A pair of generous gifts totaling $125,000 will allow the Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA) at the University of Mississippi to support an additional oral historian and expand its oral history archive into the "Upsouth" region of Virginia, Georgia and the Carolinas.
With a planned gift of $50,000, Carmen and Matt Bond of Memphis, Tenn., have established the Carmen Crane Bond Oral History Fund. The Bonds were inspired to become active SFA members and provide this endowment after attending several SFA-sponsored events in recent years.
"My fondest memories are from early childhood, growing up in the country," Carmen Bond recalls. "My family was still of the 'old school' and essentially lived off the land. They taught me not only how to garden and cook but also the processes from beginning to end – from 'pickin'' to 'puttin' up'!"
Bond is delighted that more oral histories containing these "lost arts" will be archived and made available to younger generations. She said, "Sponsoring an oral historian is an ideal opportunity to make a difference in preserving the unique lessons and memories that come from experiences just like mine."
Anson Mills, a Columbia, S.C., company producing artisan mill goods from organic heirloom grains, has also committed to funding the SFA's newest addition with a $75,000 gift. Glenn Roberts, the company's founder, has supported the SFA and its work with oral histories for over a decade, providing more than $100,000 since 2001.
"All of us at Anson Mills hold, above all else, the intrinsic value of personal and interpersonal experiences emanating from the three big Southern F's: family, farming and food." Roberts said. "We are thrilled that the SFA has chosen to grow its oral history archive to focus on the culture and personal experiences of farming."
John T. Edge, director of the SFA, expressed excitement and gratitude for both gifts. "These funds will drive the next phase of our oral history work," he explained, adding that SFA work and influence has become quite strong in Virginia and the Carolinas.
Founded in 1999 within the university's Center for the Study of Southern Culture, the SFA documents, studies and celebrates the diverse food cultures of the changing American South. The member-supported non-profit stages symposia on food culture, produces documentary films, publishes compendiums of great writing and collects oral histories.
"An oral history is an archived historical document of a local community," said Amy Evans, oral historian at SFA since 2005. "It holds a mirror up to the face of a place."
Evans is especially eager to gain an Upsouth-focused colleague, as much of her own work concentrates on communities in the Mississippi Delta. "The more places we can take oral histories, the more important our work becomes."
Thanks to these gifts, the new oral historian will further connect the SFA to the Upsouth region through its many sponsored symposia and film festivals, as well as provide support at SFA's Oral History Workshop, which takes place annually on UM's Oxford campus.
Support from the Carmen Crane Bond Oral History Fund and Anson Mills will drive home the SFA's notion that food "brings people to the table." As Amy Evans said, "That's where the discussion begins."
Individuals and organizations interested in supporting the Southern Foodways Alliance can mail a check with the alliance noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Avenue, Oxford, MS 38655; contact Nikki Neely, development officer, at 662-915-6678 or email@example.com; or visit www.umfoundation.com/makeagift. More information about the SFA, including its extensive oral history archive, project index and interactive map, can be found online at http://southernfoodways.org/index.html.