Over the millions of years of our earth's evolution, a number of essential cycles were created: the water cycle, the energy cycle, the mineral cycle, the microbial cycle, the carbon cycle, and others.
Over the last 80, or so, years, we have broken all these cycles. We have industrialized, commoditized, and centralized the production of our food. These changes were implemented to make our food cheap and abundant. They were wildly successful in accomplishing these things....
But, the degradation of our land, air, and water, the erosion of the welfare of our livestock, and the impoverishment of rural communities were the unintended, and unnoticed, consequences of these changes.
White Oak Pastures teamed up with the Savory Institute to present a Holistic Management workshop led by Spencer Smith. Spencer is a Savory Institute Accredited Field Professional and owner and operator of the Jefferson Center for Holistic Management.
The workshop lasted four days and included 17 participants from as far as Tennessee and Oklahoma. We split our time up between the classroom, the pasture, and the pavilion. Each participant received coaching from Spencer and created an individual grazing plan for their farm.
We are proud that our farm acts as a gathering place for members of the agricultural community interested in regenerative farming and holistic land management. Our workshop participants came from every stage of holistic management- from conventional farmers looking...
White Oak Pastures is full of passionate and innovative employees. A project started by our recent intern, Karen Cano, has continued on past her graduation from our internship program. Her independent experiment focused on developing a biofertilizer program on the farm. We have continued this project and are excited for long term incorporation of biofertilizer on the farm.
Below: Karen trains members of our poultry crew on creating different biofertilizer concentrations depending on the application they intend to use it for.
Our biofertilizer is an anaerobically fermented microbial solution made from the rumen of ruminants. We have made large batches of concentrated solution. Depending on the intended application, we have corresponding, specific dilution formulas....
Above: This fenceline demonstrates the stark difference between a pasture that was grazed (right) and a pasture left fallow (left). We own the right pasture and recently aquired the left. We look forward to increasing the bioproductivity and forage profile of the new pasture using all natural, animal impact.
Farming daily reminds us that we are part of nature, not separate from it. Particularly with our holistic, natural approach to land stewardship, we respect and work with the natural world. To this end, we must face the trials that come with a natural, pasture-based system, including the presence of natural predators. We cannot be with our animals 24/7 and depend heavily on our Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGDs) to protect our herds during the night.
White Oak Pastures has based our land stewardship on Savory Institute's Savannah paradigm. In this system, the ideal composition is 20% shade, 80% pasture. We are working with our Iberian and heritage hogs to create the farm’s 20% shade, silvopasture ecosystem. Our woody polyculture will include trees such as oak, pecan, fig, pear and olive trees. The tree density will be about 40 trees per acre. This is not a dense canopy and will allow sunshine to filter through so that our livestock can forage a pasture understory. The dehesa forests in Spain on which we hope to model our Iberian pastures have a tree density of 85-120/hectare.
Our Hog Production Manager Aaron Lorenz explains the specific role our pigs play in establishing savannah ecosystems:
" Hogs love fresh pasture and cool...
We use animal impact daily to improve the health of our soils and forage. However, we also use our livestock as landscapers. We frequently use our goat herd to clear shrubbery from vacant lots in downtown Bluffton. If you have visited the farm store, you’ve likely driven by our goats hard at work. This March however, we have been busy with and excited to used our cattle to help clear some of our newly acquired land.
During this month, our cattle moved through the pecan orchard and several of our new, overgrown vacant lots. They grazed what they could, but we insured they had adequate nutrition by supplementing them with our high quality, organic haylage. The more woody and fibrous plant matter which cattle are not evolved to digest- they viewed as a playground. Our cattle clearly...
Will Harris drew this diagram with a pen on a crumpled piece of paper one August 2016 afternoon. He wanted to visually explain his land management system on the 2500 acres here at White Oak Pastures. Our Multimedia Manager Laura Mortelliti added a few bells and whistles to the imagery, but the concept is fully Will's and we are excited to share it with you.