January 13, 2023, Craig Brandhorst
When Carolinian magazine featured English professor and heirloom foodways expert David Shields in the winter 2019 issue, Shields had recently helped reintroduce Cocke’s Prolific corn to the American farmscape. A variety of field corn once grown by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello, Cocke’s Prolific was thought lost until Shields got wind that the Farmer family in Landrum, South Carolina, had been saving seeds and growing the unusual variety of corn for generations.
Four years later, Shields reached out to the magazine about another South Carolina seed saver, Carold Wicker, whose Newberry County freezer chest is the stuff of legend among farmers, gardeners and heirloom produce detectives like Shields. For the debut installment of Catching Up, we followed Shields to a small family home outside Pomaria, South Carolina, for a glimpse inside Wicker’s freezer and a lesson on the history and lore of Palmetto State produce from the folks who know it best.