Cabin Life

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Story by Powell Cobb Photos by Jessica Cannon

There isn’t much to see from U.S. Hwy. 27 when driving through Clay County, Georgia.

A Days Inn, a Huddle House, but mostly farmland, a rural landscape of fenced in fields and livestock.

Then you reach White Oak Pastures.

The overarching sign to the main entrance is aged and wooden, branded with a massive metal “H” for Harris, the family name that has been running the farm for five generations. The same principles to farming when Captain James Edward Harris founded White Oak Pastures in 1866 are used today—a production system that is better for the environment, the animals and the people eating their foods.

Beyond the entrance is a building where much of the raw meat from their livestock is cut, handled and shipped to customers across the country, from Miami to California. Remember all of that farmland you passed on the way here? It turns out much of it belongs to the Harris family, raising free range poultry, cattle, goats, hogs alongside an assortment of other crops and orchards.

Fourth generation cattleman Will Harris would allow the occasional tour of the farm and facilities. But it wasn’t until his third daughter, Jodi Harris Benoit, came onboard in January 2014 where the idea of opening up their farmland for visitors really took off.

Benoit was raised around White Oak Pastures. She graduated from Valdosta in 2012 with a communications degree and joined her family fulltime in 2014.

“When I came here, I knew I wanted to give tours and be the educational hostess,” Benoit said. “But I didn’t exactly know how to do it. People always wanted tours. But we were wholesale, pushing things out, we didn’t do that.”

The more people that came through, stopping by White Oak Pastures to eat at the dining pavilion restaurant onsite or tour the land, the more questions were asked about where to stay. Benoit could always point them to the Days Inn down the highway, but what if they had their own lodges for guests?

It was a question Harris had asked himself before, Benoit claimed.

“It was a dream of his too, he just needed a little bit of help pulling the trigger,” she laughed. “I had to really show him.”

In Fall 2014, White Oak Pastures had four cabins built and transported to the property. Each one is tucked deep in a 32-acre forest of longleaf pines, each with one bedroom and one bath. But what makes them most special is living right alongside livestock.

Benoit enjoyed that people would get excited about walking outside the cabin in the morning and seeing free range cattle grazing across the dirt road. There’s no wifi, no television. There’s only you and the company of cattle, hogs and goats.

Each lodge is named after a relative of the Harris family: the Bama Hamilton, the Sam Fordham, the Virgil Redding and the Beulah Bell. Each has its own layout and accommodates different size parties.

The biggest, and what many claim to be the best, is the Pond House. Sitting on a 15-acre pond deep in the farmland, the lodge offers peace and quiet with the added bonus of the privilege to fish the water.

“My parents actually lived in it when they first got married,” Benoit said. “They lived in it for a few years, then we put employees in it. Then we gutted it and made it a lodging option. It’s the nicest lodging option.”

Guests can enjoy fishing the water for catfish and bass, and cook them right on the grill outside by the dock. Two kayaks and a canoe are on hand to get out on the water and enjoy a misty morning or a relaxing evening.

Best of all, it’s secluded, guarded by three gates that guests are expected to open and close themselves.

“People ask, what are the rules?” Benoit said. “I say, if you come to a gate, shut it back.”

A sixth lodge has recently been renovated next to White Oak Pasture’s main facility. Nicknamed the Guest House, the cabin includes a horse paddock with two stalls for visitors who are traveling with horses.

To learn more about White Oak Pastures, visit whiteoakpastures.com

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