Eagan, TN: Digging Wild Herbs in the Appalachian Mountains| 4mins
Director: Appalachian Voices | Producer: Appalachian Voices
Focus Years: 2009 | Country: United States
In the Cumberland mountains of Tennessee, near Eagan, Carol Judy makes her living off the land. Far from being a traditional farmer, Judy digs for and harvests medicinal roots - many of which are highly coveted - in the hardwood forests near her home. This way of life, practiced by Appalachian families for generations, is threatened by the mountaintop removal mining occurring near her harvesting grounds. According to Judy, the ten-mile mine site near her harvesting grounds in Clairborne County, Tennessee, has not only changed the landscape directly at the mining site, but has also "disturbed the foundation of the forest." As the forest floor changes, due to blasting or flooding, the roots she harvests have begun to disappear from the places they have been growing for years. Judy harvests a number of roots including sassafras root, wild yam, black cohash, yellowroot, goldenseal and bloodroot. Wild-crafting and herbal medicine have a long history in the Appalachian Mountains, and their sale has become a lucrative industry as herbal medicine becomes more and more mainstream. In addition to being a source of income for wild-crafters like Judy, the forest is also a source of ecological, historical, cultural and spiritual value. Judy laughingly refers to her home in the hills as "Daniel Boone's backyard." Indeed, the legendary frontiersman explored and charted for the forests of the Cumberland Plateau for the first time in the late 18th century. Since Daniel Boone forged the Cumberland pass, people have settled in the hills and hollers, learning intimately the benefits given to them by the woods. A healthy forest ecosystem provides medicine in the form of medicinal plants, but also food, water purification, oxygen, and a carbon sink - a service that has gained relevance as concerns about global climate change grow. Though it may be the least tangible of the forest's benefits, the "peace" and "understanding" that people like Judy find in the woods is no less valuable. To support Carol and her community, contact Save Our Cumberland Mountains at (865) 426-9455 or email@example.com or www.socm.org. SOCM's mission is to work toward environmental, economic and social justice for all Tennessee residents.