I’ve been working on my masters thesis during my time off. I’ve been researching the history of farming in southern Appalachia and landscape architecture in agriculture. All of the information that I’ve come across and that I’m writing about has gotten me really excited to be moving back to Highland County this coming weekend.
I learned that made farmsteads in Appalachia were in the generally between 50 and 120 acres but most farmers only had about 15 acres under cultivation at any point in time. Traditionally, slash-and-burn, subsistence agriculture was practiced, so that the tree roots kept the soil on the hillsides and returned nutrients to the soil as they decomposed. Additionally, fields were allowed to turn fallow after a couple years of cultivation because the soils were not especially rich. Even some of Thomas Jefferson’s fields were treated this way!
The region was hard hit during industrialization through the mid-twentieth century because of changes in coal mining methods and logging methods. Many residents of Appalachia stopped actively living off of the land.
I’m hoping that I can show, through my research and the interviews I have completed, that landscape architecture can play a role in the cultural preservation of the subsistence farming communities of southern Appalachia. More to come as I finish writing.