During Summer 2015, Anathoth interns participated in an oral history project, interviewing HarvestShare participants, garden volunteers, and people who have been connected to the garden since its beginning. The process created a space for building relationships and honoring community stories. While each voice is distinct, themes of food, family, joys, and challenges weave these narratives together. Thank you for listening!
You can listen to excerpted versions of the stories below. If you would like to hear longer versions of the interviews, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
On a warm July morning, Joy Albright talked with Angel Woodruff, Stella Smith, and Abby Huggins on the porch of Anathoth Garden. Joy is a HarvestShare member and longtime participant at the garden. Here is a short excerpt from the interview.
Joy: In 2006, my daughter had some friends that lived out 49 to Alamance County and we would go and meet them at the Cedar Grove church. And John Hughes and a couple people from the church had said “free vegetables” and I’m like, well, why don’t we just go see what they have, you know. And they had salad, they had lettuce, and so we went and got some. And then the next year, my friend Ardith, she said “I want to” – I would always give her a ride cause she didn’t have a car – so she said, “I want to pay your five dollars, I want you to come out to the garden I work at and I love.” So I took her out there and we worked in the cross – what do you call it – the native garden, with a couple people on the first week they were working on the native garden. We were planting herbs, me and Charlotte Hughes. And then I liked it, so I came back every time (laughs), a whole lot. My daughter came and she worked, she played out there with Fred’s kids, and was out there in the creek a lot.
You can’t go to the store and get the food you can get here, and have the fun, you know. You know, like me and my daughter planted the blueberry bushes about 2007 with a couple, you know, some other people. And a year or two later they started getting blueberries. You can’t get the blueberries in the store, with pesticides or whatever else on them. I don’t eat them cause it’s not good for you and it’s just better, you know. My daughter she likes blueberries, right off the vine, you know. So, and I like them too, and the yellow golds, they’re my favorite tomatoes. I like to pick one, eat one, pick one (laughs).
In 2011, one of my dogs got sick and he had cancer and there wasn’t a good. So I come out here, pray about it and stuff, get away from it all. But she only died when she was three years old and got cancer. So, and I was not in a good, you know. And maybe, and it was always calmer when you come out here. And then, Pastor Grace was out here when we first started going here too. There’s nothing like a, you know, garden, working in the garden too, getting vegetables right out of the garden.
And then I remember one time, whenever it’s really hot out sometime, I think about when the people got murdered down here, two people got murdered. And we was out, and we went, they had a prayer vigil. And it was like, it might have been 30 degrees it was out here, and I remember not feeling my hands. It was cold but it was, we were out here praying, so.
When there’s like violence everywhere else there’s not violence here, its peaceful, you know what i mean? When you’ve had a bad day, if I was working, whatever I was doing, if I had a bad day, I’d just come out here and it would be peaceful and it’d be calm.
And it’s been a good, it’s been good in the garden. Some hot days. Some rainy days (laughs). Some thunderstorms.
It’s very educational out here. I learn, you know, how to do things that you usually don’t do gardening, you know. And it’s good for everybody to come, you know, work a little while at the garden, see where things come from. And cause, like, I have a grandma, she’s 92 years old. She doesn’t eat anything from a grocery store. She only uses, goes to like those fruit stands and eats the same way she’s eaten since she was little, you know. And so, it’s a very good experience and awesome outcome too with the food, so. Like the onions over there are really pretty. And we hang garlic in the, up in the ceiling when it comes in, to dry. And the blueberries are looking good this year, so, and the blackberries. And I remember one time we had flowers here, that was about the first year they had flowers. There was a flower and Marisa brought it over to me and said it looked like a rooster’s crow and she said, mama this looks like a rooster’s head, you know. She loved picking the flowers.
Clifton Poole visited with Jacob Bordelon, Kayla Blaylock, and Abby Huggins on his front porch in Cedar Grove on a July afternoon. Cliff is a HarvestShare member who lives just up the road from the garden. Here is a short excerpt from the interview.
Cliff: Food was, growing up, you raised pretty much, you raised most of the, most everything you ate except the wheat, maybe a few of the chickens, maybe some of the beef. Growing up, we raised a, we kept a garden going and we had peas, the beans, the potatoes, sweet potatoes. Trouble’s eating, you know. And, mama cooked pretty much everyday. And when she cooked, we knowed that she didn’t know nothing about all of those different additives people put in food that’s processed, you know, preprocessed. If she’d had to put them in there, we’d had to grow it, but we couldn’t have growed that stuff, that was chemicals. So, somebody has had to come up with those.
Oh, we even had a salad patch. In the winter time, where we raised the corn at, creases would volunteer. It’s like, the later years I don’t believe those same creases have been volunteering because once someone else goes in and sprays, they tend not to come back as readily, due to the pesticides. But, back then, we ate creases because everybody came and cut creases and we ate creases (laughs). We raised hogs too, uh-huh. That was our main meat right there, some pork. It was used for seasoning in the food we ate, you know, that required seasoning. Oh, that’s why we raised the corn too, for the hogs. It was of the field type. Animal feed type of corn. And we would raise roasting ears too, you know, its just a different type of corn. And I think it gets hard too, but, I don’t know what exactly separates the two in, oh. Got to be one probably tastes a little sweeter than the other. Because I’ve heard it referred to as sweet corn. Somebody said that, I didn’t know why, didn’t taste that sweet to me, but somebody did.
Jacob: What was your favorite meal growing up?
Cliff: My favorite meal, hmm. I believe usually, it’s either pork chops, fried pork chops and gravy, and then any array of vegetables surrounding it would work for me. Then fried chicken too, of course, you know. Got me hooked, you know. But, something stood out, you know, just stood out when there was, oh you know, country style steak, fried, with some gravy and those accompanying vegetables. Those, them got me hooked just as bad anytime, anytime you do it. I guess I’ve come to associate eating good, that’s what I think about. When we done killed hogs it would always be on a day when it was good and cold. Wouldn’t do it on a warm day. You would do it on a good cold day because you wanted the meat to keep. Because, well due to the fact that there will be less flies out on a cold day. On a cold day, I’ve seen (laughs), I’ve seen days so cold killing hogs, the flies just couldn’t stand it. I almost couldn’t either (laughs). But, some of those days there would be the first, you know, time of the season, that I would see those fried pork chops and gravy, you know. Mmmm. You know, I reckon it was that good for, you know, I hope that, I reckon, it made me feel like it was warming me up (laughs). But, there’s probably some more good meals that I just can’t think of, I forgot about.
Oh, there’s one that comes to mind. You ever heard of a creshaw? I seen mom take one of, take one of those, its not the orange pumpkin, its, this one is the one that’s green, like a winter squash, got the stripes up it like that and a slightly smaller neck, about that big around I guess, the neck would be, the rest of it got big outward. And it would be orange on the inside. My mom would make pudding out of that thing. And let me tell you (claps) I haven’t seen anything else that good, well, yes I have. But, ain’t many other things that’s edible that could hold a light to it cause, the thing here one of those tastes, it wasn’t soupy, it just said, ummmm. Make your stomach say ahhhhh (laughs). Oh, she getting you then, oh my gracious. Anyway. Oh, I guess I might have been, I might have been, be somebody that just likes squash stuff like that anyway. But, like I said, it’s probably some, you know, but a few other tantalizing meals that’s, you know, that I considered top grade eating, I just can’t think of them right now, but, back then I could (laughs).
Diane is a HarvestShare member who has lived in the Cedar Grove-Efland community most of her life. On a summer Saturday morning, Diane welcomed Jakayla Wilkins, Joelle Axton, and Abby Huggins to her home in Efland, NC. Here is a short excerpt from their interview.
Diane: I grew up mostly in Cedar Grove, NC. We did some sharecropping when I was young so that meant that you moved around. And, so we moved around quite often and some places we stayed were really nice and I have some really fond memories of having big garden. We had big gardens because I had twelve siblings and two cousins that lived with us most of the time. So, we had to plant and raise a lot of food and some of my fond memories is pulling onions out of the dirt. I always liked to do that. We raised a lot of potatoes. And we would take the potatoes to the barn. And in the barn there was a loft and in the loft there was a box that held hay and we would bury the onions and the potatoes down in the hay and all winter long we had potatoes and onions, that’s how they preserved them. So, I can still remember doing that. I remember how big some of the onions were. And I don’t really think I ate them but I liked pulling them. Cause that was kind of unique. And we raised animals. We had cows and pigs and of course chickens. We had a lot of chickens for breakfast and lunch and dinner. Cause we had plenty of chickens and eggs. We always had fresh eggs. And so, then I realized those eggs probably taste a lot better than the eggs you buy in the store today. Most of my life I was in Cedar Grove and Efland, northern Hillsborough. And I’m a farm person, I’m a farm girl. And, I don’t farm now but I enjoy farming when I was younger.
I remember family reunions and they was like really a big big thing back then. And for me, on my side of the family, my mom’s side and my dad’s side we still really big in the family reunions. And I remember my grandmother she would have all these ice cream churns on the porch. And, back then there was the kind that you didn’t hook in the wall. It was the kind that you turn and turn and turn and turn. And so she would get all these coolers on the porch and we not knowing any better would just love to turn them and turn them and turn them. So we would make all this homemade ice cream. We was talking about this, couple of weeks ago, we had our family reunion. We always get together on my granddaddy’s side. We reminisce. We get like a room in a hotel, meeting room. We go there and we reminisce about our grandparents and our days growing up. So we was talking about this homemade ice cream and my grandmother would come and she would have an apron on and in that apron she would have diced peaches and she would put the diced peaches in this churn and she would come back a little bit later. She might have strawberries, she’d put fresh strawberries in this one. So, she’d put something in all the ice cream. And, it was just so good. It just don’t taste like the ice cream we have now. But I just remember how good that ice cream was. Back then, they had fresh cream and everything, their own cream. It was really good. But that was, I think one of my fondest memories. Cause My granddad had a long porch and them coolers be lined up on that porch. And we would be little dummies not knowing any better. “It’s my turn to churn!” And so we would take turns and we would pretty much fight over who would turn the churns. But it was probably my favorite memory, my favorite food back then, that homemade ice cream.
And one of my favorite things in the world is recipe books. I love recipe books. I pretty much collect them too, but I don’t tell folks that, because I might get overwhelmed with them. And I would take a recipe book and see a really pretty recipe. I would try that recipe and then lot of times, I alter that recipe to my liking. And I can take a really good recipe and make it low fat. I just, you know, like recipes and I can say this year, since I’ve been getting the food from the garden, I have tried so many different things. Its just amazing. And I’m really learning to appreciate fresh vegetables so much more. Truly thank y’all from the bottom of my heart for those vegetables. Cause, I have truly been losing weight and really cooking so much better with my garden, so. Thank you thank you thank you.
Valee met with Brandon, Josh, and Abby Huggins at Taylor Fish Farm, a business in Cedar Grove of which he is the co-owner. His family gave the original land for Anathoth Garden, which is just down the road from the fish farm. Here is a short excerpt from the interview.
Valee: In Cedar Grove when I was younger, it was an agri-community, basically all farming. We went through the Civil Rights movement. I went through integration. I’ve had KKK stop my bus and beat me up for trying to get a decent education. My father fought in the military and this time I was struggling to get a decent education. I’ve had crosses burning in my yard. I’ve been shot at by the Ku Klux Klan. That’s how it was during my younger years. I guess until I was about in Junior High. And then I played sports and I excelled at football and that kind of bridged the gap a little with the community. And, then I went to Carolina, got an education.
Brandon: Can you expand a little bit on what it was like during the Civil Rights time?
Valee: Very hard, very frightening. Hold meetings. Your parents meeting. Parents had to follow you in caravans on the bus, to make sure you didn’t get accosted going to school. It was real scary. Scary to go to the mailbox. But you have strong parents to keep pushing you forward. It was cause you got shot at today, you still got to go back out there tomorrow.
I guess in my early 20’s I tried to farm, I went down to the FSA and tried to get a loan and I had a different way of farming, but it was still agri-tobacco related. I’m a fourth generation tobacco farmer and I was denied my loan. I appealed it. My loan officer took my idea. He quit and he’s now, he’s doing what I said I would do. I was able to recover some of it back through, I was one of the original members of the Black Farmers Lawsuit. Those are the kind of things I did to kind of get over the hurdles. Is go back and, you know, make people stand an account for things they’d done. And by the way, a person, one of the Ku Klux Klan members that did beat me up, came back and apologized to me about ten years ago.
Josh: Oh wow.
Valee: I thought that was a powerful move.
Josh: Did you recognize him when he…
Valee: Oh yeah, I knew exactly. The sheet don’t fool. Everybody didn’t have the sheets on.
Valee: A lot of them just were bare faced. I knew exactly who it was. A small community, it gets out. You know, they have Afro Americans working in their fields. You know that travels, so you know exactly who beat you up. Yeah, but that was very powerful when he came and apologized to me, my sister and my mother.
Valee: About what he did. You know, I accepted it, and I moved on. People change, believe it or not. I had to learn that too.
Valee: We, you know, y’all are old enough, you’re young and old enough to know that food has a lot to do with how you, how you feel. And a person, you want them to develop spiritually, but it’s hard when they’re going home to no running water. And you know, no electricity. And eating a barely getting by substance. You know, you, we can, and then you know you have them believing in the here and after, I’m going to get my reward. And why can’t we help them a little bit right now? Why should they have to struggle? There’s ways we can get people out of these situations.
But you know you have to work with them you have to put in some time. And you know, most people we have this idea that a person is downtrodden because he’s lazy. You see some of the hardest working people out here that don’t have anything. You pass a white cinderblock building on this road right here that you pass everyday. That boy don’t have any running water, no electricity. What he has to do to cool off is sit outside. And he works hard everyday in tobacco.
And that’s right on this main road. And we all pass it. And we put a blind eye to it. And that’s something that I’ve been charging Anathoth lately to go out and seek more of these people and put, you know. Cause a lot of people have, believe it or not, they still have pride. You know, so you can’t just say, we’re here, he won’t come, because he does have pride. He falls through the cracks. He cannot get food stamps, he doesn’t have a place to cook. So, he basically eats out of a store. But those are the people I push the church to reach out to.
Get your feet wet, you know what I mean? Its not just my story now, its your story. Anathoth is doing great. But we still, that’s right on the road coming to Anathoth. We need to learn how to reach out. A little bit deeper, it’s not over. This hunger thing is real. You live in one of the richest counties in North Carolina. One of the richest counties in the United States. And, this northern part of North Caro- of Orange County, you have a lot of people that are poor. So we’re really trying to get to the people that actually fall through the cracks.
I think you’re one of the more successful CSAs or community gardens out here. You’ve had 10 years, going on your 11th year. And now, see, where you’re at, you’re able to pay incomes to your workers. I think, the way, y’all have done a lot of work here. And you’ve inspired a lot of gardens, a lot of communities have copied you. That was the mission, was to get people to start, you know, relating food, you know, to church.
Cause they’re complex problems. Food is not simple. it is very complex. And we’re, Anathoth is just starting to scratch the surface, but you’re doing a great job, a great job.
Maria is a HarvestShare member who regularly brings her children to workdays at Anathoth. She met with Jakayla Wilkins, Jordan Herrmann, Abby Huggins, and Julia Sendor (who served as translator) at her home in Cedar Grove. (The interview transcript includes the translation during the interview and, in the parentheses, some corrections made to the translation afterwards.) Maria’s children made occasional appearances during the interview too! Afterwards, we toured her flower-filled garden.
Maria: En Michoacan. (In Michoacan.)
Julia: ¿En cual pais? (In what country?)
Maria: El pueblo se llama Purepero, en Michoacan. (The town is called Purepero, en Michoacan.)
Julia: En Michoacan, en Mexico?
Maria: Si. Purepero, en Michoacan, Mexico.
Julia: A community called Purepero in Michoacan, Mexico.
Maria: Pues, tengo muchos recuerdos de alla de mi pueblo. Tambien me gustaba trabajar mucho en el campo.
Julia: I have a lot of memories of my town, I really liked to work outside in the countryside.
Julia: ¿Otras memorias, otros recuerdos? (Other memories?)
Maria: Pues me divertia mucho alli en el pueblo donde vivian mis papas, se llama Tlazazalca.
Julia: I always had a lot of fun in the town that my parents lived in called…
Maria: Alli nos la pasabamos bien con mis hermanas amigas y primas que tenia desde que estaba en la escuela.Julia: I had a good time with my (brothers and) sisters and cousins and friends that I had from school.
Maria: En las fiestas que…es de…hacen en la escuela tambien alli nos la pasabamos muy bien.
Julia: And all the different kinds of parties and celebrations that we had in town (in school). We enjoyed ourselves.
Jakayla: Did you and your family cook together? ¿Cocian juntos usted y su familia?
Maria: No, only I cook.
Julia: She’s the only one that cooks. ¿Y cuando era nina, como en su familia en Mexico? (And when you were a girl, like with your family in Mexico?)
Maria: Con mi Mama. Yo aprendi de mi mama porque ella estaba cocinando y yo me arrimaba a ver que estaba cocinando.
Julia: I learned, so, in Mexico, she says, I learned from my mother. She was cooking and I learned from her. (I would come up close to see what she was cooking.)
Maria: Si, desde los 13 años aprendi a cocinar.
Julia: Since I was 13 years old I learned to cook.
Maria: Pues, frijoles con queso, enchiladas, mole de pollo, caldo de res con muchas verduras, caldo de camaron, sopes — hay muchas comidas
Julia: Beans with cheese, and mole with chicken, soup with beef (with many vegetables, shrimp soup, cornmeal cakes — there are many dishes) (clarifies the list in Spanish with Maria)
Julia: Oh wow, enchiladas, barbecue,
Maria: Las carnitas que son tradicionales de Michoacan.
Julia: Carnitas that (are) a traditional food from Michoacan.
Maria: Es carne de puerco que hacen frita en manteca, bastante manteca, y ya la saquen ya de la manteca cuando esta. Nos acostumbramos mucho para las fiestas que acompañamos con arroz, ensalada de nopales, y frijoles, y tortillas. Y chiles y jalapeños en vinagre.
Julia: Wow. So it’s, pork fried with lots of butter and taken out when it’s ready. (It’s our custom to eat it a lot for special occasions.) Eaten with a lot of rice and nopales which are cactus (and beans). And tortillas and chiles (chili peppers and jalapeños) with vinegar.
Jordan: ¿Hacia tortillas en su casa? (Did you make tortillas in your house?)
Maria: Si y aqui tambien me gusta hacer.
Julia: And here also I like to make them.
Maria: Porque no me gustan las de la tienda.
Julia: ‘Cause I don’t like the ones from the store (laughter).
Maria: Hago de maseca. Hasta mi mama me trajo una maquina alla la tengo donde hago las tortillas de maseca.
Julia: I make them from Maseca, which is the tortilla powder, like a flour. And my mother brought tortilla making machine so I make them here.
Maria: Como la nina, que aprendiera a cocinar a lo que yo se.
Julia: And that my daughter (would) learn how to cook from what I know.
Jordan: ¿Le gusta concinar? Does she (Maria’s daughter) like to cook?
Maria: Cuando yo estoy alli es de tambien se arrima a ver si…como a ver que estoy haciendo…
Julia: When I’m here, she comes by, and looks to see what I’m doing, the cooking, when I’m here cooking at the stove.
Jakayla: Do they (Maria’s children) like to help with the garden?
Julia: ¿A ellos les gusta ayudar con el trabajo del jardin?
Maria: Aqui casi, casi no.
Julia: Here no, not really.
Maria: Mas bien se la pasan jugando alla afuera.
Julia: They more like to go around playing outside.
Maria: Pero las veces que ir al jardin, si les gusta ir.
Julia: But the times that they’ve gone to Anathoth, yes, they like to go work there.
Maria: Alla si les gusta ayudar.
Julia: There they like to help.
Julia: What do you hope for your children? ¿Que esperanzas tiene para sus hijos?
Maria: Pues yo quisiera que fueran unas buenas personas.
Julia: That they’ll be good people.
Maria: Que les gustara estudiar una carrera, que ellos se superaran mas que yo y mi esposo.
Julia: I hope that they would study a career (course of study) and achieve more than me and my spouse.
Maria: Si. Si porque yo les digo a ellos que le, como que le echen ganas a la escuela, sacar unas calificaciones para que no anden como nosotros trabajando en el campo alli en el sol y en el frio.
Julia: I tell them that they need to (work really hard) in school, to earn qualifications (good grades) so they don’t have to work like me and my husband, in the sun and in the cold.
Maria: Eso es lo que pienso pues, de ellos, de su futuro.
Julia: That’s what I think about them and their future.
Maria: Pero quien sabe ellos que vayan a pensar cuando esten grandes.
Julia: But who knows what they’ll think when they’re bigger (older).
Maria: Si, si les vaya a gustar la escuela mas adelante or no.
Julia: If they’ll want to keep going in school, further on or not.
Julia: ¿Le gustaria que todavia tuvieran algo, como del campo, como verduras frescas o el conocimiento do como cocinar o flores, en sus vidas?
Do you hope they still have something from the countryside, like fresh vegetables, or the knowledge of how to cook, or flowers, in their lives?
Maria: Si, tambien me gustaria que supieran todo eso del campo.
Julia: Si, at the same time I would like for them to know all of this about the countryside.
Julia: Are there things that you miss about your life in Mexico? (Asks in Spanish)
Maria: Pues si, todo.
Julia: Well yes. Everything.
Maria: Porque es diferente, la vida aqui y alla.
Julia: ‘Cause its different, the life here and there.
Maria: Porque alla, es de, no andamos mirando el reloj que no se hace tarde como aqui.
Julia: There we don’t go around watching our watches to see if we’re going to be late like here.
Maria: Si, aqui es mas rapida la vida, se va mas rapida.
Julia: (Yes), here it’s faster, life; it goes by faster.
Maria: Pero aqui, si, tambien vivo a gusto. Me gusta aqui donde vivimos.
Julia: But here also, we live with some happiness. I like where we live here.