July 2009 is when Justin Wiley, fondly referred to as “Buck,” stepped in to help his good friend, Chase Floyd, in the cutting room at White Oak Pastures’ red meat abattoir. Buck’s career began when he was hired as a butcher at White Oak Pastures. The company grew, and grew quickly. Buck states he “learned the ins and outs of the red meat plant and was promoted to Beef Plant Manager. It wasn’t an easy process at all, but I’m most proud of that accomplishment.”
It’s always fascinating how things “come to pass,” as they say. The greatest success stories are usually centered around someone stumbling upon an idea while participating in something they love, creating something they love or sharing what they love with others. Such is the case with the makers of J&J’s Private Reserve Habanero Sauce, Jerry and Susan Pece. When buying out their original business partner and becoming a family-owned business, they named their company using the nicknames of their two daughters, Allison and Kate. “Al and Kate” became Alan Cate Industries, LLC.
Lewis Rickerson, purveyor of antiques and pecans from his own business, came to White Oak Pastures to supplement his income. Lewis states that trying to describe White Oak Pastures is “impossible, because it just can’t be described in one word.” I am confident in describing Lewis as one who has never met a stranger and one who is always friendly, informative, and helpful. If you haven’t met Lewis in our General Store in downtown Bluffton, I invite you to drop by and meet this southern gentleman.
Inspiration can come from people, places, or things, and we never know when or from where our inspiration may come. For Denna Peterson, it emerged from the process of remodeling. She started making her own chandeliers and furniture, then moved on to painting the inside of her home. Her husband, Chris, swore they were losing square footage in the house because of the numerous layers of paint. An acquaintance commissioned Denna to collect oyster shells to form “oyster trees.” Denna had never created anything like that, but said she would “give it a whirl”. This was the first piece of art Denna sold.
Who would have thought that a small jelly kitchen in the Mitcham family’s backyard would grow into a major company? I’m quite certain Robert, Sr. and Patsy Mitcham did not know that Robert’s agricultural experience and teaching, along with running the canning plant at that school and the canning plant for Rabun County would turn into this!
Graham Phillips first came to White Oak Pastures as an intern with the World Wide Opportunities On Organic Farms. He returned in 2017 to management as our Egg Production Manager. His role evolved into a grazier position and from there he became our Regenerative Land Manager. Graham is also the White Oak Pastures Savory Institute Environmental Outcome Verification Hub Verifier and is working to build our Livestock Guardian Dog program.
Alena Ivakhnenko, our lead craftswoman, was born in Kyiv, Ukraine, where memories of helping her grandmother cultivate their vegetable garden, along with her love for the outdoors, was of paramount significance in guiding her future. Her family made a move to Salt Lake City, Utah where she graduated from Westminster College in 2010. Continue reading to be inspired by the opportunities bestowed upon Alena, whose desire to unite food and food systems greatly enhances what she contributes daily to White Oak Pastures.
After moving back from Dothan, Alabama to live with her family, Kyndall Bright came to White Oak Pastures in the summer of 2016. When asked to describe White Oak Pastures, ironically, Kyndall’s reply was simply “family”, which seems to be a shared sentiment amongst those here on the farm. She recruited her sister, Kayla, who has also joined the White Oak Pastures team. Kyndall shares her story as she plans another move straight to Bluffton to be close to her extended family here on the farm!