Will Harris
Will Harris (Image credit: White Oak Pastures video).

Forty years ago, Will Harris graduated from college and returned to White Oak Pastures, his family’s farm in Georgia.

Harris: “It was a monocultural, industrial cattle farm.”

They kept the cows confined in feed lots and heavily fertilized the fields.

But over time, Harris realized these methods were bad for cows and the environment. So although the farm was debt-free and profitable, he began making changes.

Harris: “I moved away from the confinement feeding and started raising them on grass, out in the pasture. The next thing I gave up was chemical fertilizers and pesticides.”

He says now he farms more like his great-grandfather than like his dad.

He rotates cows, hogs, sheep, goats, and poultry through his pastures. As they graze, they drop nutrient-rich manure, which adds organic matter to the ground. That feeds microbes and increases the carbon in the soil – boosting fertility and helping to reduce global warming.

Changing his methods was a risk. But today, Harris’s meat is sold at major supermarkets, and he employs more than 150 people.

He says his approach can work in many places.

Harris: “It could be done by other farms again and again and again across rural America.”

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.