Appalachian Foodways Practitioner Fellowship

Grow Appalachia, the Appalachian Studies Association, and Mid Atlantic Arts’ Central Appalachia Living Traditions program are thrilled to host the Appalachian Foodways Practitioner Fellowship to honor, celebrate, and support foodways tradition bearers and practitioners in the Appalachian region.

Fellows may include, but are not limited to home cooks and bakers, seed savers, farmers, community elders, keepers of recipes and traditional foodways knowledge, hunters, and foragers, who have made significant and long-term contributions to sustaining and supporting the foodways heritage of their respective communities

Fellowship applications open November 1st, 2023 and are due December 15, 2023 by 5pm EST.

2022 Fellow

Yawah Awolowo

Application & Fellowship Information

Geographic Priority

Applicants must be from an Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) designated county and state. Priority will be given to applicants from OH, VA, and WV.

Important Dates and Reporting

Fellowship applications open November 1st, 2023 and are due December 15, 2023 by 5pm EST. The fellowship will begin February 1st, 2024, and is expected to be wrapped up by January 31st, 2025. Final reports will be due January 31st 2025.

Application Form

This year’s process includes an online application. Applicants are encouraged to use a separate tool to answer questions and then copy information into the form directly. The application requires 4 short answers of roughly 350 words or less.

At this time, we can only award fellowships to applicants 18 years and older.

Fellowship applications open November 1st, 2023 and are due December 15, 2023 by 5pm EST.

Award and Recognition

Fellows will be honored at an awards ceremony and asked to present at a session at the 2024 Appalachian Studies Association Annual Conference held at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina on March 7-9, 2024. Fellows will be reimbursed for travel expenses up to $1,500 to attend the conference. In addition to the monetary award of $4,000, fellows will receive a unique physical award created by an Appalachian artist.


During their fellowship year, applicants will be expected to participate in a site visit consisting of an interview and photo documentation conducted by a Mid Atlantic Arts contracted fieldworker.

Work Samples

Applicants should upload 3 work samples of the highest quality available, with both recent and past examples to demonstrate the quality and longevity of the applicant’s contributions. Samples may include Youtube links, audio clips, photos, website url, etc.

Please follow file saving guidelines outlined in the application.

the 2024 Fellows

Mehmet Öztan – Reedsville, WV

Dr. Mehmet Öztan is a Turkish seed keeper, farmer, and a public scholar. He co-founded the culturally significant seed company, Two Seeds in a Pod, with his wife, Dr. Amy S. Thompson in 2013 in Tampa, Florida. The company’s farm was relocated to Reedsville, West Virginia, in2019, where it serves as a learning space and a gateway to exploring more than fifty food crops for their cultural significance, culinary uses, climate adaptability, and significance related to seed and food justice. Dr. Öztan is also the founder of the Anatolian Seeds Recovery and Preservation Project (ANATOHUM) that aims to re-vitalize, preserve, document, and promote the traditional seeds of Türkiye. Since 2013, he has introduced more than 120 open-pollinated seed varieties to the American seed market for home gardeners, small farmers, and chefs to grow and to use in recipes.

As a minoritized seed industry professional, Dr. Öztan continuously thinks, writes, and creates around issues of racism, discrimination, patriarchy, favoritism, grief, and extractive labor practices in the American seed industry. He holds a Ph.D. in civil engineering from Michigan State University and is currently a Service Assistant Professor in the Eberly College of Arts & Sciences at West Virginia University

Jim Embry – Richmond, KY

Jim Embry is the proud descendent of formerly enslaved Africans who were brought across the Appalachian Mountains to Madison County Kentucky around 1800 and who provided for him a legacy as agrarian intellectual activists.

He began his activism as a 10-year-old in the civil rights movement and has participated in all of the social justice movements of the past 65 years with an emphasis on food and agriculture systems.

His contributions have included such efforts as: founding Good Foods Co-op in 1972; establishing Sustainable Communities Network in 2006; helping organize Ujamaa Cooperative Farming Alliance and Cumberland Seed Commons in 2022; and in 2022 representing the USA for the seventh time as a delegate to Slow Food’s Terra Madre in Italy.

In 2023, Jim received the James Beard Foundation Leadership Award which recognized his many years as a visionary leader and reaffirmed his premise that:

“Because stolen land from Indigenous peoples and stolen labor of African peoples to do agriculture is the foundational contradiction of injustice in our nation, it is clear to me that resolving this contradiction of injustice deeply embedded in food and agriculture is also the fulcrum point for the much-needed transformation of our society.

Bea Sias – Logan, WV

Bea Sias has always lived in Logan County, West Virginia. She met her husband while still in high school, and was married for 53 years before he passed. She has two children, two grandchildren, and two great grandchildren. Bea took on the role of a Grow Appalachia Coordinator with Step by Step WV after retirement. In her role, she assists families in the WV coalfields county of Logan to grow their own food by providing seeds, tools, plants and workshops to families. Every time her kids tell her it’s time to quit, she tells them she is NOT ready to sit back in a rocking chair and wait to die. To her, her gardeners are like extended family, and she cares deeply about each of them.

Previous Fellows

Femeika Elliott

Knoxville, TN

Femeika Elliott, is the founder of the Rooted East Collective. She is a food educator, home gardener and herbalist. She is a Knoxville native by way of Louisiana as her Creole ancestry often influences her practice. Femeika is skilled in public service and resource allocation with nearly 10 years experience focusing on substance abuse, mental health, child welfare and the juvenile justice sector.

“Meik” loves speaking passionately about transforming your everyday dishes into healthy masterpieces using fresh ingredients to uplift the lifestyle of others. She started her health foods brand Meik Meals, in 2019 and continued to pivot in the entrepreneurial scene to address major health crisis within the black community such as mental health, postpartum medical and food apartheid. She enjoys being a social justiceprenuer and advocate for marginalized communities as Black health, liberation and restoration remains at the forefront of her vision. Elliott holds a Masters and undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice from Middle Tennessee State University with a concentration in Social Work.


She is also the founder of the Lotus Program Experience—a full spectrum wellness program for women experiencing infertility, pregnancy, birth and loss.

“Wherever I see an issue that feasters in our community, I make it a priority to address it with innovative solutions. I have multiple purposes in this life, I’m thankful to let spirit use me to serve others with a grateful heart & cheerful spirit.”-Femeika Elliott

Jason B. Tartt, Sr.

Berwind, WV

Jason B. Tartt, Sr is an entrepreneur, farmer, business owner and community servant most passionate about exposing the fortune Appalachia possesses, to enrich our communities, families and build sustainable business opportunities for future generations.

Jason is originally from the Vallscreek community in McDowell County, West Virginia and a graduate of Bluefield High School, in Bluefield, WV. In 2010 Tart, Sr. returned to West Virginia with his family in tow after a military and Department of Defense contracting career. He has spent the better part of ten years working to understand, define and create awareness and education around the viability of agribusiness in the region.

Tartt has been an ambassador for change, co-founding Economic Development Greater East (EDGE) and several other organizations to identify economic drivers and develop models around food and agriculture, clean energy, tourism and community health. He has developed training and experiential learning environments for budding food producers and future business owners.

Sergio Herrera

Mifflintown, PA

Sergio Herrera makes Chilean beef empanadas and typical Chilean meals, all prepared in a traditional and artisanal way with a lot of love and dedication. Sergio’s work is rooted in his past, going back to his childhood when his grandmother would cook traditional foods to sell in their neighborhood in Chile. Currently, on occasions and when he has enough time, Sergio prepares his recipes to sell at work and in 2022, he was part of a community project named Blue Juniata Foodways organized by Community Partnerships.

Sergio currently dedicates himself to making “empanadas de pino” or beef empanadas… one of the most typical dishes in his country. His foodways tradition has been popular among residents of Mifflin and Juniata counties, especially Chileans residing in the area. He is able to source all the supplies needed for his preparations from local farms and businesses in the areas of Mifflin County and Juniata County.

Yawah Awolowo – Knoxville, TN

Yawah Awolowo is a culinary artist, community activist, and owner of the Organic Roots Cafe, the only organic vegan/vegetarian cafe in Knoxville, Tennessee. She works to share knowledge about food and agriculture, especially vegan and vegetarian cooking, and to foster “living cuisine” that prioritizes healthy minds and bodies within traditional foodways. Awolowo created the Urban Youth Network and Garden Program for children living in public housing, and she has served as Assistant Executive Chef at the Children’s Defense Fund’s Haley Farm and Workshop Center Manager at the Highlander Research and Education Center. She is a member of National Women in Agriculture and Vice President of Cottage House, Inc., a women’s organization that focuses on agriculture and youth. She has traveled the world as a community food activist and hosted a workshop at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Awolowo will be using the fellowship monies to support her Functional Foods project, educating the next generation in Appalachia on traditional foodways, nutrition, and “living cuisines.”

Siblings Rebecka and Travis Fugate are the owners and operators of Good For Your Heart Farms in Eastern Kentucky and passionate foodways practitioners. They were raised in a family of rich Appalachian foodways traditions, and Rebecka was inspired by her son’s dietary needs to begin growing and preserving her own food. Rebecka helped establish the Knott County Farmers Market, through an AmeriCorps VISTA position at Hindman Settlement School, and Rebecka and Travis are active members of Grow Appalachia. They regularly lead educational tours of the farm for young adults in the area and have twice hosted the Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange, which helps urban and rural participants discover their unique and shared heritages. Rebecka earned a Home-Based Micro Processing Certification to extend her community’s access to local food and teaches others how to preserve and can themselves. With the GoodForYourHeartFarm YouTube channel, Rebecka and Travis are sharing their knowledge and experience with a larger audience as well. Rebecka and Travis will use their fellowship funds to invest in a seed-saving vault, build a website, and support professional development opportunities that will assist them in their foodways work with K-12 students.

Travis & Rebecka Fugate –

Emmalena, KY

Wayne Riley – London, KY

Wayne Riley is the founder and director of Kentucky’s Laurel County African American Heritage Center, an organization committed to conserving the traditions and legacy of the local African American community. Riley founded LCAAHC in honor of his late aunt, Lutisha Riley Bailey, and his work has had an immeasurable impact on the community, particularly inlocal foodways. He founded Heritage Farms and Heritage Community Commercial Kitchen, where residents can prepare food items for sale and learn about local traditions of preserving and canning. His regular barbecues and fish fries are well-known in the community. As director of LCAAHC, Riley has also coordinated oral history projects and summer youth programs and led community-wide events like birthday celebrations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Riley is also the manager and director of the Grow Appalachia Food Security Project in Laurel County. He has completed the Brushy Fork Institute programs for Management of Non-Profit Organizations and Ordinary Communities Achieving Extraordinary Results, and he is a recipient of the Berea College Service Award. Riley will be using his fellowship funds to improve the heat and air system of the Heritage Community Kitchen.

The Appalachian Foodways Practitioner Fellowship is made possible by Mid Atlantic Arts’ Central Appalachia Living Traditions program.