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How did Appalachian Foods and Recipes begin?

By Mark W. Kidd – April 2016

In 2014 I was working for the Community Farm Alliance on their “Breaking Beans” project. My job was to visit people and places in southeastern Kentucky to find new stories about food and agriculture — both past and present — and then work with community members to share the stories in written, radio, and video form.

Early on, I spent an evening searching Facebook and the web for any existing group discussing foodways and agriculture in my area. My hope was to find a sounding board for this work or maybe an audience of people who would also be interested in these stories. But I couldn’t find a place like that.

The next day I decided to create a new Facebook group — Appalachian Foods and Recipes — where I hoped to gather at least a hundred or two people that would be interested in talking about food, recipes, gardening, and agriculture. I figured my own social network should help connect at least a hundred people, and that would be more than enough to gather ideas, feedback, and find story leads.

Within the first 24 hours of creating this group and inviting a handful of initial members, people who I had never heard of began to join based, as far as I know, on the name alone. Membership grew exponentially from the very beginning. A neverending flow of recipes, stories, and advice began.

Just as the group took on this life of its own, a back injury ended my work for the farm alliance abruptly. A few friends jumped in around this time to help manage the growing administrative responsibilities for Appalachian Foods and Recipes, including LaVerne Mullins and Mike Slone. More recently, new volunteer leaders have emerged (and family members, conscripted). We will be gathering a list of all of the volunteers soon — they have been the key to the creation of a community feeling, and the best weapon on the neverending war against spam.

Today, this group is its own thriving community, built on a shared spirit of inclusiveness, teaching and learning, and good humor that connects members across geographical distance.

In the coming months, the Foods and Recipes admin team will be working to find ways to go back to the roots of this global online community as a way to share stories about what is going on in Appalachia’s agriculture, food systems, and health and nutrition as well as connect the stories of today with our region’s rich culture, history, and foodways.