Caretakers of tradition: a profile of seed savers Harold and Nancy Long

haroldHarold Long was born with the farmers blood, when he went to get his farmers number he received none other than his very own father’s number, Mr. Isaac Long.

Harold, an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, was one of ten children. He remembers growing up that the food they ate came from the land; farming, rearing livestock, hunting, fishing, and foraging were all a part of life. With his wife Nancy, of Swedish heritage, they still maintain the old homeplace on Jenkins creek along with a newer farm of 32 acres. “We wanted to provide good food for others besides just the families needs.” Nancy says.

The Longs not only provide great food for many people in their community they are also part of a small contingent of farmers who grow heirloom varieties for market. There are many farmers who shy away from heirloom crops; rumors fly about how they don’t produce a yield, they are harder to grow, and people won’t buy them.harold and NC Candy Roasters

The Longs would beg the contrary. Later this year the family is slated to open up a farm store and gallery at their farm in Murphy, North Carolina. The Old Community Store served the people of Grape Creek before there were even roads present, once again its door will be open and perhaps the bygone days of gathering at the general store will return to the little community.

“We are able to provide food where taste is the object versus how well it ships. Heirloom varieties ensure that seed is available for the future.” Nancy says,”Hearing the story of heirloom seeds is like listening to a conversation passed on from one family member to an another.”

photo courtesy of Travis Long

Harold and Nancy are visionaries; their farm combines traditional Cherokee varieties like the Cherokee Tan Pumpkin, Lazy Housewife beans, and NC Candy Roaster squash with new favorites such as the Japanese Climbing Cucumber, Solar Yellow Carrots, and German Giant Radishes. Besides growing food using only organic growing practices, the entire family is immersed in art. Harold is a self taught Cherokee Potter ¬†as well as produces white oak splits for traditional basket makers. ¬†Travis Long, Harold and Nancy’s son, is a talented photographer with many awards under his belt.

In addition to vegetables the Longs are preserving the genetics of Heritage Breed chickens. Varieties which can be found at their farm include: French Black Copper Marans, Golden Cuckoo Marans, Buckeyes, Speckled Sussex, Creasted Cream Legbars, and Welsummers. And the eggs ranging from dark chocolate brown to sky blue are just as diverse as the flock of hens.

photo courtesy of Travis Long

Make a trip out to Cedar Valley Farmers Market in Murphy, NC and visit the Long family on Saturdays from 9am – 1pm.

If you can’t make it out there you can visit their etsy store at CherokeeSeedsnPottery or their Facebook page Long Family Farm and Gallery

“Being part of the Small Family Farm Movement helps to have more food security and many more food choices.” Nancy says.


Cold Mountain and the Magic Bean

When this Bean came to light, it was as if an old Jack Tale had emerged from from a forgotten tome. To do it justice; it must be told the way it was heard…

Once upon a time there was a man who needed some welding work done. He was an old man somewhere in his eighties, he has long since passed. Well this man hired out a fella from the college to do the work for him, the fella was a student you see. Now being as he was a student, the man could not pay the fella money so instead he gave him a jar of beans… Continue reading “Cold Mountain and the Magic Bean”

Tales from Uncle Jim’s Ciderpress

IMG_1260Apples are one of my favorite things in the world! When I was a child there was the most enormous apple tree across the street from my house. Its apples mimicked the tree in their size and girth. I often wonder if that tree is still alive. Is another child is savoring its sweet and acidic fruit or has it fallen by the wayside, only to exist as the shadow of a memory? Continue reading “Tales from Uncle Jim’s Ciderpress”

The Business of Beans – 3 tips for preserving the harvest

IMG_1195I love this time of year in Appalachia! There is something special about going to the farmers market or the roadside produce stand and seeing a mountain of fresh picked beans. Maybe it’s because beans have such a deep cultural resonance in this region, maybe it’s because this is when we start preserving the harvest by making things with whimsical names like “leather britches” and “dilly beans”, or maybe it’s because when I see those heaping piles of beans I know that winter will be a time of plenty. Continue reading “The Business of Beans – 3 tips for preserving the harvest”

Where is the Terrior of Appalachia at the Farmers Market?

Each week I visit farmers markets in Western North Carolina. I admit I am not nearly as well traveled through the region as I would like. Regardless, the one thing I notice at the markets in the city is the proliferation of “designer heirlooms.” Continue reading “Where is the Terrior of Appalachia at the Farmers Market?”

Thank you for a wonderful weekend!

Apples, Plants, and ‘Shrooms Weekend Intensive.

We had a wonderful time this weekend exploring the biodiversity Appalachia has to offer.

Botanist Mycol Stevens in his element surrounded by fungi and flora

The first day began with a multitude of mushrooms.

Continue reading “Thank you for a wonderful weekend!”

Mushrooms in the Mountains

Chicken of the Woods

Summer mushroom season has come!

For those of us who froth at the mouth for the sumptuous flavor of wild mushrooms July is an exciting month in Appalachia. The hot sun combined with mid-day rain showers awakens many fungal friends from their secret hideaways. This week has heralded the birth of a new summer mushroom season. Reports have been coming in from West Virginia to Georgia about Chanterelles, Hedgehog, Chicken of the Woods, and other tasty morsels. Continue reading “Mushrooms in the Mountains”

Pests in the Squash Patch…

squash bug reuse
Adult Squash Bug

The summer heat awakens an army of critters hungry for the squash, cucumbers, and melons you lovingly cared for all this time. It can be frustrating when everything seems to be going fine then one morning you wake up to find your plants riddled with holes and tiny jewel like eggs glistening in the rising sun. Don’t fear…there is hope. Continue reading “Pests in the Squash Patch…”

Urban Tomato

Our tomatoes have kicked into high gear at the urban test plot and it is time to start pruning. Tomato pruning can be a bit of a conundrum for many gardeners. How much do I cut? Which branches do I prune?
To get the largest harvest it is important to increase airflow between your plants and remove any foliage that is diverting nutrients from the place you want it the most. Airflow equals less disease. Check out this video for a detailed description on how to increase productivity and reduce insect damage or disease. Enjoy! Continue reading “Urban Tomato”