October 17, 2018
As fifth generation farmers, Jenni Harris and Jodi Benoit, sisters are putting their stamp on the family business. Both girls grew up on the farm and have seen it change dramatically from a traditional cattle operation to the large diversified farm it has become today. Early on neither of them had much interest in returning to the farm to the small town of Bluffton, Georgia but both girls eventually found their way back. A decade before, their father, Will, had started transitioning the farm from a traditional commercial beef operation to a diversified farm that would eventually grow into much more than they ever expected.
I arrived at the White Oak Pastures General Store a little later than expected, coming from a long day of filming. I was greeted by John Benoit, Jodi’s husband and the Director of Livestock Operations. He showed me my way to the cabin I would be staying in. When we first organized the trip the girls offered up the use of one of their four cabins that are set around the property and available for rent. While I couldn’t see what was around me in the pitch black of night, with only the light of the moon to show the way, I could tell the next morning would unveil a beautiful sight. After a great night of sleep in the well appointed and comfortable cabins, I woke up to the glorious sight of the sun slowly rising over the pond just outside the door. When I stepped outside I could hear some cows in the distance, letting me know I was on a farm.
I met Jenni, the eldest daughter and Director of Marketing back at the General Store for a quick and tasty breakfast before heading out to get a tour of the expansive farm. We started out at one of the pastured poultry fields. As we walked through the birds who were happily running around and pecking at the ground we talked about the good and bad about raising 80,000 poultry at pasture. With the growth of the poultry out in the open, a new problem has cropped up at White Oak Pastures - Bald Eagles. As the flocks and business have grown, so has the presence of eagles. Every year the number of birds that flock there during the winter months has basically doubled, with the family recording about 80 of the predator birds wintering on the farm last year. The eagles are an endangered and protected species so the family has had to work to get creative about how to deter them from literally eating into their profit. From wires that glint in the sun to livestock guard dogs, it is a work in process. Through it all Jenni keeps a good sense of humor, looking at the positive; the farm is single-handedly working to restore the beautiful, national bird right their in southern Georgia!
Next up we stopped for a quick look at the Iberian pigs. The young animals were black in color and had a different shaped face than most pigs I had ever seen. The family is working to raise them and create a new version of the prosciutto delicacy with their peanut-fed Spanish pigs. As we hopped in the car to head to the next spot, Jenni explained to me about the zero-waste philosophy of the farm. All of the animals raised at the farm are pastured and grass-fed. They are then slaughtered at one of two on-site USDA inspected meat processing facilities. Some of the meat then goes to the restaurant that they built, some to the General Store in town, some used in their food truck and the rest ships out to customers and grocery stores around the country.
What can’t be used as meat for human consumption is dehydrated and made into pet treats. What can’t be used for pet treats is ground up and composted and put back into the soil. In addition to the pet treat part of their business, Jenni’s wife Amber is also heading up a leather goods business. Hides from the butchered animals are sent out to a tannery, then come back to become beautiful purses, wallets, and other leather goods. We stopped for a quick bite at the restaurant that was quickly filling up with hungry employees on their lunch break. From there we made a quick stop at the meat processing plants and Jenni’s office. We ended back up at the General Store, headed up by Jodi who is the head of Agri-tourism for the innovative operation.
As I think back through my day spent at White Oak Pastures I am inspired by the Harris family and their innovative way of looking at farming. From roots in cattle and a passion for raising livestock in a way that mattered to them, they have created a successful and quickly growing business. It hasn’t only brought growth to their family and farm, but also to the small town of Bluffton. With just 103 residents at the latest census, the small town was dying and the Harris family has single-handedly brought business and revenue and life back to the small town. They have been innovative and worked together to grow their business and figure out ways to use all of the animals that they cared for and worked hard to raise. From the start of life to the finish, White Oak Pastures and the FarmHers and farmers behind it are changing the agriculture landscape.
October 25, 2018
I had the pleasure to intern at White Oak Pastures in college and this farm holds a dear place in my heart. The Harris’ and the rest of the White Oak Pasture family left a strong impact on me as an agriculturist. Thank you so much for featuring these ladies, they are great people.
October 23, 2018
I’ve been watching Farm Her from the start of season 1 and never miss an episode. Thanks so much for featuring this amazing family farm! I had the pleasure of meeting Will Harris several years ago when White Oak Pastures became a Georgia Centennial Farm. It’s wonderful to see the growth of their operations and how Jenni and Jodi are carrying on traditions while creating new products and helping their community.I am grateful to be close enough to be able to buy their products here in Atlanta, and I’m inspired to take another trip down to visit this beautiful place.
October 21, 2018
Just watched this. Thoroughly enjoyed !
October 20, 2018
This was a great episode. Thanks!!
February 13, 2020
January 26, 2020
December 16, 2019
The busyness of holiday preparations, year-end closing of financial books, tax preparations, loan renewals and prepay of next year’s commodity inputs may have your snow globe resembling the topsy-turviness of a blizzard. Good health and wellbeing, including mental health, is a key factor that contributes to one’s ability to keep farming.
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