Bob Rhoades knows the country. Whether it’s the country in South America, Nepal, or the United States, this professor of anthropology knows agrarian landscapes and lifeways.
Now, his students are engaged in a hands-on project at a 320-acre farm called Agrarian Connections in the piedmont of Georgia’s Oglethorpe County, a short drive from UGA. A number of projects such as the Southern Seed Legacy, the Trail of Time, and the Georgia Log Cabin Project are up and running, and students are learning how the past intersects with the present and future.
“With my students and local citizens, we are studying the historical ecology of the landscapes by using experimental methods and hands-on learning,” says Rhoades. “This farm is like a lifetime painting in which we are creating our personal relationship with the land.”
Since Rhoades purchased the property in 1993, the value of the land as a laboratory for studying biodiversity and sustainability has been steadily rising. With 150 of woodlands and 150 acres of badly eroded farmland, along with 15 acres of federally protected wetlands, Agrarian Connections could be the entire piedmont South in a nutshell.
Along with Dr. Virginia Nazarea of the anthropology department, co-director of the Southern Seed Legacy, Rhoades has seen his dream for the property blossom.
“I was born on a farm in Oklahoma and never quite got the red dirt out from under my fingernails,” says Rhoades. “We’re using interdisciplinary methods borrowed from oral history, archival science, historical archaeology, and ecology to enrich the educational experience for students at the University of Georgia.”