Indiantown, Florida may be a small town, but this village seven hours south of Bluffton, Georgia is the home of Payson Park, one of the top thoroughbred horse racing facilities in the United States. Frontman Davy Jones, a member of the Monkees band, kept a stable of thoroughbred horses there until his death in 2012. But, most importantly, Kiersten Cartwright, our Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and Food Safety Coordinator and Animal and Poultry Welfare Officer was raised there amongst the 500 head of Brangus cattle her parents owned. This particular breed of cattle was the result of breeding Angus and Brahman cattle to utilize the superior qualities and traits of each. Kiersten helped work these cattle while showing swine, steers, and heifers for eleven years through 4-H to raise money for college. Having a passion for animals and desiring a career in Animal Agriculture, Kiersten completed as many agricultural classes as possible.
In 2011, Kiersten was accepted into Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, GA, where she enrolled in a “Meats” class in which the facilitation for a tour of White Oak Pastures was arranged. She thought White Oak Pastures was an “interesting” place, and the synchronous tour and job opening consequently led Kiersten right where she needed to be: here, at White Oak Pastures. Upon graduation, her parents asked if she would be moving back home, to which she laughingly replied, “No, I love it up here, and I don’t plan on moving back home.”
Since Kiersten loved Georgia so much and because her parents had owned land in Georgia for quite some time, they made the decision to test the waters of South Georgia themselves to see how they fared. Her younger sister stayed behind for a few years before the South Georgia charm enticed her to join her family. Kiersten admits, “To be honest, I couldn’t be happier with my decision to stay in South Georgia. The people are friendly, and there is no traffic. I just love it here! The only drawback is the distance to the nearest big town to do something fun.”
As the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points manager, Kiersten starts inspecting the production rooms at 6:15 a.m. to ensure Good Manufacturing Practices are strictly followed. She is responsible for keeping all HACCP books updated for audits. She monitors chemical concentrations for accuracy in the processing rooms and records data obtained from pre-op swabs, carcass swabs, and any sampling and tests. “The most satisfying part of my job is knowing I do my job properly and well enough so that people will receive products that are not only safe to eat but promote a healthy lifestyle as well. I am honored that my hard work is recognized and my co-workers support my hard work. I have help from Lisa, Ban, Brian, Buck, and Pat. White Oak Pastures is a family. You are treated like you are their own flesh and blood and I feel those companies are the best companies to work for. Every day something funny happens on the farm that will make you laugh, and after leaving my farm family, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends.”
“While I have held the same position I was hired for, I have helped out in other departments when the need arises. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, but I love being outdoors as well; therefore, given a chance, I’d like to switch roles with someone in the cattle department. I love working cattle and plan on owning my own herd one day. Kiersten’s love for cattle may be the reason she prefers to eat pork over beef when dining at our Pavilion or cooking at home! “Pork burritos are my favorite food at the Pavilion, and if I am cooking at home, again, I absolutely love our pork. So, I will cook anything pork related, and our sausages are good as well.” It sounds like Kiersten may benefit significantly from owning hogs alongside the cattle she plans to raise in the future, but I believe the cattle will more than likely out-live the hogs on her farm!