It’s Father’s Day everyday at White Oak Pastures in Bluffton, Georgia.
Bluffton, Georgia is a city of 103 and it sits quietly in Clay County, along the Alabama border in southwest Georgia.
It sits quietly unless you are on White Oak Pastures farm, which has been in business since the 1800s.
White Oak Pastures, is Will Harris’ sustainable Bluffton, Georgia, farm, It has been in business since the late 1800s but is looking to the future now that the fifth generation of Harris’ has entered into the family tradition. The farm’s tagline – “One Family, One Farm, Five Generations” – holds a special place in the hearts of those who work there, especially for Will and his daughters, Jenni Harris and Jodi Harris Benoit.
In 2010, Jenni joined the White Oak Pastures team as a full-time employee acting as marketing manager and spending her time focusing on business relationships with customers, taking orders and discussing availability, as well as representing the farm at industry conferences and symposiums.
Jodi came on board in 2014 as the farm’s events coordinator and agritourism manager. She coordinates with the farm’s chef, Reid Harrison, for events and organizes educational workshops on topics ranging from bald eagles to composting to cultivating mushrooms.
Before they came back to White Oak Pastures, Jenni and Jodi were working elsewhere for a year after finishing college. Like many young women, they wanted to explore their options and experience what the world outside Bluffton has to offer. This actually has been a longstanding policy in the Harris family – Will was made to do the same, and each of the Harris’ appreciates this family tradition.
“Now I can relate to others my age; I can say I’ve been in the real world, and I’ve had another boss who isn’t a family member,” says Jodi, who worked for a trucking company during peanut season and as a support coordinator for Professional Case Management Services of America before returning to the farm.
Jenni headed for Atlanta first. “Moving to Atlanta and working for Buckhead Beef (a customer of White Oak Pastures) made the most sense, and there was a lot of experience I could glean from it,” says Jenni. “To see how that link in the meat industry chain works successfully was very interesting, but once I arrived in the city, I never felt more lost,” she says of her decision to return to the country life. “Now I live on the farm – I went from one extreme to the other!”
Jodi majored in public relations and communications at Valdosta State University with the hope that once her father allowed her to return she could take charge of getting visitors to the farm.“It took me a couple of months to find my place on the farm,” recalls Jodi. “I began stocking shelves and doing odd jobs until I started giving tours and discovered that people really want to come here and learn more about this operation and our family. Then I realized we needed cabins for lodging and now, after months of doing research, we have five cabins to accommodate guests. And I have a part in inviting people here to show them what we do.”
This makes for a great Father’s Day in 2015 as these the two daughters join their father and create a unique success story.
“My daughters keep me moving forward; they have been the catalyst for the growth we’ve experienced at White Oak Pastures,” says Will. “Getting to work side by side with Jenni and Jodi every day and knowing that they will continue my legacy of land stewardship and animal husbandry – it’s simply a father’s dream.”
Note: White Oak Pastures in Bluffton, GA is hosting a pastured poultry workshop on Saturday, June 13. From broilers and laying hens to guinea and ducks, they’ll look at what practices have worked and which ones they seek to improve. Guests will spend time in the field looking at mobile housing for 60K broilers and 9K laying hens and then escape the heat to talk poultry indoors. Topics covered include brooding, nutrition, pasture raising, processing, and egg production. The workshop includes lunch at the farm’s pavilion restaurant.