Sustainable Livestock Producer, White Oak Pastures Farm
After decades of raising cattle on pastures purged by pesticides and finishing them on a diet of grain, hormones and antibiotics, Will Harris drastically changed his practices and converted to organic and grass-fed. His Southwest Georgia farm, White Oak Pastures, has been in Harris’ family since 1866. Yet, by the mid-1990s, Harris started to rethink the conventional shortcuts he used to push his cows to the feedlot. Instead of applying toxic chemicals and synthetic fertilizers, Harris learned to prevent overgrazing, protect water resources, and generally promote soil health through intensive land management and rotational grazing. He went further, sending multiple species (five kinds of poultry, hogs, sheep and goats) through his fields in sequence to control weeds and insects. Green pastures now nourish his animals, which in turn aerate and enrich the land with natural fertilizer. In order to respect his livestock from birth to death, Harris constructed a humane-kill abattoir on site (designed with help from Temple Grandin). He proved his business model is scalable, growing White Oak Pastures from a half million dollar enterprise to the largest organic certified farm in Georgia, taking in over $25 million annually.