For the fourth consecutive year, the Appalachian Studies Center at the University of North Georgia (UNG) has received a grant from the Appalachian Teaching Project to work with community partners to build a sustainable future for Appalachian communities. The $4,500 grant for this year will support local libraries for the development of heirloom seed and story repositories.
Under the direction of Karrie Ann Fadroski, senior lecturer in biology, the Appalachian Studies Center has collected more than 150 heirloom seed varieties as part of its Saving Appalachian Garden and Stories (SAGAS), an interdisciplinary project with the departments of art, biology, and Appalachian Studies. SAGAS defines heirloom seeds as those that are 50 years or older, have never been bought or sold, have been passed down among family or friends, and are from the Appalachian region. The biology department also maintains the seed bank and provides technical assistance for the demonstration garden at the Historic Vickery House, headquarters of the Appalachian Studies Center.
Rosann Kent, director of the center, said that in addition to gathering, growing and banking heirloom seeds, SAGAS bridges the gap between art and science by collecting ethno-cultural memories from seed-keepers and then creating public art installations and performances from the interviews. Because the center has no consistent distribution mechanism for its seeds, stories or art, it has partnered with Chestatee Regional Library to begin this year's project, which aims to remedy that.
"Like most libraries serving rural communities, Chestatee Regional Library has experienced decreased funding and staff, yet is charged with a mission to 'offer lifelong learning opportunities, family and local history resources, and recreational materials to everyone in Dawson and Lumpkin Counties,'" Kent said. "Rural libraries are more than buildings with books — they are community meeting places where stories and information are shared. This partnership to share seeds and their ethno-cultural memories will benefit many. We hope the partnership will serve as a pilot for a full-fledged seed library, where patrons will 'borrow' heirlooms seeds, plant them, and return their saved seeds to replace what they borrowed."
Prior grant projects from the Appalachian Teaching Project have included "Local Food for Local People: Promoting Food Democracy in Appalachian Georgia" and "Heirloom Seed keepers & their Stories: Growing community and sustainability through arts-based research."
"This arts-based research invites viewers into a larger conversation about Appalachian food-ways, heirloom gardening, and the significant role that our community elders and their traditions play in educating our youth about sustainable practices," said Dr. Chris Dockery, associate professor of art education.
"Local Food for Local People" promoted the Dahlonega Farmers Market by raising consciousness on campus about healthy, local food and providing a series of four educational and community events at the market such as heirloom seed swaps, seed-saving demonstrations, and food-related art exhibitions. From the interviews with the seed-keepers, UNG students created a set of broadsides on an antique letterpress. "Heirloom Seed Keepers & Their Stories" had UNG students create a "communograph" — a piece of artwork that serves as a collective memory bank, artistically representing the seeds, the stories, and the people who save them. It is a map of Lumpkin County, with photos of seeds, plants and community members transferred onto large pieces of fabric.
The Appalachian Teaching Project is a consortium of 16 Appalachian centers at universities and community colleges dedicated to working more closely together in service to the Appalachian region to improve the quality of life for its residents.
The Appalachian Studies Center, which provides invaluable connections between the University of North Georgia and our regional partners to support education, economic development, cultural preservation and workforce readiness, is located in the Vickery House on UNG's Dahlonega Campus and can be reached at 706-864-1540. For more information on the Appalachian Teaching project, please visit their website at http://www.etsu.edu/cass/projects/default.aspx. For more information on the Seeds and Stories project, visit https://www.facebook.com/seedsandstories/.