Persistence of Agriculturally Based Home Economies in Appalachia with Special Attention to Mitchell County, NC


Many households in Appalachia subsidize their wage-based income by growing a kitchen garden and reciprocating favors with their family and neighbors. Yes, there is a move toward a more capital based home economy in Appalachia, but there are pockets within the region where people persist in more traditional economic systems that sustain the home and community. These strategies are essential in rural areas where the job market is unstable. As with any cultural transition, there are various theories that seek to examine and explain the evolution from one stage of economic development to another. This Pathfinder provides an introductory checklist of various types of sources within the literature on Appalachia related to agriculturally based home economies through the twentieth century in the Appalachian region with special attention to Mitchell County North Carolina. Understanding the regional transformation from subsistence to capitalism, the resistance to these changes, and the persistence of family farms and home gardens serves the body of Appalachian Studies well.

Introductory Text: 

Stokely, Jim. “Agriculture”. In An Encyclopedia of East Tennessee. Jim Stokely and Jeff Johnson. Oak Ridge, TN: Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge. 1981. Pgs. 3-7. App. Coll. F442.1.E53

Winters, Donald. “Agriculture”. In The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. Carroll Van West, ed. Nashville, TN: Rutledge Hill Press. 1998, 9-12. App. Coll. F436.T525 1998.

Benson, Susan P. Household Accounts: Working-Class Family Economies in the Interwar United States. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. 2007. HC106.3.B47 2007.

Berry, Wendell. Home Economics: Fourteen Essays. San Francisco, CA: North Point Press. 1987. App. Coll. PS3552.E75 H55 1987

Dunaway, Wilma. The First American Frontier: Transition to Capitalism in Southern Appalachia, 1700-1860. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press. 1996. App. Coll. HC107 .A127D86 1996

Dunaway, Wilma. The Incorporation of Southern Appalachia Into the Capitalist World Economy, 1700-1860 [thesis]. Knoxville, KY: University of Tennessee. 1994. HC107.A13 D78 1994.

Ellickson, Robert C. The Household: Informal Order Around the Hearth. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 2008. HB820.E45 2008.

Halperin, Rhoda H. The Livelihood of Kin: Making Ends Meet “The Kentucky Way”. Austin, TX: The University of Texas Press. 1990. App. Coll. GN560.U6 H35 1990

Inscoe, John C. Mountain Masters: Slavery and Sectional Crisis in Western North Carolina. Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press. 1989. Pgs. 1-58. App. Coll. E445.N8 I57 1989 c.3

Jensen, Joan M. With These Hands: Women Working on the Land. Old Westbury, NY: Feminist Press. 1981. HQ1419.J39 1981.

Loudon, John C. The Cottager’s Manual of Husbandry, Architecture, Domestic Economy, and Gardening. London: Baldwin and Cradock. 1840. Gale 2009. Gale, Cengage Learning. [e-book] Appalachian State University - Belk Library.

Menchik, Paul L. (ed.). Household and Family Economics. Boston, MA: Kluwer Academic. 1996. HD6978.H68 1996.

Neese, Harvey C. The Almanac of Rural Living. Portland, OR: N&N Resources. 1976. App. Coll. S501.2.N44 1976.

Salstrom, Paul. Appalachia’s Path to Dependency: Rethinking a Region’s Economic History 1730-1940. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press. 1994. App. Coll. HC107.A127 S24 1994

Van Willigen, John and Anne Van Willigen. Food and Everyday Life on Kentucky Family Farms 1920-1950. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky. 2006. App. Coll. S521.5.K4 V36 2006.

Walker, Melissa. All We Knew Was to Farm: Rural Women in the Upcountry South, 1919-1941. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. 2000. App. Coll. HD6073.F32 U69 2000.

Billings, Dwight B. and Kathleen M. Blee. “Family Strategies in a Subsistence Economy: Beech Creek, Kentucky, 1850-1942”. In Sociological Perspectives. Vol. 33, No. 1, Critical Theory. Spring 1990. Pgs. 63-88. This article can be found on the Sociological Abstracts database and the full text can be retrieved through JSTOR.

Hatch, Elvin. “Delivering the Goods: Cash, Subsistence Farms, and Identity in a Blue Ridge County in the 1930s”. In Journal of Appalachian Studies. Vol. 9 No. 1. Spring 2003. Pgs. 6-48. App. Coll. Periodicals

Mariola, Matthew J. “Losing Ground: Farmland Preservation, Economic Utilitarianism, and Erosion of the Agrarian Ideal.” Agriculture and Human Values 22. Summer 2005. Pgs. 209-223. Available through Ingenta.

Pudup, Mary Beth. “The Limits of Subsistence: Agriculture and Industry in Central Appalachia”. Agricultural History. Vol. 64 Winter 1990. pg. 61-89. University of California Press. ASU Periodicals.

Seitz, Virginia R. “Work”. In Women, Development, and Communities for Empowerment in Appalachia. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. 1995, 67-98. App. Coll. HW 1438.A127 S45 1995.

Library of Congress Subject Headings: 
  • Appalachian Region – Economic conditions
  • Appalachian Region – Social Conditions
  • Farms
  • North Carolina – History
  • North Carolina – Rural Conditions
  • Agriculture and state – United States
  • Agriculture – United States
  • Agriculture – Economic Aspects
  • Agriculture – North Carolina – Periodicals
  • Agriculture – North Carolina – History
  • Agricultural geography – Social Aspects
  • Home economics
  • Land Tenure – Appalachian Region
  • Land Tenure – Economic Aspects – Appalachian Region
  • Land Use, Rural – Appalachian Region
  • Households
  • Agrarians Group of Writers
  • Households – Economic aspects
  • Mitchell County N C History
  • Mitchell County N C Biography
  • Mitchell County N C Social Life and Customs
Clipping Files Subject Headings – W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection: 
  • Economics – Western North Carolina
  • Economics – Appalachia
  • Culture – Appalachia
  • Poverty
  • Appalachia – Regional Development
  • Appalachia – Economic Development
  • Agriculture
  • Country Life
  • Land Use
  • Mitchell County, NC
Library of Congress Call Numbers: 
  • F262
  • HC107
  • HD207-210
  • S440-S521

Berry, Wendell. The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture. San Francisco, CA: Sierra Club Books. 1977. App. Coll. HD1761.B47

Campbell, John C. The Southern Highlander and his Homeland. The original was printed by the Russell Sage Foundation. 1921. Spartanburg, SC: The Reprint Company. App. Coll. F210.C2 1973

Caudill, Henry. Night Comes to the Cumberlands, A Biography of a Depressed Area. Boston, MA: An Atlantic Monthly Press Book. 1963. App. Coll. HC107.K4 C3

Eller, Ronald D. Miners, Millhands, and Mountaineers: Industrialization of the Appalachian South, 1880-1930. Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press. 1982. Originally printed in 1948. HC107.A127E4 1982

McKenzie, Robert T. One South of Many?: Plantation Belt and Upcountry in Civil-War Era Tennessee. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 1994. App. Coll. HC107.T3 M28 1994.

Guides, Encyclopedias, and Dictionaries: 

Best, Michael and Curtis W. Wood. “Agriculture”. Encyclopedia of Appalachia. Ed. Rudy Abramson and Jean Haskell. Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press. 2006, 395-402. App. Coll. F106.E53 2006.

Byrd, Thomas M. ed. North Carolina Agriculture: From the Mountains to the Sea. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Association of County Agriculture Agents. 1988. Pg. 61. Ref S451.N8 N59 1988

Clark, Thomas D. “Agriculture”. Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. Wilson, Charles Reagan and William Ferris eds. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. 1989. Pgs. 5-50. App. Coll. Ovs. F209.E53 1989

Evans, Sara M. “Women”. The Encyclopedia of Southern History. David C. Roller and Robert W. Twyman (eds.). Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press. 1980. App. Coll. F207.7.E52.

Wilson, Charles R. “Garden Patch”. Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. Wilson, Charles R. and William Ferris eds. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. 1989, 21-22. App. Coll. Oversize F209.E53 1989.


Ross, Charlotte, ed. Bibliography of Southern Appalachia. Boone, NC: The Appalachian Consortium Press and Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press. 1976. App. Coll. Z1251.A7 B5x.

A Selected Bibliography on (Agri)culture and Modernization Relating to the Appalachian South. Glenda Horne Graves. 1988. App. Coll. Z5075.U6 A6 1988b

Marie Tedesco’s Selected Bibliography. Archives of Appalachia. East Tennessee State University. Link on right side of screen to “Agriculture and Land Use” section. This bibliography can be found online at:

Appalachian Studies Bibliography 1994-2003. Agriculture and Land Use Pgs. 2-7. This bibliography can be found online at:

WorldCat, a database accessible through Appalachian State University’s “Articles and Databases” link, is also a great bibliography that will prove helpful.

Abstracts and Indices: 

America: History and Life. United States and Canadian history and culture from prehistoric times to the present. Provides citations with abstracts to over 1,800 journals and citations to book/media reviews and dissertations.There areLinks to the full text journals from JSTOR and Project Muse. 1964 to present. ABC-CLIO

Sociological Abstracts. Covers all aspects of sociology, including community development, culture and social structure, and more. Provides citations (and abstracts since 1974) for articles in more than 2,500 international journals, serials, conference papers, books, and dissertations. 1963 to present. Abstracts since 1974. CSA. OCLC/FirstSearch.

Modern Language Association (MLA). Covers folklore, languages, linguistics, and literature. Provides indexing from over 6,000 sources, including journals and series published worldwide, books, essay collections, working papers, proceedings, dissertations, and bibliographies. 1963 to present.
The library has in print MLA Bibliography from 1921-1962. ASU REFERENCE PB1 .M64. Modern Language Association of America. OCLC/FirstSearch.

Geobase. Covers geography, geology, ecology, and related disciplines. GEOBASE contains citations, with abstracts from more than 2,000 international journals, books, theses, conference proceedings and reports. 1980 – present. The library has in print Geographicas Abstracts (1971-1988). This title split into Geographical Abstracts: Human Geography (1989-present). Geographical Abstracts: Physical Geography (1989-present). ASU Reference G1 .G45. Elsevier Science Publishing Company. OCLC/FirstSearch

JSTOR and Blackwell-synergy are full-text journal databases that are accessible through Appalachian State University’s “Articles and Databases” link. Search these databases using the keywords “Appalachia” and “agriculture”.


Agricultural History. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Quarterly. Microfilm: v.1, 1927-v.38, 1964. 1965 to present bound copies can be found in the ASU main stacks.

Appalachian Journal: A Regional Studies Review. Boone, NC: Appalachian State University. Quarterly. 1972 to present. Indexes: vols. 7, 18, and 23. App. Coll. F216.2.A66. More recent issues are found in the unbound periodical section of the App. Coll.

Journal of Appalachian Studies. Morganton, WV: West Virginia University for the Appalachian Studies Association. Quarterly. 1995 – present. Bound issues can be found on the stacks at: App. Coll. F106.J74. More recent issues are found in the unbound periodical section of the App. Coll.

Journal of Agrarian Change. London, UK: University of London. Quarterly. January 2001 – present. This journal can be accessed through the Blackwell Synergy database.

Mountain Life and Work. Berea, KY: Berea College. Quarterly. 1925 – 1988. Microfilm: v.1, 1925-v.52, 1976. Bound: v.1-17; v.20-42; v.44-64, 1988. Bound issues can be found on the stacks at: App. Coll. GR103.M5.

Now and Then. Johnson City, TN: Center for Appalachian Studies and Services. Three issues per year. 1984-present. Bound issues available at App. Coll. F217.A65 N68.

Review of Economics of the Household. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer Science & Business Media. Quarterly. January 2003-present available through ProQuest database with one-year embargo on full-text access.


Geospatial and Statistical Data Center through the University of Virginia in Charlottesville Virginia has a searchable website where agricultural census statistics dating back to 1944 can be retrieved. Begin at the below link and direct links to desired dates, North Carolina, then Mitchell County:

Audio and Video Sources: 

Adams, Shelby-Director. Lee Banks: Mountain Farmer. Appalshop. Appalachian Film Workshop. Whitesburg, KY. 1921 on film. 1973 on VHS. App. Coll. VC 144

Johnson, Anne Lewis, Andrew Garrison, and Buck Maggard. Grassroots Small Farm. Appalshop. Whitesburg, KY. 1988. App. Coll. FILM VC 33.

Compiled by: 

Tamara McNaughton, 6 Decenber 2005

Updated by: 

Updated by: Kristin Hyle, 8 October 2009