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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

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Russell Chisholm

Born in 1968, Russell Chisholm grew up in Michigan. He and his family moved to Southwest Virginia in 1995 after he was discharged from the army. A veteran of Desert Storm, he appreciated the community relationship within coffee houses, and decided to open one when he moved to Southwest Virginia. Chisholm ran his business for fifteen years. Over the years, he gradually learned more and more about the coffee industry. He cultivated relationships with farmers and began roasting his own coffee. Eventually, he closed the retail portion of his business and began solely roasting coffee.

At the beginning of the Pandemic, Chisholm’s partner farmers first sounded the alarm to the difficulties of the pandemic. In 2020, Chisholm learned of a virtual tip jar in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a grassroots mutual aid organization that helped service industry folks negatively impacted by the pandemic. Chisholm founded the Southwest Virginia Tip Jar to collect donations and serve service industry professionals impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic in largely rural Southwest Virginia. At its height, the organization served around 470 people in the New River region.

Date of interview:

Jessica Taylor


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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


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