the sally blagg

Family Foundation

Established 1785

environmental stewardship

why we do what we do?


Simply put, we walk the red road like our ancestors before us.

Subsistence farming families of the Upper Saura Towns have been tending to fertile river valleys surrounding Joamoke & the Saura Town Mountains since time immemorial; utilizing sacred waters to connect the sacred tobacco plant with communities of faith across Abya Yala. The landscapes that we continue to steward have been documented by European explorers, from early Iberian soldiers in the 16th century to John Lederer of Hamburg (1669), as well as men of the Virginia Colony including Peter Jefferson (1753) and Peter “Saura Town” Hairston (1786).

Today, we continue to tend food forests for our community elders, advocating for the soil and water to be free of industrial waste, preserving diverse cultural assets in the region, maintaining land management traditions as well across-cultural, faith-based, relationships that transcend contemporary municipal boundaries. One of our biggest projects right now is our oral history work, capturing our elders’ stories about the landscapes for future generations.

Development without Displacement

“Our capacity building work began with Black American families in the former Dutch colonial settlements of New Netherland and New Sweden (the contemporary States of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania). The goal for us then, as it is now, was to create safe spaces for cultural exchange in the public as well as within institutions that are less familiar with the interdependance of the American story. We are of the belief that individuals can develop a story without the telling of that story having an adverse impact on their neighbors cultural memory, religious freedom or psyco-emotional and physical well being.”


Our family and partners work alongsde NGOs, educational institutions, communities of faith and rural farming communities to elevate the profile of their work. A calendar of our partners' curated experiences are listed here for you to discover and explore as you are so moved.

Self Study

A community partner in Historic German Township (Philadelphia) once told us that "leaders are readers," that notion continues to guide our commitment to lifelong educaionthrough travel and study. We have an annual book club, with author talks, and we welcome you to join us!

Landscape Media

Content creation plays an important role in our cultural landscape capacity building work as the arts and music have always played a significant role in maintaining oral histories. All press or other content that we either sponsored or participated in is available here for you to enjoy.

building capacity & self-awareness

The elders teach us that stress and trauma have the potential to change us, on an anatomical level, if we are not able to maintain a faith-based practice of managing energy in motion. We believe that the dynamic impact of movement without self-awareness, or right relationship with the energy within oneself, is most profoundly evident when we observe those amongst us that take on industrial development roles that alter our shared landscapes. Poor self-awareness leads to the dissociated institutional management that continues to have an adverse impacto on diverse landscapes and cultures. We continue to see this pattern first-hand in our homelands in the Saura Yown Mountains; we stand in solidarity with other groups the world over that continue to maintain faith after centuries of pollution due to industrial development, land loss and erasure.

Our capacity building work began in the port-cities of Brooklyn (New York), Buffalo (New York) and Philadelphia (Pennsylvania); the families and earthen traditions of these landscapes have been drastically altered by ‘extractive economics’ since the early 17th century. Our family has had some presence in Brooklyn since at least 1937, working with local builders, NGOs and communities of faith to ensure safety for underserved families in the post WWI era. We would see our fathers, brothers and sons drafted off to war, under the threat of imprisonment, in the years leading up to WWII, and the landscapes have never been the same since.

As a family of tobacco farmers, only moving from the lands of our ancestors when industrial development forced us to do so, we have had the opportunity to see the impact that extractive economics has had on people and places over time. It has become necessary for us to work alongside diverse coalitions, located across post-industrial landscapes, to take on the shared responsibility of environmental restoration. The first step in this process, for us, is hearing people’s stories fro their own perspectives; our capacity building work since 2016, in the Historic German Township section of Philadelphia County, centers improving shared access to the institutions (libraries, museums, galleries, etc.) that are invested in creating safe spaces for diverse groups to fellowship around genealogical research as well as landscape history.

About Us

The Sally Blagg Family Foundation is named in honor of our shared ancestor (Sally Blagg); a medicine woman in the household of Peter “Saura Town” Hairston. Her son, indentured to his father’s estate by the status of his birth (see “Partus sequitur ventrem”), would marry a woman named Edy of the Saura tradition. The same colonial Virginia law that indentured Sally Blagg and her son Tip, resulted in the de jure freedom of Tip and Edy’s children; their mother being documented as a ‘free person of color.’ The complexity of our story is not unique, all families have histories that are nuanced and our foundation is committed to supporting the telling of fuller stories and the maintenance of subsequent subsistence farming traditions.

Since 2008, our sitting managing director has been convening subject matter experts that live, work and play in urban as well as rural post-industrial communities. The intent was to gain a dynamic understanding of the urban-rural divide as it continues to present itself in Erie County (New York). Our approach begins with our leadership team taking up residence in the places that we seek to build capacity, we then engage institutional partners based on the advice of our neighbors, in this manner our quality of life improves alongside other families inside of the landscapes and our neighbors are able to manage efforts in our absence. We are positioned as strategic partners in the community capacity building process, not to build dependance but to be the support for the natural restoration process as it takes root.


Our Vision

Collective vision is difficult without a dynamic understanding of the existing conditions across interdependent landscapes. Our organizational visioning begins by centerin (1) public policy that prioritizes community engagement in land development processes, (2) marketing rural subsistence farming agribusinesses and faith-based advocacy efforts, (3) rural downtown business attraction, arts/music festival development & transit planning, and (4) the coordination of regional economic development by centering ecotourism and stargazing.

We Specialize in

The time tested tradition of storytelling, in small groups around an open fire, preferably over a cup of tea and the occasional herbal blend wrapped in the sacred tobacco leaf. It is in the process of fellowship over fire, sharing our stories under the stars, that seems to almost ignite the very spirit of the work. We specialize in the curation of safe spaces within which lessons can be shared. Stories, the poetic flow of the mind and heart, carry with them the medicine that is necessary for us to hone in on both who and where we want to be, as a collective.

Our Impact

Our managing director speaks to impact in an article written at the tail end of our work on the ground in German Township (Pennsylvania) back in 2021 saying, “our success will be defined by the next generation of young girls coming out of 19144 and Sally Blagg will be ready to offer those young women an opportunity to design safe spaces in the world with us.” It has been six (6) years since we began working with high school students in the 19144 zip code, and almost a decade since we began to bring local youth with us to the public policy table. In the ‘24 - ’25 academic school year we will begin to evaluate our social impact by returning to some of the youth that we have worked with, finding where they are in their process and continuing to offer support and/or guidance as it is needed.

Our Impact

Over time we have been a partner in the discovery and awareness of personal experiences and environmental factors that help shape our collective environment, culture, and opportunities. We anchored this work, for a long time, in the Delaware and Hudson River Valleys in a very hands-off manner. In 2024 we will return to the landscapes for the release of some of our findings while working for a decade in the region. Along the way we will share the stories of cummunities where we work so that they may be able to speak to our social impact.

At the intersection of People & Place

Our focus on narrative-keeping in the preservation process is essential as it has been the mishandling of first-person narratives throughout history that has led to abuse, coercion, manipulation, and the ongoing suppression of voices. Our idea is that if we commit to the creation of safe species for cultural exchange, for accountability partnership inside of our shared narratives, then we will be better together. Let’s get back to work!

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