Deep in the southwest corner of the state, maybe where you’d least expect it, you’ll find Georgia’s biggest certified organic farm. White Oak Pastures is a fifth generation family-owned farm established in 1866, but “born on the Internet.” In addition to Teachable Moments about Sustainable Agriculture, Mono-cultural versus Poly-cultural farming, and the Serengeti Plains Rotational Grazing Model, you’ll want to watch the owners, Will and Jenni Harris, test themselves against the Fast Forward Meat-O-Meter!
FAST FORWARD: WHITE OAK PASTURES
VO: Today Fast Forward is visiting White Oak Pastures, the biggest organic farm in the state of Georgia. And there are some people I want you to meet.
WILL: I'm Will Harris. I own White Oak Pastures.
JENNI: I'm Jenni Harris, marketing manager.
TRIPP: I'm Tripp Eldridge. I'm the organic farm manager.
JOHN: Hi, I'm John...I date the farmer's daughter.
VO: Anyone else?
JODI: The farmer's daughter.
VO: You know, this could be one heck of an episode.
VO: Welcome back to Fast Forward. Today I want you to forget what you've heard about modern farming, because the state of this art is a little different. I'll let the owners tell you about it.
WILL: White Oak Pastures is our family farm, started by my great grandfather in 1866.
JENNI: White Oak Pastures is located in Bluffton, GA, in the southwest corner of the state. It employs 85 fulltime employees, and people can be found doing anything from repairing tractors to mastering the skill of butchery to crunching numbers in accounting to fulfilling orders in on-line sales.
WILL: Through the 146 years we've been in business, we've been a sustenance farm focused on humane animal handling and environmental sustainability, gone industrial, and now are back refocused on good animal and good land stewardship.
VO: Sounds like a business passed down from generation to generation.
WILL: Our business was born on the Internet.
VO: Come again.
WILL: Even though what we do is very, very old, we do embrace technology.
AMBER: Technology is a really big part of what we do at White Oak Pastures. Social media is a huge part of our marketing. We have an on-line website where you can go and you can purchase all your products form our online store.
JENNI: We do have a big solar-voltaic array and an anaerobic digester and a really extensive scale and inventory system. But at the end of the day, everything's done with a man and a knife and its taking it back to that old art of true butchery.
VO: Which is a great way to introduce the first ever-Fast Forward Meat-O-Meter. You're the experts. Name as many cuts of meat as you can. And...GO!
JENNI/WILL: Filet/Sirloin/tri-tip/rib-eye/strip/flank steak/shank/skirt steak/oxtail/tripe/rump roast/ground beef
JENNI: I'm out.
WILL: Neck bone. Backbone.
VO: And we have a winner!
Let's get back to work. Tell me more about the differences between your farm and most farms today.
TRIPP: White Oak Pasture's is a multi-species farm that raises a broad range of different animals for meat. The entirety of the pasture on the farm is certified organic.
WILL: We raise our livestock here on what's called the Serengeti planes rotational grazing model. What that means are big ruminants, in our case cattle, followed by small ruminants, followed by birds. We believe that good animal welfare means creating an environment in which animals are allowed to express their instinctive behaviors.
VO: What Will is talking about is mono-cultural versus poly-cultural farming. And if you're paying attention, you might see something coming.
JENNI: This teachable moment brought to you by White Oak Pastures.
JENNI: Monoculture is a real focus on raising one type of thing whether it's just cattle, or just chickens, or just sheep. And then polyculture would be kind of the whole gamut of raising several different types of species.
WILL: Nature wants a whole cornucopia of plants, animals, and microbes, each benefiting symbiotic relationships with the others. And that's what we try to emulate here in the pastures.
JOHN: But at White Oak they let a chicken be a chicken and a cow be a cow and just let the animals do what they do...what they're supposed to do.
VO: Well it's good to know there's a place where cows and chickens can just relax and be themselves. And while we're kind of in the teachable moment mood. Earlier you mentioned being sustainable. What does that mean?
WILL: Sustainable agriculture is managing the lands and the herds in a way that you do not diminish resources. You do not pollute. It's something that can operate in perpetuity without inputs that are diminishing. And it won't cause a toxic problem in the environment.
VO: Sounds like that's one of the things that make's White Oak Pastures a great place to work.
AMBER: I was excited at the opportunity to be part of such a great organization that really cared about the environmental sustainability and giving back to the land.
VO: Yes good! What else do the employees like about this place?
CHARLIE: Our boss man. He's the greatest!
VO: Smart answer.
CHARLIE: On a serious note, yeah, we are treated well.
VO: Anyone else?
AMBER: It has a family friendly feel to it...
TRIPP: The management of the farm has so much integrity. And that means a lot too.
JOHN: I just think of it as I'm getting the benefit of being paid money to go do stuff I love and it doesn't make me feel like I'm going to work. It just feels like a good fun day.
WILL: I can't imagine having to wear a suit and sit in a cubicle. And fluorescent lights give me a headache. And to be able to wake up every morning and as soon as you step out the door you've made your commute...I can't imagine doing anything else.
VO: Wow, after an answer like that, neither can I. But that doesn't mean I'll stop looking for the best jobs in Georgia on the next episode of Fast Forward.