Big Sandy chapter hosts sixth annual Growing Appalachia conference

Posted by: Jessie Skaggs on March 30, 2015

Sharing ideas about community!

On Saturday March 21, over 80 people from around eastern Kentucky came to the sixth annual Growing Appalachia conference in Prestonsburg, which is a day of workshops about small-scale farming, energy efficiency and renewables.

Workshops were organized so that whatever scale you were working at or whatever your interest was, there was something for everyone that day. Covered topics included beginning beekeeping, learning about the cooperative business model, planning your home garden, a discussion on growing our own clean energy future in the mountains, soil building and nutrient management, do-it-yourself energy efficiency, seed saving, and more!

In addition to gaining practical skills and knowledge in the offered workshops, lots of people came to the conference for the chance to get to talk with people from around the region and to continue to build community. “I liked being around like-minded people. People who are interested in and care about the same kinds of things. That was the highlight for me,” said Holly Niehoff, who came from Rowan County.

Will Bowling, a farmer from Clay County, sees the conference as a way to make connections with those who are already farming and to also inspire others who aren’t to get involved in agriculture. “Some of the bigger things are networking to get commercial agriculture growth in the region, beyond farming for yourself but growing a little extra to market to others. Helping people to understand the economic opportunities in farming and talking to people and seeing what they’re doing.”

Others were excited to learn about the possibilities of renewable energy and energy efficiency in the region. After attending the Greening Our Schools workshop where presenters heard from a representative from Richardsville Elementary, the first net zero school in the country, Willis Newsome of Floyd County talked about the potential for similar projects in this region. “I loved the solar thing. I loved the concept, the school being self-sufficient. I reckon that education could be built into it. I’d hope Floyd County would look into it. It would be a good mindset and good for our community to see how it works.”

Bill Best displays his heirloom seeds for folks.

Organizers of the conference were excited to have Bill Best of the Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center in Berea, who is known for his work with heirloom fruits and vegetables, give the keynote address this year. Mr. Best talked about the history of seed saving, how it nearly died out, and people who saved seeds out of necessity helped to maintain the genetic diversity of the region’s beans. For those who are interested in learning more about seed saving or getting heirloom seeds of your own, Mr. Best and others will be participating in the Appalachian Seed Swap on Saturday April 4 in Pikeville. More information can be found on the Facebook group page.

Many folks are interested in keeping the conversations and good work of the conference going all year long. With that goal in mind, additional workshops have already been scheduled for the coming months. On April 14, the Letcher and Harlan County chapters have partnered with the Letcher County Farmer’s Market for a Good Agricultural Practices training to be offered in both Letcher and Harlan counties. And in May, there will be two workshops offered in Floyd County: Getting Started Keeping Chickens and Gardening in Urban/Small Spaces. For more information, visit the event pages on the KFTC calendar.

This year’s Growing Appalachia conference was organized and hosted by the Big Sandy Chapter of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth and co-sponsored by MACED, Community Farm Alliance, Grow Appalachia, the Floyd County Farmer’s Market, Appalachia Roots, and HF Farms. Special appreciation is due to the planning team and to all of the workshop presenters and panelists who generously donated their time and expertise.

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Madison County KFTC celebrates Pi(e) Day with 5th annual Pie Auction

Posted by: KFTC Staff on March 27, 2015

More than 60 people came out for the Madison County KFTC chapter’s 5th annual Pie Auction, and it was a rousing success, chock-full of laughter, puns, cheers for KFTC, and, of course, lots of pie! This year’s annual event was held on Saturday, March 14 at Union Church in Berea. The Pie Auction was extra special this year as it landed on Pi Day – 3.14.15, making this a once-in-a-century Pie Auction. 

Northern Kentucky Returning Citizens Forum

Posted by: Joe Gallenstein on March 23, 2015

The Northern Kentucky chapter of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth held a forum on March 15th raising awareness about the challenges facing former felons upon returning to their community. Member Rick Traud opened the event by welcoming the 40 people who attended, and talking about his personal expreience dealing with former felons trapped in a cycle of poverty as the result of mistakes in their past while working as a volunteer with Saint Vincent De Paul in Northern Kentucky.

Growing Appalachia on WMMT’s Mountain Talk

Posted by: Jessie Skaggs on March 19, 2015

Growing Appalachia on WMMT's Mountain TalkLast week, members of the Growing Appalachia planning committee were guests on WMMT's Mountain Talk, which is a weekly program that covers a wide range of topics pertaining to life in the mountains. Floyd County’s Sister Kathy Curtis and Letcher County’s Valerie Horn were in the studio to talk with host Elizabeth Sanders about the history of the conference, how they got involved, and what people can expect at Saturday’s conference. They were joined in the studio by Jonathan Hootman and Hillary Neff and then joined over the phone by Mark Walden.

SOKY members work toward statewide renters’ rights bill

Posted by: KFTC Staff on March 12, 2015

KFTC Southern Kentucky chapter members used the 2015 General Assembly to give their local work on renters’ rights a statewide platform.

The Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act (URLTA) is a set of codified best practices to clarify the terms of agreements between tenants and landlords.

It simply clarifies and standardizes the terms of a lease and protects renters from retaliatory evictions for reporting housing that is not up to code.

Based on best practices from the rental industry, URLTA is called a “win-win” for renters and landlords. Several states have adopted URLTA statewide. Kentucky’s state law, however, only allows individual communities to opt in to URLTA; it falls short of adopting it statewide.

How$martKY offers money-saving energy efficiency improvements

Posted by: Chris Woolery on March 12, 2015

Many KFTC members who are interested in making their homes more comfortable and energy efficient are now able to make it happen!  

How$martKY is an on-bill energy efficiency financing program that doesn’t require a credit check. This means that rural electric cooperative members with high utility bills can often get energy upgrades with no down payment, add the financed payment to their electric bill, and still save money every month.  

Jefferson chapter stands with adjuncts for economic justice

Posted by: KFTC Staff on March 12, 2015

Linda Stettenbenz, a Jefferson County member who serves on KFTC’s Economic Justice Committee, reached out to Jefferson Community and Technical College professors who are involved in an international movement to demand fair treatment for adjunct professors – professors who don’t have tenure and who often work for near-poverty wages with no job security from one semester to the next. Adjuncts at several colleges and universities opted for walk-outs; JCTC organizers opted for a teach-in.

Jefferson County co-hosts grassroots lobby training

Posted by: KFTC staff on March 10, 2015

The Jefferson County Chapter of KFTC (JCKFTC) partnered with eight local allies to host a Grassroots Lobby Training on January 27.

March Jefferson County Chapter Meeting reportback

McElroy explains the need for more affordable housing.
Posted by: Ryan Fenwick on March 10, 2015

Last night's JCKFTC meeting brought out twelve members of the chapter to deliberate, discuss, and take action on affordable housing, an LG&E rate change, the local air quality and economic jus

Kentuckians call on Senate committee to hear HB 70, dragged from room

Posted by: Lisa Abbott on March 6, 2015

Wearing buttons that read "Let Us Vote," about two dozen voting rights supporters attended the last regularly scheduled meeting of the Senate State and Local Government Committee on Wedneday to bear witness as Senate Republicans yet again refused to act on HB 70, a proposed constitutional amendment to restore voting rights to nearly a quarter million Kentuckians. As expected, they did not see senators take action on the bill. But there was plenty of other action in committee room that day.

Members speak out for economic justice legislation

Posted by: Kentuckians For The Commonwealth on March 4, 2015

KFTC members have been active in Frankfort this week, supporting several economic justice bills as the session draws to a close. House Bill 374, which closes corporate tax loopholes to fund a state Earned Income Tax Credit, received a hearing in committee yesterday, and CKY member Jesus Gonzalez testified in support of the EITC. Here is Jesus's testimony:


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