The New River Valley Farming Oral History Project had the goals of 1) collecting and preserving oral history knowledge of family farming in the New River Valley; and 2) understanding farming livelihood strategies, and the changes in those strategies from the 1930s to the present.

The project was carried out in joint partnership between Radford University Anthropology classes and the Montgomery County Farm Bureau.  The project provided students with an experiential component to their classes, enabling them to practice the skills of anthropological interviewing, learning  in-person from farming families about their livelihood strategies, and make an important contribution toward regional heritage preservation.

Appalachian Farming Heritage Project,
2002-05, 2007-8, 2013-14
This project has spanned 12 years.  It started with an oral history project to document Appalachian farming livelihood strategies in the New River Valley of Virginia, described below.  That project was a collaborative effort between RU’s Department of Sociology/Anthropology and the Virginia Farm Bureau.  The resulting book of oral histories, Appalachian Farming Life: Memories and Perspectives on Family Farming in Virginia's New River Valley, was published by Brightside Press, December 2003.  Later, in 2007-08, the project director conducted an advanced research analysis and write-up stage, which resulted in publication of a journal article describing changes in NRV farming life from the 1930’s into the 21st century (2010 Journal of Appalachian Studies).  Most recently, the project director conducted updated Agricultural Census research, then combined the census data with the oral history data to  provide a broad context for understanding farming livelihood strategies in the New River Valley of Virginia, as described in an article for the Journal of the New River Historical Society, 2014.

The Oral History Project Described:

  1. -A Study of Family Farming in the New River Valley in Southwest Virginia -- Documenting the Livelihood Strategies of Farming Families and Examining Changes in Farming Strategies from the 1930s to the Present

  2. -Involved a University-Community Partnership Between Radford University Anthropology Classes and the Virginia Farm Bureau

  3. -The oral history research has been compiled into a book, Appalachian Farming Life, Brightside Press, 2003.


Photo above: Spring 2002 Research Team during a project orientation with Farm Bureau members Bob and Charlotte Holland, at the Holland's Lazy H Farm.

Radford University Project Director/Professor: Dr. Mary LaLone
Project Research Assistant: Peg Wimmer

Spring 2002 Student Research Team:
Tiffany Beaver, Bobbi Jo Burnett, Jaime Iacobellis, Tracey McDonald, Maple Potts, Sarah Smith, Adam Sowder,
Britney Walton, & Peg Wimmer

Fall 2002 Student Research Team:
Tiffany Beaver, Jaime Iacobellis, Tracey McDonald, Maple Potts, Kay Spence, & Peg Wimmer

For Further Reading about the Appalachian Farm Project, see:

LaLone, Mary B.

2005   "An Anthro-Planning Approach to Local Heritage Tourism: Case Studies from Appalachia."
NAPA Bulletin (National Association for the Practice of Anthropology), Vol. 23:135-150.

2005   "Building Heritage Partnerships: Working Together for Heritage Preservation and Local Tourism in Appalachia. 
Practicing Anthropology 27(4):10-13.

2007   "New River Valley Farming Oral History Project."  IN Case Studies in Community-Based Collaborative Research, The Institute for Community Research, June 2007, web publication http:/// Pp. 13-16.

2009   "Guidelines for a Partnership Approach to Appalachian Community and Heritage Preservation Work." IN
Participatory Development in Appalachia: Cultural Identity, Community, and Sustainability, Susan E. Keefe, ed. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press. Pp. 201-229.

2010   “Running the Family Farm: Accommodation and Adaptation in an Appalachian Region.” Journal of Appalachian Studies 14(1-2):62-98.

2014   “Farming Life in the New River Valley of Virginia: Ten Important Features Learned Through the NRV Farming Study.”  Journal of the New River Historical Society 26: 6-33.


The Spring 2002 Economic Anthropology class formed the first research team for this project.  They kicked the project off by conducting numerous interviews with farming families in Montgomery and Floyd counties (see the team photo below).

The Fall 2002 Practicum in Anthropology class continued the research by conducting more interviews in Montgomery, Pulaski, Giles, and Floyd counties and compiling a book, Appalachian Farming Life, containing some of the best excerpts from the oral histories conducted throughout 2002.  The book has been distributed to schools and libraries in the New River Valley in an effort to help preserve people's stories and knowledge about the NRV farming way of life. 

To read a February 2004 Roanoke Times article by Paul Dellinger on this Farming Oral History Project, click here: Understanding the region's rural past.pdf