Caroline Vaughan

Trail of Tears Pumpkin and Cherokee Bean Bread from NC Farmers of the Year

In a beautiful corner of western North Carolina on land inhabited for thousands of years by his native ancestors, Harold and Nancy Long cultivate heirloom vegetables and heritage livestock using organic practices. Their lifelong commitment to caring for the land and for their community led the North Carolina Extension Service to name them North Carolina Small Farmers of the Year.

When we first visited the Long Farm we realized they were living examples of the deep connection of native peoples to the southern landscape and of the native commitment to honor the past while preparing for the future. They generously agreed to help us tell the deep history of native contributions to what we know as southern food today.

The Longs are champions of sustainable agriculture. They are active the movement to preserve native agricultural practices and to promote traditional Cherokee seed varieties. The Longs grow out heirloom varieties at their farm, save the seeds, and then assemble garden kits for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to distribute to tribal members.
As you can see in the picture below of Harold in a field of native pumpkins, some of the heirlooms have an intimidating vigor covering the field and clambering up nearby trees. This particular variety, the Trail of Tears Pumpkin,  was taken by tribal members during the removal out to Oklahoma and has recently been reintroduced to its native habitat in the East.

Over the course of a summer, we filmed Harold sowing heirloom corn, hoeing it out, harvesting ears from the giant heirloom stalks, and grinding it into meal. We took the meal we had ground and Harold used it to make Cherokee bean bread, a dish eaten by the Cherokee for hundreds of years and still enjoyed today.

Because of Harold and Nancy’s generous sharing, the story of Native American ingenuity, persistence and rich contributions to the life of the American South will become a part of a better understanding of who we are as Americans and how we got to where we are. Their farm continues to be a living example of a historic link to place and illuminates the unflinching tenacity and brave intelligence of the Cherokee people.