Join us for a Sunday afternoon presentation and signing with internationally renowned horticulturalist and heirloom seed saver John Coykendall and Award-winning documentary filmmaker Christina Melton featuring their important new book, PRESERVING OUR ROOTS: My Journey to Save Seeds and Stories.
For over four decades, John Coykendall’s passion has been preserving the farm heritage of a small community in rural southeastern Louisiana. A Tennessee native and longtime master gardener at Blackberry Farm, Coykendall has become a celebrity in a growing movement that places a premium on farm-to-table cuisine with locally sourced, organic, and heirloom foods and flavors. While his work takes him around the world searching for seeds and the cultural knowledge of how to grow them, what inspires him most is his annual pilgrimage to Louisiana.
Drawn to the Washington Parish area as a college student, Coykendall forged long-lasting friendships with local farmers and gardeners. Over the decades, he has recorded oral histories, recipes, tall tales, agricultural knowledge, and wisdom from generations past in more than eighty illustrated and handwritten journals. At the same time, he has unearthed and safeguarded rare varieties of food crops once grown in the area, then handed them back to the community.
In Preserving Our Roots: My Journey to Save Seeds and Stories, Coykendall shares a wealth of materials collected in his journals, ensuring they are passed on to future generations. Organized by season, the book offers a narrative chronicle of Coykendall’s visits to Washington Parish since 1973. He highlights staple crops, agricultural practices, and favorite recipes from the families and friends who have hosted him. Accompanied by a rich selection of drawings, journal pages, and photographs—along with over forty recipes—Preserving Our Roots chronicles Coykendall’s passion for recording foods and narratives that capture the rhythms of daily life on farms, in kitchens, and across generations.
John Coykendall, an internationally renowned horticulturalist and seed saver, is master gardener at Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee. A classically trained artist, he holds an MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
Christina Melton is an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award-winning documentary filmmaker from Louisiana, whose work includes Atchafalaya Houseboat and A Summer of Birds: John James Audubon in Louisiana.
"John Coykendall fiercely defends the roots of what makes us human by restoring authentic flavors to our communal table. Drawing on a lifetime of research and observation, he warns of our threatened biodiversity by telling the stories of a fading generation and the simple seeds that provided nourishment and a taste of home." -Poppy Tooker, host of Louisiana Eats!"In Louisiana, our roots run deep, both in our ancestry and our gardens. Memories are sown in the garden patch. Amazing how a tiny seed not only nurtures our soul but preserves our heritage. Thanks be to God for a man like John Coykendall, who keeps the seeds of hope alive—in the garden." -Chef John D. Folse, author of The Encyclopedia of Cajun & Creole Cuisine"Preserving Our Roots explores the meanings of lives in which one grows one’s own food, saves one’s own seed, and shares meals with one’s family and neighbors. Coykendall and Melton have captured it all—the seed lore, the recipes, the tales—and adorned them with Coykendall's evocative drawings." -David S. Shields, author of Southern Provisions: The Creation and Revival of a Cuisine