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Cross-Institutional Students Support a Coastal Georgia Legacy

Students pose for photo

This past summer, students in Dr. Nik Heynen’s
service-learning geography course, “Athens
Urban Food Collective” and students from Dr.
Jennifer Jo Thompson’s “Food System
Sustainability, Security, and Resilience” course
joined Spelman University students for a service
learning trip to Sapelo Island. The 18 students
spent the day working on a plot of land in the
Salwater Geechee’s Hog Hammock Community.

The students planted an estimated 1,500 seedlings sourced from UGA’s student
community farm, UGArden. These crops will be grown to support SOLO—Save Our Legacy
Ourself, a nonprofit organization with the mission to preserve the heritage and culture of the
Saltwater Geechee on the island. Maurice Bailey, the president and CEO of SOLO, hopes
this project will start a conversation between Sapelo and the greater community.


“The people on Sapelo have a lot going on, but nobody
knows we’re here or knows our struggle. We are proud
Saltwater Geechee people, and our heritage needs to be
preserved. This place is like nowhere else,” said Maurice
Bailey. Sapelo Island, one of Georgia’s 15 barrier islands, is
home to the largest and most intact community of
Gullah/Geechee in the U.S. However, because there are
more job opportunities off-island, the younger generations
of Saltwater Geechee are moving away, and Hog
Hammock’s current population of 29 is dwindling.
There is more work to be done for Sapelo Island, and while these agricultural projects are
important, a large part of Bailey’s work with SOLO has been traveling throughout Georgia to
raise awareness and advocate for the Hog Hammock community and the preservation of the

“There is the agriculture part of things, but it’s also opened doors to other institutes and
similar-minded people,” Bailey said. “UGA has more reach and more privilege. It’s allowed
us to get into places we had not been able to get into and created more opportunities for
us. The more people outside of Sapelo who know what’s going on, the better chance we

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