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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to annemarie@southernfoodways.org.

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ORAL HISTORY

Allan Benton


Benton's Smoky Mountain Country Hams

Allan Benton’s grandparents made pork worth bragging about. Born and raised in Scott County, Virginia in Southern Appalachia, his family had little money and raised everything they ate, including their Heritage breed hogs. In the log cabin behind his house, Allan’s family cured hams. Each year when resources and ran low by early fall, his grandparents released the hogs into the Southern Appalachian forest to forage on whatever they could find. It turns out this was part of the secret to those bragging rights; the mast and acorns in the hogs’ diet created very tasty pork. When his grandparents tired of raised hogs they began buying them from Albert Hicks, a dairy farmer in Eastern Tennessee who Allan says, “started making hams and bacon by accident.” After earning a master’s degree and taking a job as a high school guidance counselor in the late 1960s, Allan realized he couldn’t sustain himself on the salary. Around the same time, Albert Hicks retired his ham business. Allan convinced him to lease his business. He called everyone he could think of to learn everything about curing hams and bacon. In 1973, Allan opened Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Hams. What’s rooted his business for more than forty years, the one thing he never changed: his grandparents’ curing recipe.

Date of interview:
2014-02-14

Interviewer:
Sara Wood

Photographer:
Sara Wood

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