The small upcountry farms of Southern Appalachia were slowly fading away during the early twentieth century, but pockets of self-sufficient farms remained in places like the northern Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. These farmers, responsive to the constraints of the mountain landscape that surrounded them, tended to rely on less invasive, century-old technologies to work their fields. Although contemporaries widely disparaged this way of life, the records of these communities reflect a long history of viability and suggest that the ecological basis of upcountry agriculture was strong. This article, which is part of a larger project that studies the transition from small farms to publicly owned forests in Appalachia, analyzes the agricultural patterns within five Blue Ridge Mountain hollows and the economics of subsistence farming in the early twentieth century.

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