William Thomas Okie

Graduate Student Excellence-in-Research Award 2013

William Thomas Okie, a recent doctoral graduate in history, has already made significant contributions to the field. His dissertation, “Everything Is Peaches Down in Georgia: Culture and Agriculture in the American South,” is a history of the state’s peach industry. Having grown up in middle Georgia, Okie was well-acquainted with the peach’s iconic status in the region, and his research sought to uncover the environmental, economic and cultural history of this all important commodity. He details the history of peach horticulture and the way the peach fit within the larger history of horticulture as an environmental ideal. But Okie’s work also highlights the impact of the peach industry on labor, urbanization and rural farming. His work is an excellent account not only of agricultural modernization in the South, but also the much broader trends in rural life in an era of globalization. His dissertation has already yielded an award-winning publication in a top journal in his field, and he hopes to publish it as a book.