4th Annual Growing Appalachia

Growing Appalachia logo

The fourth annual Growing Appalachia conference, an event hosted by the Floyd County chapter of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, was a great success. Nearly 120 people turned out on March 9, 2013 for the day of workshops about ways to earn and save money through small-scale agriculture, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. Many who attended learned about the event through local media and publicity. Evaluations of the day expressed hope, enthusiasm, and gratitude about the day.

“Twelve months ago, if I heard the name ‘KFTC’ I’d probably move fast in the other direction,” said one participant. “But I’m amazed to learn more about the organization and all the different work you are doing.”

Throughout the day workshops were offered on topics ranging from extending the growing season to harvesting wild edibles and medicinal herbs, and from building low-cost, low-energy homes to do-it-yourself energy efficiency strategies. Other classes focused on small-scale dairy production and beginning organic gardening. Participants also enjoyed workshops on canning food, renewable energy in the mountains, and community supported agriculture. Many sessions were led by local KFTC members, while others were taught by experienced farmers and housing contractors who donated their time.

Cody Montgomery

Over lunch a panel of local entrepreneurs discussed their challenges and successes in building new business opportunities in eastern Kentucky. One panelist, a Floyd County farmer named Todd Howard, described his journey from being laid off in 2010 to starting to farm and helping to build a thriving Floyd County farmers’ market. “I think we are just scraping the surface of what the local food economy can be here.”

Amelia Kirby, who together with her husband launched a successful restaurant and bar in downtown Whitesburg, also shared her experiences with a start-up business. “We thought about the kinds of things that we leave eastern Kentucky for. We leave town for better food, live music, and art. So that’s what we’ve worked to create. We found there are tons of resources and capacity in our local community. We’ve been able to draw on the amazing skills and strength of local people. And a lot of pieces sort of fell together.”

A third panelist, Berea College professor David Cooke, described lessons he’s learned about entrepreneurship in the mountains over many years as an extension agent in southern West Virginia. “Do something you love,” he urged. “Starting a new business is going to take everything you’ve got. So make sure it’s something you love to do.”

The Floyd County chapter is already discussing their plans for 2014 and workshops they plan to offer throughout the year. If you would like to join the ongoing discussion, join us on the Facebook group "Growing Appalachia" at https://www.facebook.com/groups/424672807618375

 

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