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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

< Back to Oral History project: Sorghum: Southern Sugars


Steve Patterson

Steve Patterson was born in Jasper, Georgia in 1948. The family relocated when his father bought a small farm in Gordon County in 1952. His father worked at Velvetone Mills, one of many textile mills in north Georgia. Patterson and his family grew and preserved all of the food they ate. Though his family never grew or made sorghum, it was always on Patterson’s childhood table.

In the early 1980s, Patterson, his wife Jean, and their two children moved to Rome, Georgia. Their neighbor, Mr. Davis, grew and cooked sorghum every year. Patterson wanted to try his hand at making Sorghum syrup. In 1990, Patterson and his son Nathan grew and cooked their first batch of sorghum. They have continued to make sorghum syrup every year since. With the help of his family and neighbors, Patterson harvests, juices, and processes sorghum cane into syrup. For Patterson, the onerous task is about togetherness. Written on his syrup cooking shed is his motto, “The family that syrups together sticks together.”

Date of interview:

Annemarie Anderson

Annemarie Anderson

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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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