A little bit of folklore is necessary to tell the story of who came before us and how they lived. Here is what we know about the area where we farm, based on what we’ve learned from neighbors and local historians since moving to Henderson County in 2010, and we are still learning.
Our farm is located on the same footpath leading into the Blue Ridge Mountains that was once neutral hunting grounds for both the Cherokee to the north and west and Catawba to the south and east, being near the Continental Divide, where water runs to the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. Land wasn’t owned by anyone in particular in the ways we look at it now, it was understood that the water, the forest, and the wildlife were integral to everyone’s survival. The Cherokee were forcibly removed through a series of legal maneuvers, most notably the Trail of Tears which established a reservation hundreds of miles from the mountains. The people who resisted now make up the Eastern Band in the Qualla Boundary and the Catawba now have a small area of tribal sovereignty south of Charlotte.
This road is also the route that white settlers in our county took along with the black people who they enslaved, in a time when enslaved people were more valuable than land. During the Civil War, there were more black people enslaved than there were confederate soldiers in our county. Descendants built communities in Clear Creek, Edneyville, and in the hills just south of the Continental Divide.
In the mid-20th Century, farmers began putting in apple orchards and later came the tomato industry. These farms relied on immigrant labor, people who were not paid fairly and lacked adequate housing, transportation, and medical care. While many families stayed and are still here several generations later, thousands of migrant farm workers come each year to pick apples and tomatoes to support this industry, and the larger field where we now farm was formerly 35 acres of tomatoes.
Our home and smaller field belonged to one family before us. The matriarch of the family was known to many because she raised four kids in a one-hundred-year-old log cabin, attended Ebenezer Baptist Church down the road, and had a farm stand at one point. This was how many families in our area lived, proud but considered poor by an outsider’s eye. In the 1950’s the land around us started to get divided into smaller lots, as the city of Hendersonville has grown to accommodate new residents in place of farmland.
We are proud to call this our home and aware of the history that has led to ongoing inequality impacting black, latino, and poor white families in our mountain town. We want to tell the truth about this history and honor the survival of the people who came before us. We live in a wealthy country, people are proud and quality of life is high in the mountains, but you don’t have to look far to see injustice, and this is something that guides our business decisions. One way that we embody our values is sharing our time, tools, and land with our sister farm and hispanic worker cooperative, Tierra Fértil Coop.