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White Oak Pastures: Direct-to-Consumer Grass-fed Meat

by White Oak Pastures
White Oak Pastures: Direct-to-Consumer Grass-fed Meat

A long-time leader in human-scale, regenerative agriculture, WOP is transitioning more of their sales from lower-margin wholesale to direct-to-consumer retail.

Project Summary
  • Location: Bluffton, GA
  • Products: Events Fruit & Vegetable Livestock Poultry Value added/CPG
  • Loan Term: 72 months
  • Interest Only Period: 6 months
  • Net Interest Rate: 7.00% APR
  • Repayments Begin: 1 month after disbursement
100% of $1,192,000

Funded on 08/23/2023



The Harris family has continually operated their current farm since it was rebuilt after the Civil War in 1866. What started out as a diversified 19th century farmstead shifted with the times to an industrialized commodity farm in the mid-1900s. Now in its sixth-generation of family management, Will Harris and his children have brought White Oak Pastures full circle, becoming pioneers of the regenerative agriculture and grass-fed beef movement in the early 2000s. White Oak Pastures is now a fully-integrated business that includes on-farm processing and direct-to-consumer delivery of half a dozen different types of pasture-raised meat while also serving as an educational hub and economic engine for the surrounding community. 

Use of Funds

While wholesale markets provided the first significant opportunity for American-raised grass-fed beef, the lack of requirements for “country-of-origin labeling” allowed meat to be imported from all over the world and still sold as American-raised. As already thin wholesale profit margins have waned to unsustainable levels, White Oak Pastures is doubling down on a transition to more direct-to-consumer retail sales and e-commerce, the foundation of which they began building over a decade ago. 

Regenerative & Sustainable Practices

According to the Harris family, animal welfare has always been the “canary in the coal mine,” guiding all the rest of WOP’s regenerative practices. “Animal welfare led us to better land management,” Jenni Harris explains, “and better land management led us to a vertically integrated business that built a community.” Across their many business endeavors, the three core elements of White Oak Pastures’ stewardship are: animal welfare, land regeneration, and rural revival.

  • Animal Welfare: In 1995, Will Harris’ commitment to animal health led him to abandon the antibiotics, pesticides, and fertilizers that defined 20th century agricultural practice. Transitioning to rotational grazing restored the farm’s degraded crop land and ultimately led to a huge improvement in the health of the soils, animals, and food products. All the animals at WOP are raised on pasture, enjoying open air, room to roam, and highly nutritious forage.

  • Land Regeneration: While the initial goal of converting WOP’s annual cropland to permanent pasture and “cattle monoculture” to a diversified model that includes ten different types of pastured meat animals was to improve the animal’s quality of life, it also brought the farm’s 3,000+ acres back to life. White Oak Pastures is now managed as a complex agricultural ecosystem that supports 100,000 beating hearts. A life cycle assessment study conducted in 2019 confirmed the regenerative practices of WOP’s integrated system “is 6 times more carbon efficient than North American average production systems” and results in beef production that is actually net-carbon negative due to the amount of soil carbon sequestered by rotational grazing.

  • Rural Revival: Bluffton, GA has a population of 113 people. Through their diversified operation, White Oak Pastures employs 155 people. Instead of trying to chase a version of efficiency that cuts out jobs, the Harris family is committed to using WOP as an economic engine for the region—improving the agricultural ecosystem to create more quality jobs while establishing a sustainable scale of stewardship. WOP employees earn, at minimum, twice the average county wage. WOP also re-opened a general store in downtown Bluffton, which is the only location in a 10-mile radius to purchase fresh food.

  • Zero-Waste: White Oak Pastures seeks to operate as a zero-waste farm. By vertically integrating the processing on the farm, they are able to ensure that every part of an animal is used responsibly: meat for food, hides for leather goods, fat rendered for tallow products, and inedible material composted and returned to the pasture soils.

  • Certifications: WOP’s pasture-raised meat product lineup includes: Certified Non-GMO, Certified Humane, Certified EOV by Savory Institute, and Certified Grassfed by the American Grassfed Association. WOP vegetables are also certified organic.

  • Savory Hub & Educational Tourism: Serving as one of the 15 Savory Hubs in the US, WOP is dedicated to educating others about how to use rotational grazing and regenerative agriculture to restore degraded lands. On-farm tourism and educational events provide another opportunity to engage and teach customers and producers alike. “It is our effort to disseminate the knowledge that we’ve learned over the past 30 years to make regenerative agriculture more replicable,” Jenni Harris notes. “Bringing people to Bluffton and allowing people to take Bluffton home with them is the direction that we have to move in order to stay relevant.”

This loan will be made to White Oak Pastures, Inc., a Georgia Corporation, which processes and distributes regeneratively raised, grass-fed meat.

This loan will be used to refinance existing debt secured by the company’s processing facility, and fund all closing costs and fees including a 6-month interest reserve, with the balance of the loan to be distributed to the borrower for working capital.

The total loan amount is $1,192,000  which will assist White Oak Pastures in growing and expanding their business as they shift revenue generation priorities from wholesale to direct to consumer.

This is a secured loan with a First Priority lien on the real estate. The borrower’s interest rate for this loan is 7.5%, with a net interest rate of 7.0% being passed on to the lender (accounting for a .5% servicing spread). The loan has a 72-month term. The first 6 months of the loan term will be interest only and partially amortized monthly payments beginning 7 months after funds are disbursed. The loan will amortize on a 20-year schedule with a balloon payment of $1,020,033.94 due at maturity.

Steward Underwriting Analysis Download
Borrower Loan Agreement Download

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