Subsistence farming was the livelihood of many Red River Gorge settlers. Subsistence farmers made or grew most everything they owned. Livestock was essential. Chickens were raised for eggs, hogs for meat, cows for milk, sheep for wool, and mules for plowing the land. Corn was the single most important crop to subsistence farmers of the Red River Gorge. To feed the livestock, large quantities of corn were grown in the area’s fertile soil. Corn was also ground into meal for cornbread and other food items.
What little money they had come from selling tobacco and surplus corn (sometimes in the form of moonshine). Livestock was also sold or traded for goods which could not be made. Additionally, families hunted wild game and gathered wild plants to supplement their diet, especially in the event of a flood or drought. Wild plants such as yellow root, bloodroot, and ginseng were also commonly gathered and used for medicinal purposes.