Experiential Learning

Sinkland Farms

On October 1, 2016, I travelled with the Virginia Tech Collegiate Young Farmers chapter to volunteer at Sinkland Farms in Christiansburg, Virginia. Every weekend in October, Sinkland Farms hosts festivals for everyone to participate in. Through connections within our young farmers chapter, we agreed to assist with one of their “Pumpkin Festivals”. Having been to similar pumpkin patches and fall festivals before hand, I had a general idea of what I was getting myself into. However, I found that this festival had similar qualities, but was definitely a unique experience that I was glad to have participated in.

Once we arrived at Sinkland Farms early that morning, we were immediately put to work by the festival organizers. Our first task as a group was to sweep and hose down the livestock barn, followed by bedding and prepping the box stalls. Coming from a dairy production background, I was pretty accustomed to the work assigned to us. Once the animals were brought into their respective stalls, we broke our group up to facilitate the various stations around the festival according to their needs. I was fortunate enough to stay with the “petting zoo” and communicate my knowledge of production agriculture with those attending the festival. I always enjoy talking to people at local and state fairs about my dairy project as they stroll past my pack, so it was really nice to communicate with the locals about agriculture. Although I technically live in the Appalachian region, interacting with the locals here proved different areas also inspire different thoughts and ideals within the region.

After a while, we switched stations to experience a new part of the festival. At this point, I was in charge of operating the potato cannon, which uses compressed air to launch a potato down at multiple targets. This was by far the most fun station I went to, and those who wanted to fire the cannon had a great time as well. It was so great to just relax and have fun with the festivalgoers and talk to them. As this station was very popular with the people, I got to see and interact with a wide variety of individuals.

My final task for the day was the most exhilarating of them all; parking cars for the second half of the day. While this task was rather uneventful, it was essential nonetheless to running a smooth festival. About 30 minutes into my shift, a lifted Ford F-150 Raptor pulled up, decked out in Freedom Motorsports decals. After talking with the driver, I learned that he was a former Marine who was disabled from his service. He started Freedom Motorsports from his home in Christiansburg and shared a lot about his life with me. Talking and learning about his struggles and how he works to over come them was really special and definitely made the trip worthwhile.

Volunteering at Sinkland Farms was a great way to experience the local Appalachian culture first hand. I learned that it definitely takes all kinds of kinds to make up the region, and the people were genuine and kind. Our group was actually asked to come back to help with future events, and I am definitely going to take advantage of future events with Sinkland Farms.


The second event that I attended for experiential learning was the Catoctin Colorfest on October 8, in Thurmont, Maryland. Each year around the
beginning/middle of October, Thurmont holds one of the largest arts and crafts shows on the east coast. Since I only live about 20 minutes away from Thurmont, I decided to go up with some of my friends and just walk the streets.

Thurmont is located at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains, and there is always very little parking during Colorfest weekend. So naturally we drove around for a while just trying to get to the fire station where my friends volunteer at. Finally, we walked through the down to Main Street where all of the vendors are set up. I was absolutely amazed at how many people showed up and how far they traveled just to buy a few pieces each. Since a lot of my friends live in the Thurmont area, I had always been advised to save myself the trouble of going because it was a nightmare for the locals with roads being closed and the horrible traffic. However, I was glad I tagged along this time because it was definitely interesting to go just for a day.

While walking around, I saw so many people that I know very well, and even some that haven’t been around in a long time. The atmosphere is what really attracts the crowd because of the small town feel that Thurmont provides. The handmade and unique crafts are the main purpose of the event, and they definitely exceed expectations. So much of the culture of Appalachia can be seen through these arts and crafts because a lot of the vendors are from the region. Something as simple as an old milk can that is restored or painted has so much history and draws people from far and wide just to visit. I had the opportunity to talk to a lady while looking at one of the exhibits, and she was told me that her family travels up there from Georgia every year as part of their vacation just in the hopes of finding “that new, unique piece” for her home. The desire for buy-local products are high, and I was extremely glad to see that there is still a desire for Appalachian art.

While arts and craft shows are not my favorite events to attend on a weekend, I definitely had a good time being home with my friends and experiencing Colorfest for the first time. This event really opened my eyes to the Appalachian culture in my own county and I definitely view home differently because of it.


Eller and Lewis

“Thus the resources of the colonized perpetuate the colonization process.” (Lewis)

As a nation with a history built on colonization, how have the morals and goals of our country changed over time and because of this, was Appalachia worse off, when it should have thrived?

Lewis, Helen Matthews, Linda Johnson, and Donald Askins. Colonialism in Modern America: The Appalachian Case. Boone, North Carolina: Appalachian Consortium, 1978. Web. 05 Oct. 2016.
N.d. Web. 06 Oct. 2016. <https://www.pinterest.com/pin/481674122617798934/>.

Appalachian Music

After last years CMA Awards program, one individual blew everyone away and made his name unforgettable. If you haven’t heard the name Chris Stapleton or his music yet, I am deeply sorry that your life is still incomplete. Now that may be a little but dramatic, but his music definitely special. Stapleton is an well decorated country and bluegrass singer/songwriter that hails from Kentucky. He was the first musician to win “New Artist of the Year”, “Male Vocalist of the Year”, and “Album of the Year” in the same awards event. After playing Tennessee Whiskey and Drink You Away with Justin Timberlake in one of the best performances I have ever seen, Stapleton immediately had everyone’s attention.
What makes Chris Stapleton’s music great is the raw, Kentucky influence his voice and lyrics provide. Bill Malone mentions in High Mountains Rising that “[the Bristol Sessions]…introduced to the world the music of country music’s two most enduring seminal acts: Jimmie Rogers and the Carter Family.”. Country music has Appalachia in its DNA and Chris Stapleton makes this much more recognizable than today’s so called “country” artists. Simply listen to his rendition of George Jones’ “Tennessee Whiskey” and see for yourself:.
In such a fast-paced way of life, music has sailed far away from it’s roots in all genres, but especially country music. Why is this phenomenon happening and is it continuing to get worse? Music like Chris Stapleton’s show some of the Appalachian roots, so does this also mean that he is only a part of a fad that will go out of style in a few years because it seems like a throwback?

Malone, Bill C. “Music.” High Mountains Rising: Appalachia in Time and Place. By Richard Alan. Straw and Tyler Blethen. Urbana: U of Illinois, 2004. 114-34. Print.

Images & Industrialization

Back home in Frederick County, Maryland, agriculture is a huge industry that is comprised of many hardworking and honest families. Although there is substantial agriculture operations, the area is still arguably one of the most economically and socially diverse counties in the state. With this in mind, many agriculturalists still get the reputation of being uneducated and uncivilized, much like others in Appalachia.
The stereotypes that result from these assumptions are in no way true. Many people today use the term “Fredneck” to describe the people in our county because many people try to live up to the stereotype for some reason. As a young agriculturalist myself, I have advocated for the industry to spread awareness that we are actually well educated. This image is negative for the industry, but with the majority of our society being so far removed from the farm, this is the only way they see us as different from them.
While the agriculture industry is not very different from other industries, farmers are a breed of their own. If being identified as a “Fredneck” means that an extremely hardworking individual loves their job and earns an honest living, then I could care less what others want to call me. While a lot of Appalachian’s do want to be seen as they really are (and not how the media portrays them for attention), maybe a close representation can be good enough. From someone who can relate first hand, ignorance will never be completely eliminated as long as we are still human.

Violence In Appalachia

Like many of the other different myths and stereotypes of Appalachia, violence has a presence, but not to the extent that the media makes it out to be. After reading through Kathleen Blee and Dwight Billings work titled Where “Bloodshed Is A Pastime”, I noticed that feuding played a good role in encouraging violence.
When looking at the first myth of violence being overwhelming, the feud between the White and Garrard families began over control of Clay county’s industry and commerce. It is really interesting how a battle for power in Appalachia is seen differently than those wars of our ancestors who fought to defend our own rights to govern ourselves. Obviously there were violent events like arson and murder, but the small “civil wars” throughout the region were fought for power in given areas. These events help to shape the future, just like the outcomes of full-scale wars change and write history.
Feuding is always portrayed worse than it actually was simply for dramatic effect. In actuality, these issues amongst parties can be seen as “survival of the fittest” kind of deals. As Brad Pitt, aka Wardaddy, said in the great movie Fury, “Ideals are peaceful. History is violent”. This quote really sticks with me and is so true because violence through feuding helped give shape to the regions of Appalachia based off of the victor. Therefore, while the myth of violence in Appalachia is true, it is not to the dramatic extent the media conveys and can actually seen as a way of historical development of the region.

Billings, Dwight B., and Kathleen Blee M. “Where “Bloodshed Is a Pastime”” Confronting Appalachian Stereotypes: Back Talk from an American Region. Lexington: U of Kentucky, 1999. N. pag. Web

John Alexander William’s “Ghosts”

Author John Alexander Williams really has an interesting take on the early history of Appalachia. What most people fail to realize is how important this region was to the way our country built itself up. He mentions in the introduction that Appalachia was an early major name given to an area upon settlement. As time went on, other boundaries and key landmarks made names for themselves. However, the value of these boundaries usually goes un-noticed according to Williams.
We still use our major highways as identifiers, but William’s wants to focus on the history behind these routes. He talks about “Max Meadows”, about a mile away from the interstate, and how it was one of the oldest landmarks in the area. This piece of land was owned by a settler named
William Mack, then transferred to speculator John Buchanan. This transaction put Mack’s land into a larger estate, which was controversial at the time. He notes that the area surrounding was known as “‘ye Valley of Contention and Strife,’ a label that probably reflects the tension between settlers like Mack and speculators like Buchanan…”(Williams).
Controversy like this was a major part of the history of Appalachia, but some landmarks, like the log cabin in Max Meadows, almost seem to lose their value. Ultimately, the house was relocated to a museum, but this is what J. Williams means in his references to ghosts. Although the physical properties are no longer there, the history remains. We all have ghosts in our own hometowns. Personally, my grandparents had an old bank barn on their farm that just recently fell apart in a strong storm. As I scavenged the remains for usable materials, I could almost see directly into the past. Although the structure was no longer in use, it was such a great experience to imagine how things were done in the past. Ghosts, like our barn and Max Meadows, helped shape what we have today, and I believe John Alexander Williams feels they are of great significance even today.

Williams, John Alexander. “Ghosts, Boundaries, and Names.” Introduction. Appalachia: A History. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina, 2002. N. pag.

Native Populations and Settlements

Power. It’s truly amazing how we can throw a word around so easily and not appreciate the actual meaning that it has. Too many times has power been identified to a single entity and not really interpreted beyond that point. However, power is so much more important and “powerful” than we give it credit for. We will look deeper into the meaning of power and how location can affect culture as well in the Appalachian region. These two factors alone can help us look into the cultures of the past and how we are affected today as a result.
As the settlers moved to the lands of North America, the native populations were being threatened by the newcomers and forced to make many decisions. The Cherokee tribes were either slowly influenced by the soon to be Americans or pushed away for remaining true to their culture. The power that the settlers had over the natives was the result of trade between the two cultures. Many of the natives relied on these relations and ultimately allowed influencing forces from the Americans to begin converting them. John Finger notes in Cherokee Accommodation and Persistence in the Southern Appalachians that the Cherokees were given help to create a syllabary for writing purposes. Later, they became more literate and “In an effort to turn this literacy to their own advantage, white missionaries soon published Christian texts in the syllabary.”(Pudup, 27) Religion is such a huge form of power whether we realize it or not. In doing this, the white Americans were spreading their culture and attempting to influence the natives to abandon their traditional values. This tool is one of several power factors used to challenge one another and still is in use today. Eventually, those traditional natives were pushed out as the Americans moved in, unless they accepted change. This goes to show how the power of religion was used to try and convert the native Cherokee people and move them to various places both physically and in society. Thinking about the meaning of power now, should it really be confined to a single entity, or can their be variation that depends on other factors? This is one of the key points to look at as we study the history of the Appalachian region, as well any other culture.

Works Cited
Pudup, Mary Beth., Dwight B. Billings, Altina L. Waller, and John R. Finger. Appalachia in the Making: The Mountain South in the Nineteenth Century. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina, 1995. Print.