Wall Street Journal: The Rise of Food Tourism in Appalachia

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tasty.

The tofu wings at Charleston’s Bluegrass Kitchen. Photo by Nic Persinger/WSJ

By Melanie D.G. Kaplan

Growing up in the heart of Appalachia—specifically, the Kentucky coal-mining town of Hazard—my friend Travis Fugate had little variety in his cuisine. Pinto beans, unsweetened cornbread and fried cabbage were staples. At a young age, he knew he wanted more flavor, diversity and excitement in his meals.

The region isn’t just a major source of coal; it’s one of the most agriculturally abundant areas in the U.S.

He eventually found that elsewhere, but it turns out he didn’t need to leave Appalachia to do so. The region, which covers parts of 12 states between New York and Mississippi (plus all of West Virginia) isn’t just a major source of coal; it’s one of the most agriculturally abundant areas in the U.S. Everything from rhubarb to ramps grows there, and farming, canning and pickling are important aspects of the local food heritage.

The mountainous terrain that gave rise to so much bounty – and created a distinct culture and dialect – has also kept the region geographically isolated and in many ways, lagging behind nationally.

Appalachia continues to rank low in terms of income, employment, education and health. Traditional dishes reflect some of those challenges: Soup beans, made from dried legumes and a bit of pork for flavoring, is cheap to make; stack cake is said to have originated with friends and family contributing layers to build a wedding cake, which would otherwise have been prohibitively expensive.

Only in recent years have chefs begun to recognize and riff on this rich heritage.

Only in recent years have chefs begun to recognize and riff on this rich heritage. And a new initiative by the Appalachian Regional Commission, an economic development agency, aims to promote it.

The Bon Appétit Appalachia! map and website, launched this summer, spotlight hundreds of the region’s most distinctive food destinations, from farmers’ markets to craft breweries to cafes that serve locally sourced berries and beets. On the list are spots like the SustainFloyd Farmers Market in the funky town of Floyd, Va., off the Blue Ridge Parkway; and a small, legal moonshine operation in Gilbert, a hardscrabble blip of a town in the coalfields of West Virginia…

Read the full story at www.wsj.com

Charleston Gazette: Locals Begin Organizing for Charleston Solar Co-Op

sunny.

Photo by Steve Jurvetson/FlickrCC

By Caitlin Cook

The six solar panels on Tom Worlledge’s home charge his plug-in Prius in about five hours. Worlledge plans to add more solar panels to his home soon. He is interested in joining Charleston first solar co-op.

Thom Worlledge was 17 when he attended the World’s Fair in Spokane, Washington where he grew up. There was a solar hot water heater in the Australian pavilion that changed his outlook on renewable energy.

Last summer, Worlledge installed six solar panels to his South Hills home. Worlledge is planning to add six more panels soon, and hopefully with the help of a new Charleston solar co-op.

“I stuck my hand in the water and burnt my finger,” Worlledge said. “I realized there’s something to this.”

Last summer, Worlledge installed six solar panels to his South Hills home. Worlledge is planning to add six more panels soon, and hopefully with the help of a new Charleston solar co-op.

WV Sun is hosting the first meeting for the Charleston solar co-op at the West Virginia State University Economic Development Center Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. The building is located at 1506 Kanawha Blvd. on Charleston’s West Side.

Ben Delman, communications manager for Community Power Network, the umbrella organization WV Sun operates under, said purchasing the solar units as a larger group will be a better deal for consumers. Customers typically save around 20 percent on the systems that can cost around $15,000 to install.

Read the full story at www.wvgazette.com

Follow the author on Twitter @caitlincookWV

Charleston Gazette: Music Hall a Rockin’ Good Draw for Webster County

the music.

Photo by Chris Dorst/wvgazette

By Rick Steelhammer

Renee and Dusty Anderson spent eight years building an indoor concert venue from locally harvested poplar logs and host a summer music series that, despite its remote location, is well attended and now in its 13th season.
The Jerry Run Theater is located in Webster County just north of Holly River State Park.

Dusty Anderson’s vision for an off-the-beaten-track music venue at the mouth of Jerry Run in the mountains of Webster County seemed a bit far-fetched to some of his neighbors — in fact, Anderson himself wasn’t sure anyone would come once his Field-of-Dreams theater project was complete.

Jerry Run Summer Theater is now in its 13th season of connecting musicians with music lovers, some of them traveling hundreds of miles…

“After driving by the building for the seven or eight years Dusty worked on it, I’m sure some of our neighbors thought it would never be finished,” said Anderson’s wife, Renee, a retired teacher.

“I just like music and building things,” said Anderson, a recently retired carpenter who plays electric bass. “I thought that if no one came to play or hear music here, at least I’d have a good place to jam with my friends.”

But Anderson’s dream turned out to be a shared vision. Jerry Run Summer Theater is now in its 13th season of connecting musicians with music lovers, some of them traveling hundreds of miles for the chance to spend a Friday or Saturday night dining on hot dogs in the theater’s concession area, managed by Renee, and then reclining in the theater’s spacious seating to take in some live bluegrass, gospel, rock, blues, or Americana folk music channeled through a sound system operated by Dusty.

“A friend of ours said it’s a good cheap date night,” said Renee. “For $20, you get food, a show and at least some of the gas to get here.”

Read the full story at wvgazette.com

 

Herald-Dispatch: The Wheel Starting to Turn For a Bike Friendly West Virginia

bike on.

Photo by Zlatko Unger/FlickrCC

West Virginia still has a steep hill to climb in terms of being one of the most bicycle-friendly states in the country, but it appears to be making some progress, according to new state-by-state rankings.

Moving the needle upward for West Virginia this year was a law passed in 2014 that requires motorists to allow three feet of space when passing a bicyclist and improvements in two primary categories: legislation and enforcement, and infrastructure and funding.

The creation of the Paul Ambrose Trail for Health, a combination of new trails and existing city streets, has opened up more bicycling paths for local residents. 

Huntington also has made strides in recent years to encourage bicycling. The creation of the Paul Ambrose Trail for Health, a combination of new trails and existing city streets, has opened up more bicycling paths for local residents. The city of Huntington also has marked bicycle lanes on many streets, and has passed ordinances that put local laws governing bicycle traffic in line with state law improvements.

The number of bicycle enthusiasts also has increased. Group bicycle rides have grown from just a few participants at a time several years ago to more than 100 taking part in monthly free rides in the area…

Read the full story at www.herald-dispatch.com

State Journal: $35 Million to Help Coal Communities

abandoned.

Photo by kartografia/FlickrCC

By Sarah Tincher

Many Appalachians who are suffering as a result of the coal industry decline can now look forward to a little relief, thanks to a $35.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Grants will help recipients build economic resilience, industry diversification and promote new job creation opportunities.

The DOL, in conjunction with the Department of Commerce, the Small Business Administration and the Appalachian Regional Commission, have made the funding available to help communities and workers adapt to changes in the coal industry and power sector.

Grants will help recipients build economic resilience, industry diversification and promote new job creation opportunities, DOL said in a news release. Funds will be granted competitively to partnerships of regionally-driven economic development and workforce development organizations in impacted coal communities, DOL stated.

Read the full story at www.statejournal.com

 

WV Focus: Could Teach for America Fix WV’s Broken Education System?

hands up.

Photo by Shay Maunz/WV Focus

By Shay Maunz

Teach For America got its start in 1989 when its founder, Wendy Kopp, was still a student at Princeton University and wrote her senior thesis on inequity within America’s public education system.

Low-income kids weren’t performing nearly as well as their richer peers, she wrote, and educators couldn’t figure out how to make up for the deeply entrenched economic and social barriers holding them back. Plus, there was a nationwide teacher shortage at hand.

We needed a plan.

The solution Kopp pitched was simple but revolutionary— that is, bold, rebellious, and destined for controversy.

The solution Kopp pitched was simple but revolutionary— that is, bold, rebellious, and destined for controversy.

She would recruit top college graduates to teach for two years in needy school districts, forming a corps of smart young teachers with a passion for ending education inequality.

The schools would have more teachers available for hire, the college graduates would get an indepth look at the plight within America’s education system, and the students would get to be taught by top-notch college graduates.

She called her new project Teach For America, called her bright young teachers “corps members,” and launched TFA in 1990 with 384 recruits.

Since then, Teach For America has been lauded and admired, doubted and despised. Could it fix West Virginia’s broken education system?

Read the full story at www.wvfocus.com

Daily Mail: Tomblin Says Craft Beer Bill an Investment in Tourism Economy

beer making place.

Mountain State Brewing Co.

By Samuel Speciale.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Monday formally signed into law bills that will expand craft beer sales and provide special funds to promote tourism in the Mountain State.

Introducing the bills, Tomblin called for more support to the craft beer industry, which he said is one of the fastest growing niche markets in West Virginia. There are currently 11 craft breweries around the state, a number that has tripled in the last decade. About 6,000 barrels of beer were produced last year.

Tomblin also said the state would see a return on its investments in tourism as the industry generates more than $5 billion in revenue annually while supporting 46,000 jobs.

Tomblin said the state would see a return on its investments in tourism as the industry generates more than $5 billion in revenue annually while supporting 46,000 jobs.

The craft beer bill, as it was termed after Tomblin proposed it during his January State of the State address, was sponsored by Senate President Bill Cole and Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler. It received bipartisan support in both legislative chambers, passing the Senate and House 32-2 and 87-11, respectively.

At the signing ceremony, Tomblin also announced a statewide craft beer week from Aug. 15-22.

Tomblin also signed a bill that will increase advertising funding for the state Division of Tourism, allowing the state to promote “Wild, Wonderful West Virginia” in neighboring states, Washington, D.C. and select international markets.

The bill, which passed the Senate and House almost unanimously, sets aside funds solely to be used for marketing, advertising and public relations efforts that promote travel and tourism in West Virginia.

Read the full story at www.charlestondailymail.com

Follow the author on Twitter: @samueljspeciale

10 Ways to Bring Value to Others in Your Community (and Make Friends and Influence People…)

meet me.

Photo by Catherine Moore/What’s Next WV

In my last post I related a number of proven characteristics that define Dying Communities v Successful Communities.

The differences between communities that prosper and those that flounder are often tied very closely to the expansiveness, inclusiveness and diversity of “The Network” – the social fabric – within that community.

Which of course leads one to ask: “So how do we build a stronger, larger, more vibrant network?”

I suggest we do so by intentionally practicing community-minded behavior and incorporating this behavior into our networking.

Networks are chaotic and constantly changing. People and organizations plug in and out as they see value. Network connections flow to value. If you are one of the nodes in your local network, the more value you bring to others, they more they will want to connect with you.

Here are 10 ways you can begin the work of building your community by bringing value to others in the community development network. (Thanks to the Pomegranate Center for this list…)

1. Take interest in other people’s passions as much as you want them to be interested in yours. 

We all have ideas for how life should be. The thing is that, unless we are unsurpassed geniuses, we only see a small part of the picture. Asking others what they see can only enhance understanding.

2. Become a mentor to others less involved in their community. 

In every community there is a small, overworked group of leaders who try to figure out everything for everyone. This will not do. If you are such a leader, mentor someone with less experience. If you are not, approach someone and ask them to mentor you.

3. Support a cause with no direct personal benefit. 

We are involved with the things we care about the most. That’s natural. My experience tells me, however, that the most interesting and possibly most important discoveries happen in the spaces between interests and disciplines and ideologies. Step outside your natural zone and your comfort zone… it’s necessary for uncovering new solutions.

4. Invite “them” to your meeting.

It is convenient to show our importance by pitting “us” against “them.” But “they” may have insights that will help us better understand the problem and appreciate the marvelous tensions that form a healthy community.

5. Reject the tendency to blame. 

Everyone plays a role in the problem and everyone must participate in the solution. Practice compassion towards those, who, like ourselves, unwittingly contribute to the problem they wish to solve.

Everyone plays a role in the problem and everyone must participate in the solution.

6. Confront internal contradictions. 

Claiming the problem is someone else’s doing only conveniently absolves us from doing our part. If I drive my car and complain about traffic jams, it’s necessary that I acknowledge my contribution to that traffic.

7. Practice industrial-strength listening. 

Do not react until you’ve listened to, heard and digested the information and viewpoints of everyone around you. You’ll be much wiser for it, and appreciated by others as a considerate and knowledgeable participant.

8. Render unto community…

Shrink your home to what is necessary and conduct the rest of your life in the community. Invest in things that integrate you into your community.

9. Clarify your image of the future.

I find that most decisions we make are shaped by impulses so deeply ingrained we fail to be aware of them. Unexamined impulse is prejudice. Examined impulse, once confirmed, is guidance that leads to something better. Examine your embedded assumptions, embrace the relevant ones and discard the rest. What remains is a clear intuition, an image of a possible future. Then engage with others to make it a reality.

10. Resist the temptation to choose between the ideal and the reality.

Hold them both in your awareness. Learn to enjoy the creativity and humor this tension offers. It can be quite funny. It’s not an either/or decision – it’s an and/plus opportunity.

Hello Kent.

Ponder On, People: Putting Purpose Behind Your Communications Pieces

ponderosa.

Photo by christopher_brown/Flickr CC

Whether it’s a blog entry, a Facebook post or a press release, before you even sit down and start pounding on the computer keyboard you should ask yourself one very important question:

Why?

Why are you about to write what you are about to write?

What are you hoping the end result will be of this communications piece you’re about to produce?

I don’t mean this in a “why I am here,” up-in-the-middle-of-the-night, pondering the big question kind of way. I mean it in the most literal, nuts and bolts sense.

What are you hoping the end result will be of this communications piece you’re about to produce?

If you’re not exactly sure, then you are the perfect candidate to play the “Always Annoying But Surprisingly Useful Always Ask Why” game! Excited?

 

Here’s an example of how this works,
and how it will help you shape your communications pieces
to produce the outcome you really want.

Hypothetical: It’s that time of year again when your organization starts promoting its annual celebration and working bee.

“Okay, so I better write a blog post to share on Facebook.”

Why? (Annoying question #1.)

“Well, because we always do.” (Cue “fail” buzzer noise.)

Why? (Annoying question #2.)

“Well, it would be good to  get more people  to help out.”

To do what? (Annoying question #3.)

“To help us with the  clean up. 

What sort of people? (Annoying question #4.)

“It would be great to see  some new faces. 

Okay. Now we’re getting somewhere.

Whereas what we started with was a fairly general piece about your event, what we ended up with was some very specific action asks and targets for your piece.

For example, here’s the very specific and useful things that came out of this example of the “Always Annoying But Surprisingly Useful Always Ask Why” game.

This piece of content should:

  • Include a  large “sign up” box  in a prominent place, or highlight how people can sign up to help.
  • Include a nice big  photo of people helping out  in previous years, and having fun!
  • Be written for  people who are not familiar with the group  or project.
  • Be promoted  outside the orgs’ existing email list  (to attract new faces).

So, next time you are getting set to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard), take a moment and ask yourself “why?” And then ask it again. And again…

The result will be a communications piece that is strategic, intentional, and has a better chance of helping your organization achieve its immediate goals!

About Jake.

WV DNR: North Bend Rail Trail to Receive $1 million + for Improvements

the trail.

Photo courtesy North Bend Rails to Trails Foundation.

The North Bend Rail Trail (NBRT) that crosses four counties in north-central West Virginia recently was awarded grant funding of a little more than $1 million for continued trail improvements, repairs and maintenance.

The eastern counties that the North Bend Rail Trail dissects will be the primary work focus for funding.

The North Bend Rail Trail is popular with hikers, bikers, horseback riding and walkers. It features 13 tunnels, is relatively flat, and stretches 72 miles beginning in Happy Valley in Wood County and ending in Harrison County near Wolf Summit.

“The North Bend Rail Trail Foundation was a key factor in the success of achieving grant funding,” said Ryan Burns with the West Virginia Division of Highways (WVDOH). “The foundation raised funds used to match initial grant requirements.”

More info: www.northbendrailtrail.net