White Oak Pastures

One Little Corner of the World

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Casey McCue

Casey McCue


Case Western Reserve University - Weatherhead School of Management

Case Western Reserve University - Weatherhead School of Management


Ron Fry

Ron Fry

Global Goals

2. Zero Hunger 3. Good Health and Well-Being 4. Quality Education 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth 12. Responsible Consumption and Production

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Will Harris is nothing short of a true revolutionary in American sustainable farming but he would never claim to be one. If you ask him he will tell you he is a man of “average intelligence.” He will go onto explain, “I’m not being modest. I know a lot about the animals and the land and the people and I study them. I have no idea who won the super bowl, who won the academy awards, but I do study very closely the land, the animals and the people.” It is this unyielding dedication to the living, breathing facets of his hometown, Bluffton, Georgia, that led him down a path to revolutionizing his family farm, White Oak Pastures, by returning it to its pre-industrial agriculture roots.


After taking over his family farm in 1995, Will Harris continued in his father’s industrial farming footsteps for close to a decade. During this time, he pushed the industrial farming boundaries to produce in excess. These industrial farming practices began to wear on him. He had a “growing disgust with the excesses of the system.” He says that, “the things that we did to make agriculture so productive all had unintended consequences.” The closer he was to the farm, animals, and people, the more unsettled he became with these unintended consequences. Finally, he realized something needed to change, or in his words, “Oh shit, all I gotta do is do something different!” And so he did just that.

Today White Oak Pastures is one of the largest non-industrial farms in America. Harris began the revolution with his cattle. The farm stopped using hormonal implants, sub-therapeutic antibiotics and feeding corn to the cattle. He started raising different livestock and rotating animals and crops to benefit the animals and the land. Then he stopped using chemical fertilizers. He brought in Temple Grandin, an animal welfare expert, to create a humane slaughter facility on-site so that he wouldn’t be forced to ship his animals off for an inhumane slaughter at the end of their lives. Will’s innovations were exciting, but they were also expensive and nerve-wracking. The transformation did not come easily and certainly did not come without sacrifice.

One Little Corner of the World


If you ask him, Harris will tell you that it was a mix of naivety and exuberance that sparked his innovative path. He will also make sure you know that luck and timing played into the mix as well. It is clear, though, that the main contributors to the success of his farm’s innovative rebirth are his dedication, tenacity, hard work and inspirational leadership. Will Harris believes everyone on this earth has a gift; and his gift of fate is what allowed him to endure the hard times of turning over his farm. “I believe every human has gifts. Some people it’s obvious- beauty, talent, intelligence. None of us have more gifts than others, but some gifts are more apparent than others. I think my family has the gift of fate. The gift is in three parts: one is tenacity which you are born with or not, one is courage which you learn this as a child, and the third is strength. You have to work on strength every day or you lose it.” When times were tough, Will Harris kept working. When asked what he is most proud of, Harris remarks, “That’s easy! It was becoming cash-flow positive and profitable,” at his post-transformation farm.

Harris struggles with the idea of giving advice about de-industrializing farming to the motivated young people who work with him at White Oak Pastures. He feels like a hypocrite explaining, “I am happier than I have ever been, and happier than I ever thought I could be because I made these changes. But you don’t need to do that because it is hard. And you probably won’t make it.” He knows what it takes to turn a farm around and recognizes that no one is going to get rich fast off of de-industrializing the farms of America. He believes that these changes are going to happen, but they aren’t going to happen overnight. He explains that it may take generations to complete these transformations.

His inspiration for White Oak Pastures was his father's influence: "[the] way my father raised me--he was a very cowboy man’s man, respected a lot. That was a shaping influence more than any single factor." He also cites experience as an important factor. "The business experience I had as a young man. I always intended to run this farm but my father and I could not work together so I spent many years working in the farm industry in a managerial position. I got exposure to how it works." White Oak Pastures also realizes it is important to show appreciation for the animals, people and land.

Overall impact

The truth is, Will Harris doesn’t care much about changing the world. He isn’t interested in the mission to achieve world peace or to eradicate hunger. He is focused on his little corner of the world--White Oak Pastures and Bluffton, GA. His voice fills with excitement and possibility when talking about his plans to revitalize his town of Bluffton. He is buying up houses and businesses in the town with hopes of renovating them for his employees. He is trying to bring the old town back again. When asked about what he dreams of in the future, Will talks about dreams of the farm continuing exactly how it is now. “But the list of stuff we want to do will be done, and he will have a new list to work on.” He is currently in the midst of launching a new internship initiative on the farm. Will Harris is a visionary--constantly working towards new ideas and innovations. No matter when you talk to Will Harris, he will have a new plan to make his little corner of the world better.

The changes Harris have made impact the way Americans think of sustainable farming. His farm allows for expanded opportunities for individuals to purchase food products they believe in. Whether he likes it or not, his innovation in American farming is an inspiration to others. Maybe what we really need to really make a lasting change in the world are more people like Will Harris. More people making an impact and creating lasting change in their little corners of the world.

Business benefit

White Oak Pastures proves that de-industrialized farming can turn a profit while doing good for sustainable food resources, the economy, and the people who interact with the farm--employees and customers alike.

Social and environmental benefit

White Oak Pastures is a representation of how a farm can flourish by investing positively in its land, animals and people. White Oak Pastures is revitalizing the town of Bluffton Georgia, decreasing fossil fuel use, and decreasing pollution.


Will Harris, Owner/Farmer/Cattleman

Business information

White Oak Pastures

White Oak Pastures

Bluffton, GA, US
Year Founded: 1866
Number of Employees: 51 to 200
White Oak Pastures is a 150 year old multi generational family farm that cooperates with nature to produce artisan products. We work hard to ensure that all of our production practices are Fair, Sustainable, and Humane. We never fail to conduct our business in an honorable manner, for the sake of our animals, our land, and our people who produce and consume our goods.