What do collard greens, a Lexington county student’s letter, South Carolina’s state vegetable and Buffalo musician Freddie Vanderford have in common?
They were all topics of discussion at a South Carolina State Senate session held last Thursday.
State Sen. Jake Knotts — a Republican from Lexington County — introduced Vanderford and Mary Grace Wingard — a third-grader at Rocky Creek Elementary in Lexington —during a state Senate assembly in Columbia for their works directly and indirectly with collard greens.
The state Senate approved legislation last month that would designate collard greens as South Carolina’s state vegetable because the state currently does not have an elected state vegetable. The measure, which now moves to the House for consideration, points out that South Carolina ranks second in the nation for production of collards.
Vanderford — an awarding-winning Piedmont Blues harpist — read an article last month about a possible bill declaring collard greens as the state vegetable and so Vanderford called Knotts’ Columbia office to learn more. Vanderford spoke with Doris Taylor in the senator’s office about his connection with the staple vegetable of southern U.S. cuisine. He referred Taylor and Knotts to his Web site where they could view his musical video “Greasy Greens” — a Piedmont Blues traditional about collard greens that has been passed down through generations.
Taylor instructed Vanderford to send a copy of his album also titled “Greasy Greens” to their office and one also to Rocky Creek Elementary. Later that night before receiving a hard copy of Vanderford’s CD, Taylor called Vanderford and instructed him that Sen. Knotts wanted to also introduce Vanderford along with Wingard to the state Senate.
Wingard wrote Knotts a letter advocating for collard greens as the state vegetable following a school field trip to the state house.
“She took Gov. Nikki Haley’s words to ‘get involved’ to heart,” Knotts said referring to Wingard’s letter.
Her push is now one step closer to originating a South Carolina symbol.
In 2009, Mary Grace’s father Charles Wingard — director of field operations at Walter P. Rawl and Sons in Pelion — testified at a USDA Child Nutrition Listening Session urging USDA officials to establish a national policy that encourages salad bars in all schools and to make funding available so schools can buy needed refrigeration and salad bar equipment so they can serve students more fresh fruits and vegetables.
Walter P. Rawl & Sons continues today to operate as a “family farm” with nine family members still working in the business along with an additional 400 employees.
As more elementary schools, students and parents’ concerns fall on the ears of national and state governments more notice is being taken on healthy nutrition and its link to students’ daily consumption of vegetables and fruits.
If this bill passes, not only will more children and adults receive healthy nutrition but all will get a taste of South Carolina’s musical roots as well.
“Piedmont Blues is a style of music that is indigenous to our local region in South Carolina and parts of North Carolina. The kids are getting a message of legislature, farming and music history and arts all in one,” Vanderford added.
Vanderford first learned to play the Piedmont Blues style of harmonica playing from Union County’s very own Arthur “Peg Leg Sam” Jackson.
Vanderford received a 2010 Jean Harris Folk Legacy Award last May — a one-time, annual award presented by the South Carolina General Assembly.
The award for traditional artists recognizes those who practice art forms that have been transmitted through their families and communities. These artists have demonstrated a commitment to keeping their tradition alive and have, in turn, used their art to benefit those around them, according to the South Carolina Arts Commission Web site.
Vanderford performed “Greasy Greens” along with guitarist Brandon Turner on the State House floor in 2010 and also played a small sample of the song for Knotts and Wingard’s family in the State Capitol lobby.
Following Thursday’s visit to the State House, Sen. Knotts and Rocky Creek Principal Lynn Boyleston invited Vanderford and Turner to perform for the student body Monday, May 23.
“They’ll have collards and everything. It’s kind of ironic that the school’s music department issued harmonicas to all third grade students before any of this happened,” Vanderford said.
The chances of collard greens to become South Carolina’s official state vegetable flourishes like Vanderford’s art. This meeting of two legacies will surely produce more proud state symbols for South Carolina.