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Eating Local Within The World of White Oak Pastures

By Abbey Smith

My son Sam and I became short-term residents of Bluffton, Georgia in January. On January 5, we moved into the little cabin behind the red meat and poultry processing facility, and right next door to the commercial kitchen at White Oak Pastures, off of Highway 27 in rural, southwest Georgia. 

The first adjustment was finding any sense of direction without mountains to guide me. I still don’t exactly know which way is north or south on the farm. I only knew that each morning I pulled out of the dirt road, I turned left to take Sam to his day of playing and fun at the Benoit house (with Miss Hattie Bell, age two, and Mr. Harris Paulk, age one–grandchildren of Will Harris, otherwise lovingly known as “pappy”), while I went to work facilitating the Savory Hub Design Lab at the Community House. I entered Highway 27 from beneath a huge archway with the big “H” that is the White Oak Pastures brand. In the fields lining the highway, I passed signs for the White Oak Pastures General Store, where the big “H” brand marks most of the products sold there, from fresh red meat in the cooler, to pickled okra on the shelves. The cattle in the fields, the hogs in the forests, the chickens out with the cattle, ducks, turkeys, sheep, goats, the people in the farm trucks, in the tractors, the kitchen, the store, the church (that is now a business office), they are all part of the world that is White Oak Pastures. 

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For almost two weeks, Sam and I worked and played at White Oak Pastures. Luckily for me, the Savory Institute design lab for new Savory Hub leaders was hosted on here during our year of local food (#lfx). 

A typical day in terms of meals for me is the following:

  • Breakfast: fasting
  • Lunch: the Farmer John (named after John Benoit, Will Harris’ son-in-law) salad which is made of the following White Oak Pastures products: greens from the farm garden, hamburger (processed yards from the cabin I am living in), egg, bacon, onions. I bought a bottle of Georgia olive oil (who knew?) and sauerkraut from a company in Atlanta (sold in the General Store). Store staff kept the olive oil and kraut for me in the cooler, and served it as dressing on my salad. 
  • Snack: White Oak Pastures Turkey Jerky (made with coconut aminos and red pepper flakes–so tasty!) and Jun Kombucha made in Atlanta and sold at the General Store.
  • Dinner: often times the Farmer John salad again. Sometimes I would mix it up and have chicken on it instead of beef. Wild, I know. Poultry at White Oak Pastures is excellent. For the design lab closing dinner, they served duck. It was incredible. I’ve only eaten wild duck shot by my husband, father or brother. The duck at White Oak Pastures was more tender and mild tasting than wild duck. More flavorful than chicken. They also served something called “butter beans” (lima beans) with bacon. Incredible. 

Spencer often travels to White Oak Pastures to teach Holistic Management courses there. He loves the pickled okra so I brought him home a jar as well as Georgia pecan butter (incredible!) for Maezy. White Oak Pastures has a commercial kitchen where they make value added products like the okra, jellies and other canned goods. They also have a tallow and leather shop. Their tallow soap is incredible, and several of the hub design lab attendees ordered custom made leather goods. 

On our last night I realized how much I would miss being part of this White Oak Pastures world in rural Georgia. We felt welcomed, loved, and certainly well-fed.