Largest local organic farm seeding greener pastures

Will Harris runs his farm on the principle "core value of my family to take care of the animals and take care of the land."
/ Kerri Copello

One southwest Georgia community is the home to White Oak Pastures, the largest USDA-certified organic farm in Georgia and the only farm in the United States that has both a USDA-inspected beef and poultry abattoir.

Will Harris runs his farm on the principle "core value of my family to take care of the animals and take care of the land."

The Harris family has raised cattle on the same south Georgia farm for five generations. White Oak Pastures practices the Serengeti Rotational Grazing Model, meaning that all of the animals roam freely and breed naturally; they never set foot on concrete until the day of processing.

Cattle, sheep, goats and poultry (chicken, geese, guinea, ducks and turkeys) are raised organically. They are not genetically modified organisms; White Oak Pastures does not use chemical fertilizers or pesticides. They don't label the meat as organic because they bring in feed that comes off farms that are not organic-certified.

Cattle are to roam and graze. Hogs were born to root and wallow. Chickens were born to scratch and peck. These are natural instinctive animal behaviors that are taken away from industrial commodity livestock production. Raising animals this way may not the cheapest method, but the Harris family believes it is the right way, for the sake of the animals, the environment and for the people who eat their products. This is not the only way they go green.

Will Harris told me that they "also have a 50,000 watt solar voltaic array, a barn. It has panels that turn solar energy into electricity and that provides a portion of power needed to run our poultry and red meat abattoir."

That solar thermal energy produced is also used around the farm.

Mr. Harris' hero is George Washington Carver and Dr. Carver said, 'in nature there is no waste.'

Both abattoirs are zero-waste operations. Hides are salted and shipped to a tannery to become leather. All blood is digested to make fertilizer, bones are ground to make bone meal and all eviscerate is composted. Water is even recycled into irrigation for the pastures. And still, these aren't the only green methods of sustainability practiced at White Oak Pastures. In part two of this Go Green, we will look into their green and organic farming practices.

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