Tag Archives: Sustainable Agriculture in South Georgia

White Oak Pastures, Early County

Since 1866, five generations of the Harris family have cultivated the land they call White Oak Pastures. Today, it’s the most diversified farm in the South and the gold standard of sustainable agriculture in Georgia. Their grassfed beef and lamb and pastured poultry are sold throughout the Eastern United States. Driving around the Bluffton area, it’s obvious that White Oak Pastures is having a major economic impact on the area.

A little background from the White Oak Pastures’ website:

Will Harris is a fourth generation cattleman, who tends the same land that his great-grandfather settled in 1866. Born and raised at White Oak Pastures, Will left home to attend the University of Georgia’s School of Agriculture, where he was trained in the industrial farming methods that had taken hold after World War II. Will graduated in 1976 and returned to Bluffton where he and his father continued to raise cattle using pesticides, herbicides, hormones and antibiotics. They also fed their herd a high-carbohydrate diet of corn and soy.

These tools did a fantastic job of taking the cost out of the system, but in the mid-1990’s Will became disenchanted with the excesses of these industrialized methods. They had created a monoculture for their cattle, and, as Will says, “nature abhors a monoculture.” In 1995, Will made the audacious decision to return to the farming methods his great-grandfather had used 130 years before.

Since Will has successfully implemented these changes, he has been recognized all over the world as a leader in humane animal husbandry and environmental sustainability…His favorite place in the world to be is out in pastures, where he likes to have a big coffee at sunrise and a 750ml glass of wine at sunset.

 

I knew it was a good sign when I saw Purple Martins (Progne subis) scouting nesting locations at one of the “apartments” near the entrance.

The organic quesadilla I had in the restaurant was literally one of the best I’ve ever eaten. We got there a bit after the normal lunch hour, so we missed the pork chops and sweet potatoes that were on the menu for the day, but this was a great substitute.

I’m glad this is one place and way of life that is not vanishing. Drive a little out of your way and have a meal, stop by the general store in Bluffton, or, if you need to escape the daily grind, spend a night in one of their on-farm accommodations.

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Filed under --EARLY COUNTY GA--

White Oak Pastures General Store, 1840s, Bluffton

This historic store was built in the 1840s and after a renovation, is now home to the White Oak Pastures General Store. Its last owner, Herman Bass, ceased operations in the 1960s. It’s at the forefront of the Harris family’s efforts to bring Bluffton back to life. They eventually plan to move their wonderful farm-to-table restaurant from the farm, just over the line in Early County, to downtown Bluffton.

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Filed under --CLAY COUNTY GA--, Bluffton GA

Scarecrow, Guyton

Scarecrow in Small Garden Chinaberry Tree Spanish Moss Guyton GA Effingham County Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2014

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Filed under --EFFINGHAM COUNTY GA--, Guyton GA

Red Earth Farm, Tattnall County

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At the heart of Red Earth Farm is the beautifully restored circa-1850 Pearson Farmhouse. According to Kent Pearson: Laurence Pearson (1831-1911), a carpenter and joiner, did indeed build the house which was owned and occupied by four generations of the Pearson family. Laurence was the son of John Pearson (1777-1857) of Pennsylvania, who established the family in Tattnall County in the early 1800’s. John built the first sawmill in the area on Slaughter Creek when he purchased a 1000 acre parcel of virgin timber land in 1832 for the princely sum of $1,200, where the family homestead and farm were located. Laurence’s brother, John (Jr), was also a carpenter. Between them, they built a number of houses in the area. And according to John P. Rabun, Jr., John Pearson and George Merriman built a Greek Revival courthouse in Reidsville in 1857.

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Today the farm is home to Janisse Ray & Raven Waters. Janisse is a well-known environmental activist and author. My family came to know her when her first book was published and we’ve always supported her views on protecting and sustaining the fragile environment of our native South Georgia. (Ecology of a Cracker ChildhoodWild Card QuiltPinhook; Moody Swamp; Drifting into Darien; and The Seed Underground are among her works.) Raven oversees the operations of the farm and leads a variety of workshops on topics as diverse as home brewing and cheese-making. I recently attended one of his beer-making classes and it was great fun, Raven also sells produce and handmade sodas at the Mainstreet Statesboro Farmers Market. Oh, and he’s an accomplished potter and artist, as well.

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When I made these photographs, winter greens were growing. Red Earth Farm is an organic farm, so everything that doesn’t get eaten goes back into the earth. It’s an inspiring model of sustainable agriculture.

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Jersey Calves Winona and Wendell were very interested in my camera. Most of the larger animals at Red Earth Farm are named for authors and activists.

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Barbados Blackbelly “Sojourner” and Katahdin “Mahatma”. Barbados Blackbellies and Katahdins are hair sheep varieties tolerant of heat; after many years of decline in numbers, both seem to be recovering.

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Guineas are an old-time favorite on South Georgia farms and are often considered the “watchdogs of the barnyard” for their habit of calling loudly at any disturbance. And they’re very attentive.

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There are many more things to share but for now I’ll end with my favorite resident of Red Earth Farm, this Royal Palm Turkey, known as Cochise. He’s more a friendly pet than a turkey.

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Filed under --TATTNALL COUNTY GA--, Altamaha GA