Breaking Beans: Food Before it was a “System”

Barn on hill.jpg

Photo and caption from CFA, Breaking Beans: Red Bird residents and other Eastern Kentucky farmers work the steep hills and narrow bottoms like the one pictured here – buildings are built into the hill, like this barn.

Community Farm Alliance‘s Breaking Beans project has a new story to share, this time about foodways in Appalachia that were happening before it was hip to talk about “food systems.”

In the piece, Sister Kathy Curtis takes us on a journey through eastern Kentucky and interviews Appalachian elders about their traditional foodways to better understand the current trend of investing in local foods to bolster the changing economy.

The journey begins at Red Bird Mission in Clay County, which was one of the first Grow Appalachia sites. She then welcomes us into the living rooms and kitchens of elders Catherine Brock, Faye Bowling and Farmer and Roberta Brock. The elders educated Curtis about the old ways of food in the hills.

Curtis ultimately concludes that Appalachians are tapping into their past and assets when they invest in foodways, and that they are preserving their history and culture while also investing in their future:

Driving back home I thought about the people who had invited me into their homes and talked about their lives, sharing themselves as well as the bounty of their gardens. I recognized in these “old-timers” what people across Appalachia are doing today in developing local food systems. They are using the skills and values of the past and doing the hard work of growing not only food, but communities.

You can read more about Sister Kathy’s food journey on CFA’s Breaking Bean blog.