Just so I put this out there in the beginning…there are words in this blog, but my words will never do justice for the feelings in my heart about this farm and this family. I am not a born writer…most of us science people pretty much stink at writing so keep that in mind as I try to find the words to eloquently describe my time at White Oak Pastures.
It was my Mom who first introduced me to White Oak Pastures. We sat down one night a few years ago and watched a short video documentary called “Cud” describing the life and mission of Mr. Will Harris, a fourth generation farmer and owner of White Oak Pastures. At this time we were pretty much vegetarians but I remembered being so inspired by his story and vision that I felt compelled to support it. I first purchased some of his grass fed beef shortly thereafter. It was delicious and you could taste the difference.
Fast forward a couple years and well sometimes you just never know how connections in life will bring you full circle. A friend reached out to me about essential oils and she just happened to tell me she worked at White Oak Pastures…what a small world. She elaborated on how the farm was growing and all the amazing things they were doing and oh by the way you can stay at the farm in their cabins! Wait a second? We can actually stay on the farm?
What better way to understand and appreciate your source of food than to visit the very farm they are raised on…pack up the kids! So we traveled for a weekend to learn more about White Oak straight from the source. They were kind enough to welcome an essential oil class and I was basically obsessed from first glance of the newly located general store. Bluffton is a small town…I didn’t recall even a stop light. The General Store is now located in the main center of the downtown with the hopes of opening a restaurant eventually. The store is full of amazing handmade leather bags, clutches, bracelets, satchels, rugs and all kinds of pet chew toys. They waste nothing from the resources the animals provide. But this was just the beginning of my love affair with White Oak Pastures.
Over the next two days we were able to sit down with Mr. Harris and his family, daughters Jenni and Jodi and his wife, Von. What an incredible family with an incredible purpose. We joked many times with Mr. Harris during our stay that he should write a book with all of his wisdom. He has a way about him…a straight shooter who gives the perfect advice bathed in a sophisticated southern drawl. You find yourself just wanting to be around him and hear his guidance for all the problems in your life! 😉
He took the time to give us a personal tour of his farm and to experience all the heart and soul he pours into his animals and his land. He taught us about true animal welfare…not just water, food and open roaming spaces but the enablement of the animals to practice their instinctual behavior…to basically be themselves. He so deeply respects the process of cultivating healthy animal protein and so loves his animals he made a steep investment to build his own abattoirs on his farm…the only one currently east of the Mississippi. So from birth to death they remain in a stable, kind environment. And consequently he produces clean, healthy protein sources for the appreciating consumer. He has no desire to grow bigger than they are at this current state. His primary intention is to keep doing it the right way. To restore infertile land back to fertility using the Serengeti method of grazing and without the use of synthetic pesticides. A natural, normal approach that definitely does not yield more product but certainly lends to a healthier meat source for a desperately sick population. A population, I have witnessed over the last 13 years in the intensive care unit (ICU), that needs these healthier options like never before. Too many times I have been the helpless professional in the ICU watching individuals die from preventable diseases many of which are simply related to poor nutrition. You see, this is what is so profound and important about what White Oak Pastures is doing. By committing to a better but harder way, they are providing healthier options for their community, which has a vast impact on the health of the consumer. Especially when the alternative is a mass produced, industrialized animal source that is higher in fat, full of pesticide contamination and likely full of high levels of stress hormones due to poor animal welfare and the stress that imposes.
Multiple times over this weekend…out of gratitude and pride that someone would desire to do it better not because it was more profitable but because it was the right thing to do for the animals and the community around him. So don’t just take my word for it.
TAKE A TRIP.
May be the best way for you to experience this gratitude and love for our food source is to visit White Oak Pastures yourself. If you have kids what better way to show them the work and love that goes into the food on their plate. They have a variety of beautiful cabins all equipped with mini kitchens, farm fresh eggs and their handmade tallow soaps. They offer meals in their restaurant on the farm with a filet that may beg you to order a second one. Farm tours are available and I must mention they have their own 5 acre organic farm too. And I challenge you to not feel the need to stock up on their leather goods while in town. I may or may not have bought three leather bags and five leather bracelets. What a purpose filled getaway! An experience to even further appreciate the abundance around us and to thank those who have selflessly given of themselves to do it the right way. I can honestly say we cannot wait to return and consider it an honor to support their farm by purchasing their products and visiting often.
Since the writing of this article Jenni Harris and her wife Amber recently gave birth to the newest generation at White Oak, sweet Jack Harris. Oh what a legacy he will inherit.