Posts Tagged With: Closed Loop

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

We’ve got guts. Lots and lots of guts.

“In nature there is no waste.” -Dr. George Washington Carver

A byproduct of our red meat abattoir is a lot of intestines and guts. It’s not as much waste as there would be in an industrial plant that processes up to 100 times more animals than we do, but it’s still a lot. Most people would throw all those intestines away. We’re full-circle at White Oak Pastures, so we feed ‘em to black soldier fly larvae, which our poultry devour, and then fertilize our land with their feces. Win win win win win!

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We breed native black soldier flies inside an old grain silo that stored corn for the cattle before we transitioned to grassfed. The flies lay their eggs here, and then we move the eggs into large grey tubs where they hatch. Interesting fact: adult black soldier flies don’t eat, or even have functioning mouths; they spend their short 5-8 day lifespan searching for a mate and reproducing.

Their larvae, however, eat any and all organic material. We take the intestines from our abattoir and feed them to the black soldier fly larvae (see the larvae in action here). They eat and grow, and when they’re ready to pupate, they self-harvest by crawling up the ramps on the sides of the tub and dropping into a bucket.

The larvae serve two really important purposes: eating up that organic material from our red meat abattoir, and producing a protein- and fat-rich feed source that we use to supplement the diets of our pastured poultry. Today’s chickens evolved from jungle fowl in Southeastern Asia, and they are naturally omnivorous, hunting and foraging for bugs, grubs, and even small reptiles and mammals. We strive to emulate nature at White Oak Pastures, and with our black soldier fly program we go to great lengths to provide our poultry a very natural feed supplement.

They say the early bird gets the worm, not the corn and soy mix. Mother Nature has some really cool ways of doing things, when we work with her.

Categories: Animal Welfare, Regenerative Land Management | Tags: , , , | 13 Comments

Peanut pride

March is National Peanut Month. Peanuts are the official state crop of Georgia, and for good reason: nearly half of the peanuts produced in the U.S. each year are grown in our state. This time of year, folks across Southwest Georgia are celebrating the peanut industry and its importance in our community. We don’t grow peanuts here at White Oak Pastures, but we have found many uses for the byproducts of the peanut industry that work within our zero-waste philosophy.

Here is what we do with the unused peanut waste we pick up from the local peanut processors:

We add human-grade ground peanut paste to our chicken feed, creating a lipid-rich, protein-rich, low-cost feed for our birds.

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In all things we do, we try very hard to emulate nature. Peanuts are one of the most natural foods for hogs. Look at a hog’s nose: it was made to root under the soil for food. Look at a peanut: it grows two inches beneath the soil. A perfect combination! Most of the hogs in the U.S. are fed a GMO soy and grain feed. We are proud to supplement our hog feed with GMO-free peanut paste.

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Wildlife goes “nuts” for it, too!

Credit - BackLight Photography
Photo Credit: BackLight Photography

 

We use peanut shells for bedding in our poultry brooder houses. Chicken and turkey poults, ducklings, goslings, and guinea fowl keets all stay warm and safe in this bedding in our brooders until they are old enough to go out on pasture.

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Peanut shells act as the carbon component for composting the ground meat and poultry waste from our abattoirs. This compost is used as a soil amendment to feed the microbial population in our pastures. Using this rich compost, we never have to rely on synthetic fertilizers to keep our grass growing green.

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Categories: Regenerative Land Management | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Craft revival: Jamie Bush turns animal byproducts into artisan goods

DSC_0876Jamie Bush joined the White Oak Pastures family in 2014. She has a lifelong passion for farming, having grown up raising horses and goats on her family farm in Waycross, GA. She came to White Oak Pastures to learn everything she could about large-scale regenerative farming that offers much more than just good, fair food.

Jamie has a vital role in our effort to tap into ancient traditions that respect animals, the environment, and human health. A few of her responsibilities on the farm include making candles, soap, lip balm, and gardener’s salve from our beef tallow, and making pet treats from parts of livestock that would otherwise go to waste, including poultry feet, heads, and necks; cattle trachea, esophagus, and penises; and the ears and noses of cattle and pigs. These items are part of our line of specialty products, and our commitment across the farm to follow a zero-waste model.

According to the United Nations, 22% of meat in the U.S. food supply chain is wasted. With nine billion animals slaughtered annually, that’s roughly two billion farm animals thrown away every year. A hero of ours, Dr. George Washington Carver, told us, “In Nature there is no waste.” We endeavor to run our farm by this standard, and our commitment to the animal is to utilize all of the parts.

Growing up as a girl, Jamie never thought, “I can’t wait to dehydrate duck heads and chicken feet, and weave bull penises together to make pet treats.” But when our Specialty Products Manager, Amber Reece, made the suggestion, Jamie was excited to give it a try. Jamie appreciates seeing our customers enjoy our tallow products, knowing that what goes on the body is just as important as what goes inside. She also loves watching dogs happily devour our pet treats. For her, it’s a powerful feeling to be part of a system that’s creating a net positive impact on the planet.

Our artisan goods are available for purchase on our website. Please contact amber.reece@whiteoakpastures.com for more information.

Categories: Animal Welfare, Staff Spotlight | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

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