In the early twentieth century the Settlement Movement was budding in the United States and sweeping across Appalachia. In 1902, May Stone and Katherine Pettit brought this concept to rural Appalachia and founded Hindman Settlement School and in 1911, Katherine Pettit, along with teacher Ethel De Long, set out to Harlan County to help William Creech establish Pine Mountain Settlement school which opened its doors officially in 1913. The settlement movement bolstered quality education and a bridge for learning for the community and from the community. Learning was a two-way street and local culture and lore was taught, revered and shared with all.
Recently coming from Hindman Settlement School myself, I knew this settlement story through and through, but what I didn’t realize with Katherine Pettit’s love for agriculture. I have always understood the value of being a self-sustaining school, providing the needs for all the students and staff, but never of her immense work in agriculture education, and taking new production methods and applying them to small mountain farms. It’s amazing to me that today 108 years later, we are still dedicated to providing up to date technical assistance, agriculture education, and modelling the true potential of production in the mountains.
At the core of this work are the 40 plus families in our Grow Appalachia program, which over the last decade has helped produce over 500,000 pounds of food. Our farm, high tunnels, and pastures provide hands on training, food for the school, and the inspiration of what can be done. And lastly, our Mid Summers Farmers Market gives the community an outlet to sale and purchase their farm fresh goods. The people and program have changed but today we still honor and value Pettit’s legacy of agriculture, by continuing the work today.
Transitioning from one site to another and one settlement school to another, I am enamored to be a part of this work; the true value of food work, the impactful classes, the community development, just it all. It is quiet awe inspiring to ponder the impact that was made on this ground, and I am just excited to be a part of it today!!!