Mountain News & World Report: Entrepreneurship & Arts-based Economic Development in Central Appalachia

Shannon Mullins, winner of an entrepreneurship competition at the Univ. of Pikeville earlier this year

In this edition of WMMT’s Mountain News & World Report, we hear about new approaches to economic development here in central Appalachia.  We begin with a conversation with Justin Prater of the Kentucky Innovation Network.  Justin sat down with WMMT’s Mimi Pickering to discuss the University of Pikeville’s second annual start-up challenge, which will take place this winter and is open to any and all residents of southeast Kentucky who are interested in starting or growing their own business.  The deadline to submit a business plan is November 29, and there will be $5,000 in cash rewards handed out.  For more on guidelines, email [email protected].

For another approach to economic development in the mountains, we then head to southwest Virginia, home of The Crooked Road, Virginia’s heritage music trail.  In recent years, through careful planning, this project has helped Appalachian traditional music become an economic asset for the region from which it comes. From the WMMT archives, WMMT’s Rich Kirby has this report, which originally aired in late 2012.

Finally, we also hear two shorts from the Public News Service–in one story, we hear about how despite a great deal of heated rhetoric on the issue, West Virginia might be able to meet its energy reduction goals under the EPA’s proposed new carbon rules mostly through increased energy efficiency; and in the other, we hear that healthcare reform has thus far not been the financial disaster that many had predicted.

Mountain News & World Report is a bi-weekly production of WMMT. To hear previous episodes, check out our streaming archives.

Coal Report for November 21, 2014

graphic from Appalachian Voices, one of the citizen groups preparing to file suit against Frasure Creek for violations of the Clean Water Act // found via

Alpha Natural Resources has announced even more layoffs in Central Appalachia this month.   Most recently, the West Virginia State Journal reports that Alpha will be idling the Taylor Fork mine in Pike County, Kentucky, and reducing production at two mines in West Virgina: at the Ruby Energy mine in Mingo County and at the Rockspring Development mine in Wayne County.  All of these mines produce thermal coal.  In total, 60 people will be laid off in the short-term, and another 26 people will be retained temporarily to shut down operations at the Taylor Fork mine in Pike County.  Alpha said these layoffs occurred because of “an oversupply of thermal coal in the marketplace.”

Alpha also announced this month that it will permanently idle the Cucumber metallurgical mine in McDowell County, W.Va.  According to the Bluefield Daily TelegraphAlpha blamed this on the weak market for metallurgical coal, which is used to make steel—global met coal prices are the lowest they have been in seven years, and producers the world over are suffering Continue reading Coal Report for November 21, 2014

Coal Report for November 13, 2014

former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, right, on vacation in Monaco with former West Virginia Supreme Court Justice "Spike" Maynard // photo from the Associated Press, found via

Don Blankenship has been indicted.  According to a release from the US Attorney’s Office (and read more from the Charleston Gazette here, here, & here), the former CEO of Massey Energy was charged four times—including two counts of conspiracy to violate mine safety and health standards and hide those violations, one count of lying to the Securities and Exchange Commission, and another of securities fraud.  Massey owned the Upper Big Branch Mine, where 29 coal miners were killed at once on April 5, 2010 in Raleigh County,WV, in a massive methane explosion.  The charges allege that between January 1, 2008 and April 9, 2010, Blankenship, in his position as Massey CEO, knowingly conspired to violate federal mine health and safety standards at Upper Big Branch, and also took part in a conspiracy to give workers at the mine advance notice of when inspectors were coming so that they could hide safety violations.  Prosecutors also allege that Blankenship lied to the Securities and Exchange Commission after the explosion about Massey’s health and safety standards to buoy the value of Massey stock.

These are landmark charges—as the Charleston Gazette has reported, it is rare for the CEOs themselves of major coal companies to be indicted.  Back in 2011, the paper quoted mine safety advocate Davitt McAteer of saying that normally, “Enforcement doesn’t reach into the boardroom.”  Blankenship has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing at Upper Big Branch, even though government and independent investigations all blamed Massey for the explosion, specifically the violation of Continue reading Coal Report for November 13, 2014

Mountain Talk: Heirloom Apples & Beans with Tom Brown & Bill Best

heirloom apple collector Tom Brown

In this edition of WMMT’s Mountain Talk, we hear about two unique Appalachian heirloom foods and their collectors.

As we are now knee-deep in autumn, apple season is once again upon us here in the mountains.   So we begin this show, appropriately enough, with an interview with Tom Brown, an heirloom apple collector from North Carolina.  Brown became interested in finding and saving heritage apples in 1999, and to date he has discovered over 1,000 apple varieties.  He recently joined host Sylvia Ryerson in the WMMT studio to share his knowledge about and passion for unique apple varieties.  You can learn more about his work at

Also in this program, we hear about heirloom beans from another renowned collector–Bill Best of Kentucky.  Best founded the Sustainable Mountain Agriculture project in Berea, and has gained global recognition for his practice of saving heirloom beans.  In this program, we hear an excerpt from a talk Best gave at the inaugural gathering of the Appalachian Food Summit, which took place in Hindman, Ky. in May of 2014.

Mountain Talk, WMMT’s weekly conversation, airs each Monday & Wednesday at 6 p.m. To hear previous episodes, check out the Mountain Talk archives, or the archives for What’s Cookin’ Now!, which airs on the first Wednesday of every month.

Coal Report for November 6, 2014

the Farmington Mine explosion of November 20, 1968 // photo via wikipedia (who says it's in the public domain--though it appears from this post on the Charleston Gazette's Coal Tattoo blog that the photo was taken by the Gazette's Larry Pierce (

A new lawsuit is alleging that Consolidation Coal covered up evidence as to what caused the Farmington Mine Disaster, which killed 78 coal miners in 1968.  The Charleston Gazette reports that the disaster happened 46 years ago this month, when an explosion ripped through Consolidation Coal’s No. 9 mine in Farmington, West Virginia, killing 78 of the 99 workers underground at the time.  Even though the disaster led to a landmark federal mine safety law the next year, the government investigation into it was never really finished, and for decades, investigators said they couldn’t definitively say what actually caused the explosion.

But recently uncovered evidence cited in this lawsuit suggests the company tried to cover up their role in the disaster.  This lawsuit says that MSHA found explosive levels of methane gas in the mine the day before the explosion, and “inadequate overall” ventilation to keep these methane levels down, including ventilation fans not working.  The suit references a long-hidden memo saying that Consolidation Coal had intentionally disabled the alarm system on the ventilation fans, which is Continue reading Coal Report for November 6, 2014

What’s Cookin’ Now: Bourbon!

barrels aging at the Labrot and Graham distillery (Woodford Reserve)// photo by Jonathan Piercy

In this edition of The World’s Only Live Radio Cooking Extravaganza That We Know Of, our fearless hosts take inspiration from the changing seasons to theme the show around something guaranteed to warm you up on a chilly autumn evening–bourbon!  Using our Commonwealth’s signature booze as their artistic muse (the rhyming you get here at our website is free!), in this show, Jenny and Jonathan create: bourbon-glazed pecans!  Bourbon-infused chicken wing sauc!  And even bourbon-based bread pudding!  There are also tastings, cocktails (of course), and more!

Also in this program, we bring you a special feature–an interview Jonathan conducted with restaurateur, author, and Top Chef judge Hugh Acheson.  He & Jonathan discuss bourbon, Southern food, and kohlrabi, among other things.  Acheson was a Celebrity Guest Chef at The Bourbon Social, which took place Oct. 10-12 in Lexington.

What’s Cookin’ Now! airs live on the first Wednesday of every month at 6 p.m. For more on the show, check out their blog:, filled with photos, recipes, commentary, and more. And to hear previous episodes, check out our streaming archive.

Mountain News & World Report: Small Businesses in the Mountains

the interior of the Roundabout Music Company, a brand-new, independent record/instrument store in Whitesburg, Ky.

As we continue in these hard times to try to find new ways forward for our mountain communities, in this edition of WMMT’s Mountain News & World Report, we hear about small businesses in the central Appalachia.  In our first story, we hear from Paul Wright of MACED about the potential small businesses have to impact the local economy, and we hear from Josh May, co-owner of Roundabout Music Company  (a brand-new, independent record store in Whitesburg, Ky.), about starting a small business in our region and what resources there are to help nearby–including, a website that allows you to enter your zip code and see what business resources there might be close to you.

Also in this program, we re-air a story from the WMMT archives (originally heard in October of 2012) on the White Oak Pumpkin Patch, another small business in Morgan County, Ky.  Their business is still going strong, and showcases a creative way of transitioning what was once tobacco-rich land into a new kind of family farm.

Mountain News & World Report is a bi-weekly production of WMMT. To hear previous episodes, check out our streaming archives.

Appearing live at WMMT’s BGX Live TONIGHT: Larry Sparks!

Doors open at 7pm.  Call us at 606-633-0108 with questions or reservations.  We’ll seeya Thursday!  And if you absolutely can’t make it out, you can always catch the show live on WMMT.