Ever look at a package of ground beef in the grocery store and wonder where it came from? How about a bunch of carrots and consider not only the where, but how was it grown?
It is extremely important to think about these things and act on them. Do your research! I started this conversation in Part 1 (you are reading Part 2), where I talk a bit about the history of farming in the U.S.. So maybe it sounds boring...believe me, it’s not! Knowledge is power and understanding the last nearly 75 years of farming in the U.S. is something everyone should learn about because it impacted the foods we and our families ate and may still be eating. If you have not taken the time to read Part 1, please do so before continuing so you may better understand this blog entry and also learn more about why this topic is important to me as an integrative dentist who wants to educate others in order to help them live healthy.
As you know from reading Part 1, Will Harris of White Oak Pastures in Bluffton, GA was a guest on my Whole Healing show for the episode called “The Business of Regenerative Farming” and my last blog spoke to the history. This blog entry discusses the present and will hopefully provide you with an idea of where you want your food to come from.
Will and his family are focussed on animal welfare, regenerative land management, and rebuilding their rural local economy; as each also positively affects their customer in the end. In the mid-1990’s, while still a conventional cattle man only raising cattle, Will started thinking about change, began reading and came upon information on the Serengeti Model that really impacted the future of his farm. Will admits that he was fortunate as he was living a comfortable life with little risk and had inherited a farm with zero debt; however, he became gradually disillusioned by the system.
The changes came in stages… The first steps included eliminating hormone implants, antibiotics (except when needed to save a sick animal), feeding grain to cattle, as well as no longer using chemical fertilizer and pesticides. Of course these changes impacted their income, but Will said he liked it and changed his marketing strategy to go direct to consumer. Another step was changing from farming only a mono-culture because nature abhors a mono-culture and sustaining a mono-culture is only possible with non-natural tools (imagine growing grass the cows would be willing to eat without the help of chemicals...it wasn’t possible). So, Will decided to add sheep, hogs, goats, poultry, and more to the farm because this diversity allowed for the symbiotic relationships necessary for a natural approach to farming.
Today, White Oak Pastures pasture raise and hand nurture: cows, goats, sheep, hogs, rabbits, chickens, geese, guineas, turkeys, and ducks; as well as raise certified organic vegetables and eggs. On top of that, they use every part of every animal in some way from soap to bones, hides, pet-use of dehydrated organs, and anything people won’t buy is composted to use as fertilizer and put on 3000 acres. Their products can be purchased on their website, as well as at their farm store and in 100’s of grocery stores in the country.
Will also went so far as to build two slaughterhouses on their property! One is for red meat, while the other is for white meat. White Oak Pastures is the only farm in the state of GA that has slaughterhouses on their property and the benefit is great to the animals - the meat is healthier because the animals are handled gently and professionally - not panicked, so no fight or flight. Like in hunting, it should be a clean kill to ensure the animal doesn’t suffer. This is the humane way.
What I also find truly amazing is the economic growth, not only for White Oak Pastures, but also for their town of Bluffton! Twenty five years ago, White Oak Pastures had four employees and around $1 million in sales. Today they have 155 employees and over $20 million in sales! So much for any thoughts that all the junk being used before made them profitable! Of course, Will was leading the way though; doing tons of research, seeing the big picture, and facing challenges head-on.
In terms of Bluffton, a town that had zero growth for many decades and saw a lot of closures, they now have 98 residents, new houses have been and continue to be built, the general store has been re-opened, and the town is on an up-swing; all a result of the growth of White Oak Pastures.
What I have shared provides you with some examples of things to look for as you source your food. In particular, focus on the steps Will took to make changes at White Oak Pastures and seek out products from farms with similar priorities in your area!
My conversation with Will included some other topics and a great deal more information that I have not included in Part 1 or Part 2 of my blog entries. Please be sure to watch the episode to learn about: how White Oak Pastures composts to create fertilizer, Will’s passion for soil biology, holistic pasture management, and so much more! Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6ixRrEacJQ
This blog is about farming. Yes, you read that correctly! You must be wondering, “it’s kind of strange that Dr. Dayries is writing a blog about farming!” It does sound really unusual for a dentist to talk about soil and nutrient depletion, microbial life, and the challenges of mono-culture farming. The thing is though, all of this fascinates me! Here’s why:
1 - What you put into your body impacts your mouth. You are what you eat! Those who don’t eat well, present a greater challenge to their dentist to get their mouth in good shape.
2 - I am passionate about whole body healing, which is why I practice integrative dentistry. I aim to provide my patients, listeners and viewers of my show “Whole Healing” and readers with good health information that they will hopefully use to live their best health.
3 - The history of farming in the United States is one that many may not know, but most have been/are affected by. There are parts of it that are also interconnected with American and World history.
I had the pleasure of learning more about farming when Will Harris of White Oak Pastures in Bluffton, GA was a guest on my Whole Healing show. The episode is called “The Business of Regenerative Farming” and Will shared the history of his farm, which now boasts a 6th generation, and the town of Bluffton, as well as how the farm functions now, it’s mission, and impact on its community. The time we spent together was jam-packed and I have so much to say that this blog will be a two-parter!
When I first sat down to share with you my thoughts on my conversation with Will, I was going to start at present day - all the things Will and his family are doing at White Oak Pastures that are healthy for their customers and their community. I realized though, what makes their practices so impressive is understanding where they came from. So, be sure to look for Part 2 of this blog to educate yourself on understanding what to look for when you source your food.
Will’s great grandfather started their family farm a little over 150 years ago. Until post-WWII, the farm operated as a sustainable animal-oriented farm. However, post-WWII saw sweeping changes in the U.S. farming industry experienced by Will’s father and all farmers. Farming because centralized, industrialized, and commoditized. Why? Because of many reasons…
The WWII war effort caused the erections of munitions factories that following the war were converted to chemical fertilizer plants and ammoniated fertilizer became cheap and abundant. Will shared a story on the show that in 1946 every farmer in the Bluffton area attended a gathering with an ammonia nitrate fertilizer salesman who gave each farmer a sample and instructed them to put it in a special marked area on their land in order to see the results...and so they did. From 1946 until the mid to late 1990’s, Will or his dad put the ammonia nitrate fertilizer on every acre of their land from one to three times a year. What they didn’t realize or understand is the impact that fertilizer had on the land; how it destroyed the microbial life in the soil, oxidized the organic matter in the soil that holds moisture and provides nutrition for growing plants, and more. The same can be said for the other things used besides fertilizer, like herbicides and pesticides. While these things allowed improved production, the end user (or eater) was negatively impacted - eating foods (veggies to meat) grown with the help chemicals with decreased nutritional benefit.
No one knew the consequences. What they did know when this practice began was that Europe was starving and in need of food. So, the efficiency and economization of production was essential. One way to increase efficiency and economization was to centralize the mills, slaughterhouses, and more. Instead of each farming town having their own, in which members of the community were employed as had been the case for generations, everything became centralized causing towns and towns and towns to die as the product from their area was shipped elsewhere.
On top of that, commoditization also had a negative impact on the food produced in the U.S.. Will explained that the USDA set a minimum standard to get the best price that resulted in farmers focussed on meeting the minimum standard,but having no incentive to make the best product possible.
To this day, we have farmers who care more about the money than the product they are outputting - that we in turn are putting into our bodies. Wonder why knowing where your food comes from is so very important to your health? THIS is why!
I encourage you to read “Part 2” on this topic and to learn a lot more by watching my episode with guest Will Harris called “The Business of Regenerative Farming” that provides far more than I can include in my blogs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6ixRrEacJQ
Dr. Dayries graduated from the Medical College of Georgia School of Dentistry in 1996. More recently, she studied completed an 18-month long herbal medicine program for health care practitioners before becoming the first dentist to complete a 2 year Fellowship in Integrative Medicine with the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM). Dr. Dayries lectures on the topic of Integrative Dentistry for colleagues across the country.