Mtn. Talk: Agriculture as Economic Development
It’s officially spring in the mountains – redbuds and dogwoods are in full bloom, trilliums and flox line the forest floor, and many of us are tilling and planting gardens to feed ourselves, our families, and our communities. In this episode we bring you three stories focusing on people who believe in the possibilities of agriculture to become part of the solution to the coal economy’s decline in Central Appalachia. While each of these stories shares that common belief, ideas about how that will happen, and at what scale, vary widely.
First we hear WMMT’s own Jim Webb aka Wiley Quixote interview Jonathon Webb from AppHarvest about their plans to build large-scale high-tech agricultural greenhouses on reclaimed mining sites across Southeastern Kentucky. Webb talks about 40 acre greenhouses in the Netherlands that inspired his work, and some of the challenges of engineering giant glass buildings on the sinking earth of a former mountain-top removal site in Pike County, KY.
Then, we hear a story produced by Benny Becker in 2016 about the annual Appalachian seed swap in Pike county, KY. This piece includes an interview with Joseph Simcox who aims to be a modern day Johnny Appleseed, traveling the world to collect and preserve rare heritage seeds. Simcox advocates for the economic possibilities of small Appalachian farmers working together in collective food hubs to become a viable producer for the eastern united states.
Finally, we hear a story produced by Kelli Haywood in 2017 in which she interviews Letcher County farmer Tim Sanders about his small farm on Indian Creek which has been in his family since white settlers came to Letcher County. Haywood interviewed Sanders about the heritage livestock breeds he raises, and discusses the new opportunities for some additional income for small-scale farmers through selling at county farmers markets in Southeastern Kentucky.