Food and Community

Sponsored by Smithfield

Sponsored by Smithfield

Food and Community is an exploration of the meanings food has for us as members of communities and cultures. Food is central to our understandings of ourselves, our identities. It’s at the center of all the major events of our lives–from birth through death, food brings us home and reminds us of who we are.

This project explores foods and food practices throughout Virginia that are both traditional and innovative: foods that were tied to the land in times past and are still found on our tables, as well as foods integral to those who have arrived in Virginia more recently.

We invite you to discover a few of the people and places VFH has encountered in doing our work. Food and Community is made possible with a grant from Smithfield Foods Inc.



Food and Community

Some litters include 10 to 12 piglets.
Pat Jarrett/VFH Staff

Babes in the Wood, Heritage Pigs

The Tamworth pig is a heritage breed similar to those brought here by English colonists. In Buckingham County, at Buffalo Creek farm, these slow-growing pigs have been reintroduced from England.
Walter Tejada shares a story. Community leaders gathered to discuss food and community traditions at the home of John Andelin and Ginger Geoffrey in Arlington, Virginia.
Pat Jarrett/VFH Staff

Arlington Food Memories

Arlington County is the smallest county in Virginia geographically, but it may be the most diverse. Its Columbia Pike region has been called “the world in a zip code.” Close to 30 percent of its residents are foreign-born.
Hams in the smokehouse at Darden's County Store in Smithfield.
Pat Jarrett/VFH Staff

Country Ham Curing: Darden Ham

The Darden family has been curing and selling country hams the old-fashioned way since the 1950s, at their country store in Smithfield, Virginia, following traditions Tommy Darden learned from his father.

Country Ham Curing

There is probably no other traditional food more associated with Southwest Virginia than country ham.
Frances Davis

Fried Apple Pies

Known as “Fried Apple Pies,” “Dried Apple Pies,” or even “Fried Dried Apple Pies,” these locally made pies seem to have a ubiquitous presence throughout Southwest Virginia, appearing on the counters and shelves of country stores, gas stations, and community festivals.
Jim and Baron Bordwine

Salt Making

Nestled in the southern Appalachian Mountains, Saltville is named for its unusually high number of salt marshes, or, as locals call them, salt licks.
Brunswick Stew

Brunswick Stew

What began, according to area legend, as a communal meal prepared for a hunting expedition on the banks of the Nottoway River in 1828, the cooking of Brunswick stew has evolved into a time-honored tradition.
A family of five unidentified Mattaponi Indians poses for a photograph by James Mooney somewhere in Virginia sometime in 1900. Courtesy of the National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution.

Mattaponi Hatchery

The Mattaponi and Pamunkey tribes, located on rivers named for them, have maintained hatcheries for American shad for the past hundred years, but their ties to the rivers and fishing have existed for thousands.
Jim King and Jackson Cunningham


Beekeeping is the care of honeybee colonies, commonly in hives, to stimulate crop pollination and to ensure the production of honey and other hive products, including beeswax, propolis, and royal jelly. The first honeybees in America were likely shipped to Virginia from England in the early seventeenth century.
Dudley Biddlecomb and Peter Hedlund

Oyster Aquaculture

Because of the Chesapeake Bay’s ideal brackish waters, its oyster population was once one of the most plentiful in the nation, and oyster harvesting was long a booming industry throughout the Bay’s communities.
Jay Eagle has been cooking maple syrup at his family farm for years. Portrait taken on Saturday, Sept. 16 2012.
(Photo by Pat Jarrett)

Maple Sugaring and Syrup Making

Stunningly beautiful Highland County, Virginia, is the southernmost site in the United States for the production of maple syrup, where “Sugar Camps” have traditionally been small-scale, family-run operations.
Hard Cider

Vintage Apple Harvesting and Cider Pressing

Thomas Jefferson experimented with eighteen or more varieties of apples at Monticello, only a few miles from the orchard faithfully tended by the Shelton family in North Garden, Virginia.
Gail Hobbs-Page and her first goat, Star.

Cheese Making

Gail Hobbs-Page was given her first pair of goats as a child growing up on a North Carolina farm.

Mole Sauce Making

The word mole can refer to any of a number of richly flavored sauces traditionally used in Mexican cuisine, or to dishes based on these sauces.