To experience Floyd County in all its diversity is the aim of this program. For this it is important to connect with both the old traditions and the new ones. Participants will be close to the land where they experience the forces of nature and have time to be penetrated by the quiet of this landscape. They will work with the soil and water and in the forest. As the project headquarters is located in a large farmhouse overlooking a secluded river valley, visitors take on projects related to farming, gardening and environmental restoration. There are also opportunities to learn about and work with honeybees. There is a workshop given about the basics of organic gardening. There are also short sessions on identifying birds and wild plants.
This project includes opportunities for participants to engage in traditional Appalachian activities. There are workshops on canning and jam making. A demonstration of the ancient art of dowsing for water. A clogging class precedes the Friday Night Jamboree at the Floyd Country Store. The Jamboree is a tradition in Floyd, a moment when the community gathers for music and fellowship and to dance to old-time fiddle and banjo tunes. For those interested, we can visit the studio of a local luthier where it’s possible to see how traditional musical instruments are made. It is also possible to engage in a demonstration of traditional horse logging.
Duration and Directions
Trips to Floyd County, Virginia can be arranged for a long weekend or up to seven days. The drive from Roanoke Airport is a short one hour through rural Virginia to Floyd. Many visitors appreciate the drive from east or southeast locations of the United States through the beautiful mountains of Appalachia.
Upon arrival to Floyd, visitors are guided to Riverstone Farm. There, a tour of the farm is provided as well as an informative introduction to the region including facts local customs and culture, safety, rules and expectations. Volunteers will also learn about Via International and our history of community development work. The local team will provide an overview of activities for the week and background on the projects, people, and places where we will engage.
Volunteers should be adaptable and flexible, willing to work as part of a team, and respectful of local traditions, culture, and customs. Those taking part in community development projects need to be capable of doing physical work, although previous experience is not essential.
Food and Accommodations
Regional food, locally grown and traditionally prepared is part of the experience. Enjoy southern prepared chicken, cornbread, coleslaw, local breads, granolas and other local fare. For student teams preparing food, eating together, and cleaning up including composting and recycling are all part of the learning and immersion experience.
Accommodations are in the expansive valley at Riverstone Farm. A working organic producer, the beauty of this space can accommodate up to 25 visitors in a community setting. Participants, housed and fed in the traditional farmhouse, also have access to campsites on the farm. There is a yurt on the property that serves as a gathering place for discussion and sharing. To stay in town, we have access to discounted rates at an environmentally-recognized hotel.
Community and Region
The Appalachian Mountains are among the oldest mountains on Earth. The range stretches for over 1500 miles from Quebec to Alabama and has been worn by the forces of nature for hundreds of millions of years. The Appalachians are made up of several smaller ranges including the White Mountains of New Hampshire, The Black Mountains of North Carolina, the Green Mountains of Vermont, and the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia to name a few. Each has it’s own unique geology and biodiversity. As the ranges were populated and settlers adapted to the natural surroundings, cultural diversity was also shaped. The more accessible regions provided the stage for towns and cities, while less accessible ones became areas of more independent, self-sustaining communities. Such is the case with Floyd County Virginia.
Floyd County is located on a plateau in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains 40 miles Southwest of Roanoke Virginia. It is on the eastern edge of the range where the mountains fall sharply away on 3 sides. Because of the steepness of the approach, settlement was slow to come and even today there are no 4-lane roads or railroads or airports in the county. Agriculture remains the primary economic activity despite limited arable cropland. The picturesque rolling hills support mostly small cattle farms with open pastures and wood lots. The Blue Ridge Parkway runs through the County for 30 miles along the eastern spine and anchors an emerging tourism economy.
The Town of Floyd, population 450, is the County Seat and largest village. Prior to the 1960’s Floyd’s economy was primarily local and sustainable. Over the next 2 decades the modern world called away many young people and the population decreased. By the late 1970’s a new generation of settlers began to arrive seeking a rural refuge and over time have come to inhabit that spirit of independence and sustainable living. During the last 3 decades many newcomers have joined with old-timers to create a renaissance that has added new life and texture to the community. No where is this more evident than in the town of Floyd itself.
What makes Floyd County unique, among other things, is the level to which it encompasses traditional values from both the old-time community and the newcomers. A high percentage of residents hold a reverential attitude toward the place. The County is a study in contrasts. For example Floyd has both a high speed fiber optic network and more miles of gravel road than any county in Virginia. It is considered one of the best places in America to hear traditional old-time mountain music but you can also enroll in a Twee Naah course at the Laurel Creek School for Chinese Medicine. It is a community where contradictions seem to live in harmony. So it is that Floyd County embodies both the traditional values of Appalachia, and progressive strategies for sustainable rural development so important for the 21st century.
Via Local Partner Organization
SustainFloyd, a local non-profit, will help facilitate the visit with Via International coordinating the activities and monitoring the outcomes. Sustain Floyd will take the lead in discussions and activities pertaining to issues of sustainability. That is, protecting natural resources, organic farming strategies, watershed protection and energy conservation as it relates to the rural environment.