farm? ATLANTA WAS GREAT, AND I WAS ONE OF THE FEW FOLKS FROM RURAL AMERICA TO ENJOY THE CITY, BUT, I ENJOYED IT KNOWING IT WAS TEMPORARY. I KNEW I WANTED TO RAISE CHILDREN WHERE I WAS RAISED, I WANTED THEM TO HAVE THE EDUCATION, PASSION, RESPECT, AND DISCIPLINE THAT I WAS RAISED WITH YEARS AGO.

2. What’s your favorite part about working on the farm? THE PEOPLE. WHETHER IT’S OTHER FOLKS THAT WORK ON THE FARM WITH ME, OR CUSTOMERS THAT WE DEAL WITH WEEKLY, THE PEOPLE IN THE SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE INDUSTRY ARE SOME OF THE BEST IN THE WORLD. I WOULD NOT TRADE MY RELATIONSHIPS WITH THIS GROUP FOR ANYTHING.

3. What do you consider your biggest accomplishment since working here? BECOMING ME. AS THE 5TH GENERATION OF WHITE OAK PASTURES, AND WORKING ALONGSIDE MY FATHER, I FOUND IT HARD TO ESTABLISH WHAT I “WAS” OR “WANTED TO BE.” IT SOUNDS SILLY, BUT DECIDING HOW I COULD CONTRIBUTE WAS A DAILY STRUGGLE FOR ME, BUT THROUGH 5 YEARS OF FIGURING OUT WHAT I HATED AND WHAT I LOVED, I FINALLY FOUND “ME.”

4. Future goals? Professionally and personally? I WANT A FAMILY TO SHARE THIS FARM WITH. I WANT TO SHARE THIS FARM WITH NOT ONLY MY CHILDREN, BUT EVERYONE ELSE THAT CONTRIBUTES TO IT. ALL OF THESE PEOPLE ARE WHO I CONSIDER “FAMILY.” GROWING THIS FAMILY WILL CONTINUE TO ADD VALUE TO WHAT IS ALREADY SO STRONG. PROFESSIONALLY- I JUST WANT TO KEEP WALKING THE JOURNEY THAT WHITE OAK PASTURES HAS BEGUN.

5. If you weren’t at the farm, where would you be? THAT’S A HARD QUESTION, BUT PROBABLY IN SOME BORING, STRAIGHT-LACED CORPORATE COMPANY, ANXIOUSLY WAITING ON MY QUARTERLY REVIEW TO PROVE THAT I WAS DOING “ABOVE SATISFACTORY.” INSTEAD, I GET TO LIVE EACH DAY, KNOWING I AM DOING SOMETHING MEANINGFUL.

6. You’re on many different boards and a part of several organizations, how do you have time for it all? I THINK IT’S SAFE TO ASSUME I’M NOT THE BEST BOARD MEMBER IN THE ROOM. I’M ONLY ON BOARDS THAT ARE RELATED TO WHAT WE DO AT WHITE OAK PASTURES. THANKFULLY, THEY ARE ALL FORGIVING BOARDS, WHEN I’M DOUBLE BOOKED OR OUT OF TOWN. HONESTLY, THESE BOARDS ARE A WAY TO LEARN HOW WHITE OAK PASTURES CAN PLAY A BETTER ROLE IN THE BIG PICTURE. YOU KNOW THE SAYING, “I CAN’T SEE THE FORREST BECAUSE OF THE TREES.” THESE BOARDS ARE A WAY TO GET AWAY FROM THE TREES, SO I CAN SEE THE FORREST.

7. We get this question a lot, but do you think WOP will ever have dairy cows? SOMEONE SMART ONCE TOLD ME TO NEVER SAY “NEVER.” ONLY TIME WILL TELL IF THERE IS A PLACE IN THE MARKET FOR WHITE OAK PASTURES DAIRY.

8. What’s your favorite meal at The Pavilion? ALL OF IT, BUT MORE SPECIFICALLY, THE FARMER JOHN BURGER, NAMED FOR MY FAMOUS BROTHER-IN-LAW. THE BURGER CONSISTS OF WHITE OAK PASTURES BEEF, HOME-MADE CHEESE AND BREAD, WHITE OAK PASTURES LETTUCE AND TOMATO (WHEN IT’S IN SEASON, OF COURSE) TOPPED OFF WITH ONE OF OUR PASTURE RAISED EGGS.

9. If someone came to the farm for the first time, knew very little about grassfed and pasture raised animals, what would you recommend for them to purchase? GROUND BEEF IS THE “GATEWAY DRUG” FOR WHITE OAK PASTURES. OUR GROUND BEEF IS ONE OF MY PERSONAL FAVORITES, BUT ALSO SOMETHING THAT’S EASY TO COOK. IF YOU CAN’T COOK OUR GROUND BEEF, THEN YOU SHOULD RECONSIDER PREPARING ANYTHING ELSE THAT HAS BEEN RAISED OUTSIDE EATING GRASS OR BUGS AND GRUBS.

10. What’s your favorite meal to cook at home? I LOVE TO COOK EVERYTHING! RARELY IS IT PERFECT, BUT ALWAYS IS IT INTERESTING. I LIKE DIFFERENT THINGS, LIKE DUCK AND SAUSAGE, BUT MY GIRLFRIEND LIKES CHICKEN AND SPAGHETTI. EVERY MEAL IS A COMPROMISE…

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Check in next week to learn a little more about Jenni’s younger sister, Jodi Harris.

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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

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

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