A Forgotten Appalachia: The Graham Farm of Alabama's Paint Rock Valley

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Eatherly, Jay Bradley
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Middle Tennessee State University
Scholars have often studied Appalachia. To many, Appalachia ends in Tennessee, North Carolina, and perhaps, the northern tip of Georgia. However, the Appalachian range sees its southern most mountains terminate in north Alabama. The Paint Rock Valley, which sits within the larger Tennessee River Valley, is home to a small community of Appalachian farmers, of which many have deep familial roots. The physical landscape is beautiful but can be harsh, which dictates the type of farming allowed within the region. Despite the difficulties, families have been adopting and practicing progressive farming techniques for well over a century. The cultural landscape shares similarities with other Appalachian regions while maintaining its own unique differences.
The progressive ideals embodied within the cultural landscape may be found at
the Graham Farm in Jackson County. It remained in the hands of one family from at least the end of the Civil War through 2012 when the last surviving member of the Graham family gifted the property to Auburn University. This study will show that despite economic hardships after the Civil War and after the Great Depression, the Graham family utilized progressive farming techniques and ideas to build a large, commercially viable farm. The farm, now administered by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, can be used as a public space to educate visitors about the very progressive agricultural systems practiced by the Graham family for 100 years.