Abstract

Heirloom seeds are seeds that have been passed down in families for more than fifty years. One of the signature projects of the Appalachian Studies Center at the University of North Georgia, Saving Appalachian Gardens and Stories (SAGAS), is an annual demonstration garden for heirloom seeds and oral history collection. The organic garden is designed to minimize water loss, replenish our seed bank, and share seeds with our neighbors. Saving Appalachian Gardens and Stories preserves cultural history by interviewing seed donors about gardening traditions and foodways of Southern Appalachia. The 2012-2013 Appalachian teaching project Heirloom Seed and Story Keepers: Growing Community and Sustainability through Arts-Based research, an extension of the SAGAS initiative, is an undergraduate research project that utilizes a methodology of arts-based inquiry. The research provides students and community members with reciprocal opportunities to engage in the local food system through cultural literacy and seeks to learn how heirloom seed gardening literally and metaphorically represents the development of community in Lumpkin County. Students identified and interviewed tradition-bearers in the region, and their analysis resulted in an artistic representation of their research called a "communograph" (The Communograph Project, http://www.communograph.com). On display, the communograph has invited viewers into a larger conversation about Appalachian foodways, heirloom gardening, and the significant role our community elders and their traditions have to play in educating our youth about sustainable practices.

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