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Rural Georgia Reader: The Foxfire series

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

The iconic series compiled by Rabun County high school students is so much more than a history book or how-to guide; Foxfire is a genuine Georgia literary treasure.

In 1966, a group of high school students at Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School published the first issue of Foxfire magazine. It was an assignment from a frustrated young English teacher who had all but given up on teaching the teens. Instead of throwing in the towel, he turned the class over to the students, sending them out into the hills surrounding the school to interview elderly family members and neighbors about their way of life, local history and folklore. The interviews, articles, photographs, recipes, stories and songs the students recorded were printed using money they collected locally. The first printing of the Foxfire magazine sold out in a flash, and before they knew it, the students were shipping each new issue to addresses across the country and around the world. The first Foxfire book, a collection of material from the magazine, was published in 1972 and quickly became a national bestseller.

The rest, as they say, is history. The Foxfire series grew to include 12 Foxfire books as well as multiple cookbooks, songbooks and storybooks documenting and celebrating life in southern Appalachia. While the original idea behind Foxfire was to preserve the wisdom and ways of a unique and perishing culture, the books achieved popularity as instructional guides for a sort of survivalist lifestyle. With money they earned from the book sales, the Foxfire students eventually purchased land in Rabun County and created a Foxfire museum, where Foxfire fans today can see and learn about the customs of Georgia mountain people, from how to process a hog to how to weave a basket, stuff a mattress, build a log home or make moonshine among many, many more traditional practices.

People the world over have found great value in the work a group of rural, north Georgia teens began nearly 60 years ago. And while the oral history and local lore of a distinct region of the state might not interest every rural Georgian, there is ample reason for every rural Georgian to peruse the pages of the Foxfire books. For starters, the rural reader can learn a bit of Georgia history and maybe even learn to do something you never dreamed you’d do. In addition, readers will find inspiration in the stories of the people of Georgia’s mountains and the teenagers who brought notoriety and honor to their home and way of life.

Perhaps the latter is the most significant potential takeaway from the entire Foxfire phenomenon and the reason we, at Georgia’s Rural Center, urge rural readers to check the magazine, books and museum out. The students who first took on the task of documenting their region’s rich history found plenty to take pride in as rural Georgians. As we look to their example, we will undoubtedly identify with the real-life characters Foxfire immortalizes—people who loved the place they called home enough to do whatever it took to make a life they loved there.

The Foxfire series gets its name from a type of bioluminescent fungus that grows on decaying trees in the forests of north Georgia. On moonless nights, it can be seen shining in the deepest, darkest hollows and hills. It is a metaphor not lost on a group of rural high school students all those years ago, and one rural Georgians today can surely grasp as well: No matter your situation, you too can shine, bringing light to your community and revealing to the world why rural Georgia is a uniquely wonderful place to call home.

Learn more about Foxfire and traditional life in rural Appalachia by visiting or following the organization on Facebook or Instagram (@foxfireorg). You can also check out what Garden & Gun magazine had to say about the Foxfire Book of Appalachian Women, released in March 2023, in this recent article.

All images courtesy of The Foxfire Museum.


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