Kim Severson (@kimseverson) of the New York Times profiles William Harris III of Georgia, a new breed of Southern agriculturalist. His family’s business – White Oak Pastures – was built on conventional agriculture, but has transformed. And in the process, Harris has become one of the nation’s leading sellers of grass-fed, humanely raised beef. But that’s just the beginning.
With two of his three daughters and about 100 cowboys and meat cutters, Mr. Harris operates White Oak Pastures, the largest organic farm in Georgia and the South’s most diverse. He grows vegetables and raises 10 species of animals, most of which roam around in a model of farming based on the way animals graze on the Serengeti plains. Goats goof off near a pile of sleeping hogs. Chickens wander past cows. Sheep hang out with ducks. The idea is that together, the animals make a stronger ecosystem. Some eat certain plants but not others. Some species eat the feces of others. All totaled, the animals and pasture are healthier for it.
Part of Harris’ success lies in his commitment to sustainability – and his reluctance to waste anything – as his daughter, Jenni Harrison, shares with Severson:
Her father can’t stand to waste anything, so workers haul bones and ground offal to a compost pile. Another group is trying to figure out how to tan hides, make pet food and turn beef fat into biodiesel. Whole Foods sells White Oak tallow soap. Top-flight restaurants buy his chicken feet. He’s even gotten a nice bump from the Paleo and brothing crowd; the company sells 32 ounces of guinea fowl or beef broth for $9.99 on the Internet.
A fascinating read.