Picture yourself standing in Asheville during the 1820s. In the fall, you’d likely see hundreds or even thousands of hogs, turkeys, and ducks walking through downtown on the Drover’s Road. Farmers from western North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky herded their livestock right through town on the way to markets further south.
“The thought of thousands of hogs walking down the streets of Asheville is an interesting sight to see in your mind,” says Charlie Jackson, ASAP’s executive director and history buff. “The thing that always amazed me was to read about farmers taking turkeys to market, that they were actually walking them miles and miles, using dogs and sticks to keep them herded up.”
Every eight or ten miles, stands were set up so farmers the drovers that herded the animals could feed the livestock and get a little rest for themselves. These stands grew over the years, and eventually became the first communities in the region. Towns were named after the stand owners, places like Alexander, Barnardsville, and Candler in North Carolina.
“They’re the places that we live in today and so we’ve been shaped by that,” Jackson says. “Things have changed so much over the years that we don’t remember that we’re here for a reason; that our towns are here for a reason and farming was very central to that.”
Though the route to market is very different today, local farmers still find creative solutions to get their food from here to there. ASAP studies how farming communities grow and change at its Local Food Research Center. Find out more at www.asapconnections.org