It has been an eye-opening experience for Ben and I the last few days. Eye opening and humbling. We were lucky enough to travel to Georgia and spend a few days with a true visionary, Will Harris, on his family farm- White Oak Pastures in Bluffton, Georgia. What originally started out as a working farm trip for the both of us, reaffirmed what we find most important in our farm lives. That is, sustainability and nurturing of the soil and land that my family has cherished for so many years is the most important part of what we do at Crossings.
Will’s farm was amazing. Multi-species grazing centered around the Savory method of sustainable agriculture (If you have never heard of it- it’s worth looking up). Cows, sheep, goats, chickens, turkeys, rabbits, guineas, ducks and pigs all growing off the land synergistically. This land feeds the animals, and the animals contribute to the nurturing of the area. The perfect circle. This no waste farm utilizes every speck of what the animal has to offer, which shows respect to what God has so graciously given. The protein from the animal feeds those who desire amazing grass-fed products. Tallow is utilized for soaps, lip balm, and lotions. Hides and skins for purses and rugs while the rest is turned to compost, which eventually feeds the soil. And the cycle begins again.
One of the most impactful points of our trip was a happenstance moment. We found ourselves with a few hours to kill, and always looking for historical places and strange little attractions (this is a family affliction), we stumbled on something jaw dropping. Only an hour or so up the road in Lumpkin, Georgia the strangest thing called “The Little Grand Canyon” exists. Now a State Park, Providence Canyon is the actual name. We decided to take the hike, as neither one of us has ever been to the real Grand Canyon, and well . . .we are here, so we might as well.
The irony of the side trip became evident as we read the history behind the oddity. This spectacle of nature is not a National treasure that we often think of other protected areas such as Pilot Mountain or Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina or the real Grand Canyon. This was created by man and man’s lack of education, insight or understanding around how destructive we can be. The massive gullies that we hiked through, around 150 feet deep, were created by farming practices in the early to mid 1800’s. Continual plowing led to bare soil and extensive erosion which created massive wash outs of the land that are now so extensive they cannot be controlled. As you hike through the bottoms the most impressive views are above as you see large trees, fence posts and some man-made structures dangling precariously over the rim. One more good rain, and they all plummet to the canyon floor taking inches, if not feet, of precious earth with it.
Please note that in no way are we judging the farmers that created what is now one of the 7 Wonders of Georgia. Saddened? Yes. Frustrated? Of course. But we are thankful that we had time to wonder and explore, for these are the opportunities that teach. I have always been told that history is one of the most important subjects to study in school. It gives us the knowledge of things that have happened before us, and it is our responsibility to learn from it. Those farmers who were here before were doing the best they could with what they knew. The newly settled land had challenges they had never seen before. With their losses and hardships, they have given us a gift of confirmation that we are trying to do the right thing every day by farming the way we do. Do we always get it right? No way, but we have goals and strategic plans to disturb the land as little as possible and to continually work towards holistic and sustainable methods- so that this farm- our farm- will be around to nurture and teach those that come after us.
***If you find yourself down in this part of Georgia- forgo the hotels and stay on the farm at White Oak Pastures. Their cabins are delightfully situated in what looks to be a Long Leaf Pine forest. You will find comfy beds, farm fresh eggs and Quiche in the fridge for you. You will wake up in the morning to a herd of over 1,000 sheep and goats passing by your cabin as they make their way to the other field. They have a wonderful on farm restaurant, The Pavilion, that serves the most delectable products ever. Their tours of the farm and their processes are transparent and educational for all members of the family. And don’t forget to take a few hours to visit the “Little Grand Canyon” right up the road. Not only is it an important life lesson to take into account, but the layers of rock sedimentation exposed from the erosion is wondrous. It is responsibility of each and every one of us to expose our children to such things and tell the story of how this happened and what we can all do to try to prevent it from happening again.**