Posts Tagged With: Zero-Waste

Meet Our Leather Crafter Alena Ivakhnenko

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

We’re Into Leather

We’re into leather! The White Oak Pastures Leather Department was created to utilize our cowhides in a way that is continuous with our zero-waste protocol.

The journey of our cowhides to leather is a labor intensive one. Hides are removed by hand in our red meat abattoir, then there are three avenues for our hides once they are removed from the carcass. Hides are either A.) used by our leather department, B.) hand crafted on our farm into pet chews or C.) sold to a pretannery in Kentucky.

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We learned the hard way, but now, we only save cowhides during the winter months because this time of year is cool enough to preserve them. At the end of each day, the hides are transported to an on-farm barn where they are salted and stored. We create a hide-salt lasagna layering hide, salt, hide, salt. We use about 200 pounds of salt per hide. The hides are stored here for 4-6 weeks. After this, we shake the excess salt off the hides, fold them onto pallets and load them onto our trailer which we personally drive to a multi-generational family-owned tannery in Sebring, FL: Sebring Custom Tanning. About 6 months later, after the hides are tanned and ready for pick up, we make the drive back down to FL and bring them back to White Oak Pastures. We have a great relationship with the tannery and they do a wonderful job with our hair-on and hair-off cattle hides. The product returned to us is a Full Grain Leather, which means the suede and the top grain layers remain together to create a quality product and feel.

Our leather craftsman, Alena, is self-taught in the art of measuring, cutting, dying and sewing leather into beautiful finished products. We create patterns that we like and want to wear or carry, and in return, our customers appreciate these same patterns as well. Although we use the same design every time, each hide is different, and as such there are no two identical items in our store. The spine of each hide is thickest, this is where the sturdiest leather comes from. We use this section for our bigger bags (totes), coasters, mouse pads, belts, dog collars and keychains. The edges of the hide (the belly) are thinnest and most flexible and we use this section for our smaller bags, new cross-body bags, bracelets, earrings, and wallets.

Come see us in our newly opened White Oak Pastures General Store. In the far corner, tucked away, you’ll find our leather workshop.

With the holidays quickly approaching, keep in mind our leather products make great gifts and are available in our online store. Look forward to new patterns, color palates and craftsmanship in 2017!

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Categories: Zero-Waste | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

The many dogs of White Oak Pastures

The internet loves dogs, and so do we. Dogs play several vital roles in the organism that is White Oak Pastures, as companions, livestock guardians, and herding dogs. We couldn’t operate our farm without them. Here’s to the many dogs of White Oak Pastures and all the ways they contribute, in loving memory of our most loyal friend, Ox.

Companion dogs
If you’ve ever visited our farm, surely you were greeted by this cast of characters when you arrived. They’re our very own welcoming committee, and they love tagging along during farm tours and gathering with visitors in our on-farm dining pavilion. Their family tree looks like a southern family reunion. Meet Cud, Regal, OJ, and Roxi.

Livestock guardian dogs
Livestock guardian dogs have been bred for thousands of years to sense danger and protect livestock from predators, and we have enormous gratitude for their role. But all dogs don’t get treated the same on a farm. If you’re not very careful with guardian dog puppies, they will bond to the person who’s feeding and playing with them instead of bonding with the species you want them to guard. To avoid this, we focus on keeping puppies in close proximity to the species they are supposed to protect. We keep them fed and watered, but show very little social attention, which isn’t easy when they’re this cute!

Herding dogs
Used for moving animals in a controlled manner, you want herding dogs to bond to the herdsman or woman, so the dogs can specifically follow their directions and do their bidding. These dogs are both companions and tireless workers that are capable of performing the work of several people. Like livestock guardian dogs, their instinctual relationship with livestock is one that has evolved over thousands of years.

Our dogs don’t mind working hard all day, knowing a never-ending feast of meat and organs fresh from our processing abattoirs awaits them. Our dogs eat ground beef, ground chicken, ground pork, and anything else they find on the ground. They also enjoy the pet chews we make out of everything from chicken feet to cattle noses, and even hides, as part of our commitment to following a zero-waste model. Whether a companion, guardian, or herding dog, living on a farm is a pretty good gig, and we are grateful for all of them.

 

Categories: Animal Welfare | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 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

How to buy grassfed and pastured meat in bulk

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It used to be very common to buy a whole, half, or quarter of an animal from a farmer you know and trust, and then enjoy having a convenient, steady supply of protein in the freezer. This tradition of buying meat in bulk is making a comeback, and we’d like to make the process a little less intimidating and mysterious, and encourage you to give it a try.

One of the advantages of buying in bulk is the cost savings. Ethically-raised protein costs more to produce than factory farmed protein, but we are able to charge less for whole animals because we save money on packaging, marketing, and distribution. Here is how the cost breaks down: a whole cow is about 360 pounds of meat. At $2,799 for the cow, the cost comes out to $7.78 per pound, which is less than the cost of a pound of ground beef purchased by itself. When you buy the whole cow, you also get filets, ribeyes, strip steaks and more, all for $7.78 per pound.

Buying in bulk will also allow you to develop a deeper connection with your food and where it comes from. When you arrange to pick up your order on the farm, it is a great opportunity to schedule a tour to see where your animal was raised and processed. You’ll honor that animal every time you eat it, and take pride in learning how to prepare cuts of meat you may not have tried before.

You can purchase a quarter of a cow, an eighth of a cow, and a side (half) of lamb through our online store, where we also list which cuts come with each option. We will ship it to you in a cooler with dry ice, or you can pick up your order on the farm.

Whole and half cows and hogs can be purchased by filling out our order form and emailing or faxing it back to us. You have the option to choose the specifications of how the animal is butchered, and you can also choose to include the bones, fat, or offal. Shipping a whole or half cow or hog would be quite expensive, so we ask you to pick it up on the farm. Once you get it home, a whole cow will require a chest freezer totaling 14 cu. ft.; a side of beef or a whole hog should easily fit into a 7 cu. ft. model; and a side of pork will need about 3.5 cu. ft. of freezer space.

If you have any questions we haven’t answered here, please contact us at 229-641-2081 or info@whiteoakpastures.com.

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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!

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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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