Author Archives: White Oak Pastures team

A simple matter of life and death

cow

Most people don’t like to think about the slaughter and processing of food animals, in favor of the magical leap from pasture to plate. But when you feel the way we do about our animals and you interact with them on a daily basis, you think about it a lot. In fact, how we process our animals gets to the core of what we’re about, and what we’re not.

We’re not industrial commodity livestock production. We’re focused on the relationship we have with our animals; the ones born on our land, grazed on our lush pastures, grassfed and grown into the naturally healthy animals they were intended to be.

Given half a chance, nature does her job extremely well. Working with nature, we give our animals what we believe is the best life possible – which includes honoring them with a humane and dignified death.

Our red meat abattoir is one of only two on-farm USDA-inspected processing facilities in the nation. Situated in one of the pastures our cows have roamed their entire lives, there’s no stressful transportation issue. Their hooves never touch concrete until their last step.

The abattoir design is by Temple Grandin, a renowned expert on humane animal handling, and was designed to keep our animals at ease. For instance, the structure of the walkways minimize shadows because shadows frighten cows. Our abattoir is Animal Welfare Approved, an accreditation that reflects the highest animal welfare standards. This is important and good to know because when you choose your food, you’re also choosing how the animals are treated.

At White Oak Pastures, the compassionate treatment of animals doesn’t end with the end of their lives.

Categories: Animal Welfare | 3 Comments

Good news: We bought 250 acres of worthless land

IMG_0413

It takes more than time to restore Georgia’s soil to the way it was before industrial farming practices added chemical fertilizers and pesticides and removed the biodiversity and nutrients. It takes us buying the land in the first place. Well, check that box, to the tune of 250 acres.

Our little experiment in the de-industrialization of agriculture is becoming less little all the time.

So what are we going to do with that 250 acres of degraded soil? Exactly what we’ve done with our other 1,500 acres: repair and fertilize the soil using century-old methods and the Serengeti Grazing Model of an unconfined, natural rotation of livestock. We recently moved a small number of our cattle onto the land to eat hay. They will urinate and defecate to feed the soil, and their hooves will break apart and aerate the land, preparing it for the planting of warm-season perennial grasses.

It will take years of good animal-land management to rebuild this eroded soil, but it’s an investment we know is important to continuing our commitment to regenerative animal agriculture.

Not surprisingly, most of the arable land in south Georgia is under someone else’s control. Some of it is conventional farming, some of it is in hunting reserves or timber farming. But we buy when we can buy. We lease when we can lease. We’re on a mission and we just got 250 acres closer to our goal.

Categories: Regenerative Land Management | Tags: , , | 24 Comments

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!

DSC_0077

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

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

Blog at WordPress.com.