A lavender farm is on the site of former coal field. Meet the people who are bringing jobs and a new industry to the former coal country in Boone County, West Virginia.
Turning Coal into Lavender, Boone County WV (S2E1) Transcription
Carol D’Auria: This is the good government show.
Craig Bratcher: A lot of people’s changed their lives and turn their lives around because of my flat in Bhutan. So that’s my biggest. I’m one of their biggest supporters as far as bragging on, you know, getting out in public and saying this is what these people have done for a lot of a lot of the a lot of the people that lost hope, they didn’t have any hope.
Now they have jobs and they’re an inspiration to the state, not just counting how many, you know, what what they’ve done with nothing and started out basically with nothing and dirt and rock and and the buildings, they actually are still, you know, putting together. They’re an inspiration for anyone. Anybody says they can’t do something or they don’t have the money they need to go talk to them, promise you they can say, hey, this is what we started with.
This is how we accumulated money. And and I’m a big cheerleader of their.
Dave Martin: That’s Craig Bratcher, a Boone County, West Virginia County commissioner. He’s talking about a company that created a lavender farm where they used to be a mountain. Then there was a cold field. Now the mountain’s gone, the coal is gone. And now it’s just acres of purple lavender fields. Welcome to the Good Government Show. I’m Dave Martin.
Carol D’Auria: And I’m Carol D’Auria. Where are you off to?
Dave Martin: I am off to Boone County in West Virginia.
Carol D’Auria: Right. A lavender farm where a coal mine was. I don’t know about this. I like the story. But you got more out of West Virginia than I saw it.
Dave Martin: I did. I did. I spent a week in West Virginia. And I’m going to tell you about two really impressive programs. They’re putting West Virginians to work. And it shows that there’s really life after coal. And the next episode, you’re going to hear about how teachers are the future in McDowell County, both for them, their students, and also for the town.
Dave Martin: But today on this episode, we’re going to talk about lavender.
Carol D’Auria: Oh, good. You know, I like lavender. It smells really nice. So we have a farm that was once a coal mine and a mountain. How did that work?
Dave Martin: Here’s how it happens. And I am not a mining engineer. We don’t have one close by, so I will fill in. So to get the coal that was in the mountains, the mining companies decided that it would be easier and cost less. And believe it or not, somewhat safer. They’ll just blow up the mountain.
Carol D’Auria: I can’t imagine changing the landscape like that.
Dave Martin: Yeah, they’re just going to blow up.
Carol D’Auria: Mother Nature can’t be happy.
Dave Martin: No. And they’re going to just take the coal off the top instead of mining for it down below. Now, obviously, huge environmental problems. And in fact, I saw one study that said some 500 mountains in all of Appalachia. They’ve been yeah, 500 have been removed this way. And the mining companies, they’re supposed to return to what’s called original contours.
Carol D’Auria: Yeah, but do they really?
Dave Martin: They really don’t. But, you know, they stack it up and there’s a process that you go through to sort of recreate a mountain. But if you can improve the site, that’s acceptable, too.
Carol D’Auria: So a farm works. No more strict coal mining. Just farming.
Dave Martin: Basically, yes. This is an example of good government thinking ahead. And they’re working with all levels of government and with private enterprise, and they’re reclaiming the land, they’re providing jobs, and they’re rebuilding an economic base in an area that really needs it.
Carol D’Auria: And this is coal country, right? You’re telling me.
Dave Martin: Right. And Boone County was one of the state’s largest coal producing counties. The mines, millions of tons of coal. The county coffers were falling and the times were good.
Carol D’Auria: Yeah, but then all that changed.
Dave Martin: Yes. And I can’t say it’s all sunshine and roses, but there is purple, lavender and lavender and jobs and reclaimed land and a company dedicated to improving coal country and economic development.
Carol D’Auria: Yeah, that sounds good, because this is a really depressed area, but it sounds like things are really heading in the right direction. But tell me how West Virginia got there.
Dave Martin: It’s all coal. Coal is in was it’s the driving force in the state of West Virginia, especially in this part of the state. In fact, this year, Boone hosted the 27th annual West Virginia Coal Festival there. And they’re.
Carol D’Auria: Still at it.
Dave Martin: Right? They have a whole coal festival in front of the county courthouse that was at the county courthouse. And the biggest thing you can see out in front is a coal miner’s statue. It’s dedicated to coal mining. So there were some officials, they knew that coal wasn’t going to come back. But for many, many people, they’re still waiting for those coal jobs.
Carol D’Auria: Wow.
Dave Martin: Right. And I sat down in a place called the Little Cafe. It’s in Madison, which is the county seat for Boone County. It’s right next to the courthouse, and it’s actually the only restaurant in town that’s not a fast food joint. And by the way, it’s owned by a guy named Mike Little who is not little. And wait for it. He’s from Brooklyn.
Carol D’Auria: Oh, you’re kidding. Really? From Brooklyn to West Virginia?
Dave Martin: Yes. He met a girl named Tonya Hatfield. And yes, she’s a descendant of one of those Hatfields. She was from Boone. And together they opened a restaurant. And the food is actually very good, and all the desserts are homemade.
Carol D’Auria: I could get into that.
Dave Martin: Sure. Well, you’d have to, because if you’re going to this place, it’s a town, right? So anyway, Craig Bratcher, who we heard from, he’s the county commissioner. He explained how the shrinking coal industry, it affects everything.
Craig Bratcher: Out of all the counties that produce coal while southern counties, it it was probably in the top five as far as national level where it was was considered the richest county in in definitely in West Virginia, we had coal severance taxes that would come in from the cold that was taken, you know, taken out of West Virginia or out of out of the ground campus, campus afloat.
We was able to do a lot of things with with the money that we would get. We’ve put a lot of money into fields, football fields, and helped the schools out tremendously. But now Boone County, since the coal mines, has basically pretty much all shut down. It’s it’s really taken a big hit and, you know, hit all of us here on the people a lot of people has moved because it I hate to say it but it’s a culture in Boone County is known for the coal mines and coal miners.
And when there’s no coal mines, a lot of the coal miners that are good workers, they they they move they move out of state and find other jobs.
Carol D’Auria: So what is going on in doing right now?
Dave Martin: Well, there’s a new cafe. A little cafe. There are a few small offices. The courthouse is obviously very busy. There’s homes. Some are abandoned. There’s churches, there’s a gas station. And I even drove up.
Carol D’Auria: To o holler. What did you say? Holler. What is.
Dave Martin: That? Well, listen, you that you Yankee. I went to a holler. There’s lots of hollers. I did?
Carol D’Auria: I don’t know. I can’t see you down the holler.
Dave Martin: I never said holler before. I went to West Virginia. And I think I’m using it correctly. I’m sure I’m in West Virginia. Friends will tell me.
Carol D’Auria: So what is a holler like a yelling at somebody? No, no. Oh, it’s a place holler.
Dave Martin: So basically it’s a valley between, you know, the hills and the mountains. It’s a street mostly not paved. There’s houses and trailers that are built up on either side. And they sort of face the road. And behind them is the woods in the hills. And these are these are the hollers. Some are, you know, quite large and extensive.
Some are a little bit more developed. Some have names, some don’t. And basically, that’s a holler now. Loretta Lynn. Coal Miner’s Daughter, right. I was born in Butcher Holler. So there you go.
Carol D’Auria: Okay. Now it makes sense.
Dave Martin: Now you know. Yes, it is. All right, good. And in fact, I took some photos. If you go to our Web good government showcase and you can see some pictures I took while I was on my trip in Boone County. And you can check out a holler. But anyway, as a result of all this, the homes in the hollers, coal’s gone.
They’re not what they used to be.
Carol D’Auria: Yeah. How could they be there? There’s so many abandoned ones.
Dave Martin: Well, it could. And there are some abandoned ones, but there are people who are doing something. And slowly the wheels are moving. I met a woman named Chris Mitchell and she’s the county economic development offers and she offered her perspective on the situation in Boone.
Kris Mitchell: We’re a small county. For years, our primary industry here was coal. And within about a five year period, we lost 5000 direct employment jobs for coal. People don’t realize that while 5000 direct employment jobs sounds like quite a lot. There’s all of the sort of trickle down of that. The small companies we had, such as machine shops, welding shops, mines, supply businesses those can’t sustain without the mining industry as well as all of those closed.
So it was a massive impact on the economy.
Carol D’Auria: I see it’s sort of an entire trickle down problem, it sounds like.
Dave Martin: Exactly. It affects the value of your house if you can’t even sell it if there are no jobs. Folks aren’t buying cars. They’re not buying houses. They’re not going out to eat. They’re not going to the movies. They’re certainly not buying big ticket items. So coal jobs go away and so do lots of them.
Carol D’Auria: All because of coal.
Dave Martin: Right. And here’s what happened to Boone County. And this happened to a lot of counties. But I’ll tell you about Boone. Every county that extracts coal pays a severance tax, and that’s a percentage of the value of the coal they remove. In 2008, Boone was one of the richest counties in the state. They took in some $8 million a year in tax in 2021, 400,000.
Carol D’Auria: That’s a huge hit.
Dave Martin: Right. And that all comes out of the county budget. That’s money that covers schools, that covers roads, it covers police, it covers social services.
Carol D’Auria: How can you ever make that up? That’s a big chunk.
Dave Martin: Realistically, they can’t, but they can try to come close and in small ways and with smart future planning, they can change their direction.
Carol D’Auria: So enter the lavender farms.
Dave Martin: Yes, it’s a start. And the hero of our lavender farm story is Jocelyn Shepherd. And she created a company called Appalachian Botanical. She was working with the Appalachian Regional Commission to try to create projects that would improve conditions in the region. And that’s where she met up with Marina Sawyer, and she’s the company’s chief technology officer and she’s their head farmer.
She’s the one who figured out that lavender would grow well in coal fields.
Carol D’Auria: But why lavender?
Dave Martin: Well, it turns out that lavender really grows well in rocky soil. So it’s perfect because, you know, coal fields, it doesn’t require a lot of water and it’s profitable. Did you know most lavender is imported, so they’re actually creating a product that has some demand?
Carol D’Auria: Well, that’s that’s big if they can produce a product here and not have to import. Were there any challenges to getting this project off the ground?
Dave Martin: Of course there were challenges. A lot of challenges. They had to find the money. They had to get workers and they had to get folks out of a coal mindset. But as Maureen explains, there was just an overall perception about West Virginia.
Marina Sawyer: West Virginia was looked at as, you know, we’re backwards where, you know, hillbillies kind of thing and and. Projects like this and the Hatfield McCoy thing. They’re really starting to to get people to say, you know, you know, there’s somebody to go see. And that’s important.
Carol D’Auria: Okay. So I’ve heard of the Hatfield McCoys, but I guess I didn’t really know the story. So I’m sure at this point you went to West Virginia, you know, the Hatfield and McCoys story.
Dave Martin: I knew about it before I went, but I actually got to see the sites I’ve read about and heard about. Okay. So thanks for the opening. All right. The only reason why we’re getting into this is because this is Hatfield and McCoy country. So I’m going to try to be brief. Stop me. If I get if I go off on a tangent, please.
Carol D’Auria: You get off on a tangent.
Dave Martin: All right. So there was this guy named Lance Hatfield, and he was ahead of the Hatfield family. He was a Confederate Civil War veteran at the time. Lot of bad blood. West Virginia, Kentucky, one side union, one side Confederate. Anyway, he and a cousin, well, they killed a McCoy family member, a union veteran. Right. So that annoyed the head of the McCoy family.
Dave Martin: Good. Ole Randall. Randall McCoy. And then the McCoys lost a court case for stealing a pig.
Carol D’Auria: But pig, seriously.
Dave Martin: Pigs were very important. They kept you fed all winter. So, yes, it was a big deal. That case that really got, you know, things really tensions really grew after that. And then one of the Hatfield boys married a McCoy girl that.
Carol D’Auria: Could not have gone over well.
Dave Martin: No, it’s about, you know, Romeo and Juliet in the mountains. The marriage went bad. Josie Haskell was apparently not a very good husband. They had a baby. The baby died. And in fact, I went to the baby’s gravesite and.
Carol D’Auria: Really.
Dave Martin: Said, if you said a few words for the baby, it’s high up on the hill. There are pictures, go to the website. And then in 1882, three McCoys were dragged across the Tug River from West Virginia into Kentucky, and they were killed and tied up to a poor country.
Carol D’Auria: Did you say for portrait? Yes.
Dave Martin: That is the famous Paul pottery incident. I went to that say to you, just drive through that one, take a left, get you kept.
Carol D’Auria: Yeah, of course.
Dave Martin: Right on the other side of the Tug River. Anyway, I went there, but then it got even uglier. In 1888, New Year’s Day, a bunch of Hatfields went to McCoy house. They burned it. They nearly killed.
Carol D’Auria: This is going on for years. This is like generational.
Dave Martin: Yeah, exactly. But they tried to. They nearly killed Randall McCoy’s wife. There were some kids in the house. So the cabin is gone. But the well that random McCoy dug, that’s still there. Because I know this because I went to the house. Right. And a guy who owns the property, great guy. We sat there, we chatted and he walked me around.
Show me around the whole site. But here’s the funny part. Down the street now we’re in Kentucky. Down the street is the McCoy family gravesite, but it’s actually owned by Hatfield, and he won’t open to the public.
Carol D’Auria: You know, that’s how and this is a story that’s hard to keep track of. You’ve always who hates whom.
Dave Martin: Now it’s all now. They’ve all signed a peace treaty. They’re all friends. But this did go on for like 50 years and it’s still talked about. It’s it’s the local heritage. And in fact, it draws tourists. I mean, I went down.
Carol D’Auria: This is what you call turning a negative into a positive.
Dave Martin: Exactly. And I went to the Hatfield family gravesite. And while I was at the site, I met some folks. I it’s right next door to double answers. Last home, which is where Jack Hatfield now lives, I think Jack Hatfield, Jr. And he created a Hatfield McCoy museum. So tourism is a business opportunity that they used to bring back folks to West Virginia.
And out of all that came the Hatfield McCoy trails.
Carol D’Auria: So did you go on the trail?
Dave Martin: Not really. I didn’t have an ATV with me. But what it is, is it’s a network of ATV trails and lots of folks, they load up their ATVs on the weekend. They go out in the mountains and they follow the house. The other McCoy sites and, you know, cruiser, you know what is still very, very rural West Virginia.
And like I said, when I was at the Hatfield Cemetery, a group of folks on an ATV, they stopped in. We all chatted. We walked around the cemetery together, had a great time. They were they were loving it. They were on their ATVs and they were, you know, checking out the neighborhood.
Carol D’Auria: And nobody’s bothered that there’s no more coal. But now they have someone to farm. Right?
Dave Martin: Exactly. So I’m going to tell you more. We’re going to wait after the break.
Carol D’Auria: The good government show is sponsored by Liquid. Welcome back to season to Liquid.
Dave Martin: And we still love liquid and not just because they are a sponsor again. But Carol, here’s a fun fact. A recent study found that over 80% of retail shoppers conduct online research before making a purchase. Do you do that?
Carol D’Auria: Well, yeah. You know, I do it when I know what I’m buying. Like, for instance, we needed some bug spray for the backyard. We were having a party, but we have dogs. So anyone, anything toxic for the dogs? So I had to run down a lot of products online.
Dave Martin: So you did. You did your research?
Carol D’Auria: I did.
Dave Martin: All right. Good. And if you’re in a business, you really have to do your research because you really want to evaluate who you’re working with and making sure the company you are about to partner with. You want to make sure it’s a good fit.
Carol D’Auria: That makes sense. So you want to stand out to other companies that are checking your company out?
Dave Martin: Exactly. And that’s where liquid comes in. They can help your business create a digital presence with impact. So you can be impressive to new businesses and keep your customers.
Carol D’Auria: And it’s not just about a website. See how much I’ve learned about liquid since the first season.
Dave Martin: You are you are liquid aware good for you right so they can guide you where to advertise. Make sure your social media is relevant and it engages your customers. They want to make sure your digital story answers your potential customers questions before they even have to ask them.
Carol D’Auria: And that’s what Liquid is good at creating a full marketing and online digital presence.
Dave Martin: Liquid’s been around for nearly two decades. They have a lot of experience and a lot of research to back up their.
Carol D’Auria: Plans and they have a team of designers, marketers, strategists and developers that can help companies in many industries with award winning creative campaigns, content and websites.
Dave Martin: All good reasons to have Liquid Plan your next digital marketing strategy. So check them out and talk to a liquid professional. Visit them at www dot liquid I N T dot com, that’s www liquid I N T dot com.
Carol D’Auria: And you will love liquid as much as we.
Dave Martin: Do because they’re our sponsor. We love liquid. We want to welcome back as a sponsor to the good government show, Kutztown University of Kutztown, Pennsylvania.
Carol D’Auria: And you want to talk about their rugby team?
Dave Martin: Well, they do have a good rugby team that just won a national tournament. And what I did was I called a friend, his daughter played at Kutztown, she played on the rugby team and asked him what did he like best about Kutztown?
Carol D’Auria: You mean besides the rugby team?
Dave Martin: Yeah, besides the team, obviously the team first. But he responded media and said something I didn’t know. His favorite thing is the chicken tower or it’s also called the Angry Chicken.
Carol D’Auria: But I hesitate to ask the angry chicken.
Dave Martin: Well, it’s such a landmark that it’s actually the school’s logo. It’s a clock tower. And apparently when you look from a special angle, the clock looks a little bit like a chicken with an open beak. So it’s the angry chicken.
Carol D’Auria: Okay, then. Well, let’s talk about the other stuff like that. Their degree program in music business is now nationally accredited. They offer undergraduate certificates in cyber security and technical writing.
Dave Martin: So is this what we do? Is this.
Carol D’Auria: Technology? Oh, no, no, no. Take his class and maybe get better at writing.
Dave Martin: Oh, come on. That’s not fair. You know what? You would benefit from the new graduate certificate program and be a school social worker, maybe be nicer.
Carol D’Auria: All right. Well, the point is, Kutztown is a forward looking university. They also offer Pell Promise scholarships. And for students to qualify, student tuitions and fees are all covered.
Dave Martin: And that’s just some of why we like Kutztown and are happy to be associated with this university. Oh, my son thought it was really cool that sometimes the locals stay right there in a horse and buggy. So check out Kutztown University. That’s Kutztown University and cheer on the rugby team.
Carol D’Auria: Of course.
Dave Martin: Yes, please. The Good Government Show welcomes a new sponsor for season two, and that’s Naco and that’s the National Association of Counties. Carol, did you know that county government affects more people than any other form of government?
Carol D’Auria: Well, I do. Now, it’s funny, you would think city or the federal government is bigger.
Dave Martin: Well, right, but but it’s not. You’d think about this. Roads, highways, hospitals, schools, recycling, law enforcement, water source. In most of the country, those services are maintained by the county. That’s county government.
Carol D’Auria: And we want to see good county government. And that’s where Naco comes in.
Dave Martin: Exactly. They’re a nationwide organization that represents all 3069 counties across the U.S. Now.
Carol D’Auria: That’s a lot of support and more importantly, brainpower.
Dave Martin: Exactly. And they have many organizations and committees and they do things like share best practices and they work together on national issues.
Carol D’Auria: And they are urban, suburban and rural counties that have different challenges. But they can still work together.
Dave Martin: Yes, they all work together. So Naco helps county government work better. And as we see in this and other episodes, when county government works well, that’s just good government.
Carol D’Auria: So thanks, Naco, for providing us with great stories and helping support good government.
Dave Martin: And thanks Naco for supporting the good government. And remember, citizens, don’t forget to vote.
Dave Martin: Welcome back to the Good Government Show. And on this episode we’re talking about how a lavender farm was created out of an abandoned coal field in Boone County in West Virginia.
Carol D’Auria: Okay. So tell me about this farm. All right.
Dave Martin: So let’s go back to West Virginia. I recorded this for you when I was actually at the lavender, so that was.
Carol D’Auria: Nice of.
Dave Martin: You. I was thinking of you. So give it a listen. All right, Carol, since you can’t be here, I’m going to describe for you where I am. I am at what used to be the raven press mind. I’m sort of standing in the middle of a giant bowl. I’m surrounded by mountains, but they’re actually reclaimed mountains, which means that they were blasted and then built back up, as far as I can see.
As far as I can see, you know, taking a giant circle around here, there’s mining trails, there’s bowls, there’s flat lands. And what used to be giant mountains are no longer here. It’s pretty amazing to be right in the middle of what used to be a mine. And now there’s a lavender farm.
Carol D’Auria: That is really pretty amazing. So you went walking through the lavender?
Dave Martin: Yes, I walked the farm with Jocelyn. And it’s pretty incredible. The lavender grows in rocky soil. So really it’s ideal for a site. They pulled coal from the ground and now it’s the lavender from. Well, I’m going to have Jocelyn talk to you about what we walk through.
Jocelyn Sheppard: We are on a 2000 acre site. The manager from the mining company estimated about 170 acres might be usable for us. Now, at this point, after, what, three years, we’re at about 55 acres. We have plans to expand to through the entire 170. I don’t know. There’s that old expression, don’t try to eat anything larger than your head.
And that’s what that feels like. But we do have plans to plant more acres this year.
Dave Martin: What am I seeing here?
Jocelyn Sheppard: You are seeing upwards of 40,000 plants that have been planted over the last three years. They are on very nice, fairly flat terrain and we’re surrounded by hills, some of which were put back together by the coal mining company when they were in their reclamation phase.
Carol D’Auria: Okay, so you have acres of farmland, but where does the government come in to all of this?
Dave Martin: Well, lots of places. First, there were the grants, the funding grants through different government agencies to get them started, including the abandoned mines grant. And they recently got an infusion of about 1.6 million. So they’re expanding.
Carol D’Auria: Wow. That’s must have a big impact on everything in that area. 1.6.
Dave Martin: Mil, right? It does. And Chris has been helping them move forward and she sees the impact of lavender.
Kris Mitchell: It is a huge economic impact. And not only is this an established business and growing business that is paying taxes and doing all the things that a business typically does, but they’re also employing people, offering them a second chance, which puts them into the workforce. They’re earning funds. They are now individuals who can make purchases, they can buy groceries, they can do other things, which will also boost the economy.
Dave Martin: As much as they can. Appalachian Botanical buys local. They need a new shovel or they need new tools. They head to Danville and go to Burnside Hardware. That’s where I met Fred Burnside. He’s one of the town’s larger employers and he appreciates what Appalachian Botanicals meant to him, his business and the people.
Fred Byrnside: There is not the business that there once was in Boone County. I’ve been here for them since 1978, and I’ve seen a lot of things come and go. Coal business gone, hopefully, you know, people like Appalachian Botanical, we’re going to make up some of that difference and keep the people of Boone County working.
Carol D’Auria: Okay. So tell me about the people, the ones who work there and what do they think about being lavender farmers?
Dave Martin: Good question. Good question. Miners to farmers. Well, one guy I met said he would still be one of the mines if he could, but he is very happy down at the scene.
Carol D’Auria: Okay. So let’s meet a miner turned farmer, which sounds so odd, but go ahead.
Aubrey Morgan: My name is Aubrey Aaron Morgan, and we are here in Ashland, West Virginia, and Lavender Farm for Appalachian Botanical. And I am over charge of the maintenance department. I was a miner for 12 years for Patriot Coal, and I ran a minor. Continuous minor.
Dave Martin: What’s a continuous minor continues.
Aubrey Morgan: Minor is a machine that runs the to weather face.
Dave Martin: So you you’re you were at the front of the of the.
Aubrey Morgan: Whole house front line. Yeah, sure was.
Dave Martin: What’s that like?
Aubrey Morgan: I guess it’s as exciting. And I mean, it’s a rush. It’s fine. Scared. Same town. I loved it. I mean, it’s just they get the people. I mean, you get used to the people. And I mean, once you get over top of the over, the fear part of you, I mean, you love it. It’s just a different environment.
Um, and the money. The money, I mean, the best thing about you, I mean, you’re on a lot. You’re on a piece of equipment on a face, you’re making 25, $30 an hour, I mean, right off the bat.
Carol D’Auria: So how is adjusting to being a lavender farmer going pretty well.
Dave Martin: Listen.
Aubrey Morgan: I know there are no jobs around here. There’s a gas station. Well, here I was brought here as doing and closest job before you go to Charleston. And that’s 45 minutes away.
Dave Martin: So this is a good job.
Aubrey Morgan: Oh, yeah. Actual job. Yeah.
Dave Martin: So let me introduce you to Tyler Stephenson. He’s a former miner, too, and he was the scoop operator, which means he hauled equipment in and out of the mine. And I’m going to have him tell you what it’s like to work on the ground.
Tyler Stephenson: Exhilarating. It’s different than here. You know, every day is you could be your last minute. You know, I’ve seen rocks fall and. Oh.
Dave Martin: That’s scary.
Tyler Stephenson: Yeah, it’s scary. Yeah. I mean, but you know, it. You get used to it after a little while, a month or so, and you don’t think about it anymore.
Dave Martin: So is it better to be above ground working?
Tyler Stephenson: Yes, absolutely. The pay is not as good a wage. Lot safer. It’s a lot better.
Carol D’Auria: Yeah. So how is he dealing with this change to becoming a farmer?
Dave Martin: Hey, the guy’s happy to have a job.
Tyler Stephenson: This is the only good paying job. I mean, there’s the coal mines that still operate here that we work on there. You know, land either that’s gas stations or McDonald’s or this or that. So this is the only good job in this community.
Dave Martin: But here’s what else Appalachian Botanical is doing. They have a team with the Boone County Sheriff’s Office to hire workers who’ve just been through the criminal justice system and need a helping hand. For Sheriff Chad Baker, the program is a success.
Chad Baker: You know, the folks we refer to them, you know, majority of those people have seen success. You know, I think the program is working out well for us. We’re always happy, you know, to partner with people in the community, especially, you know, when someone reaches out and they want to help, you know, your people to give them a job, put them back to work.
You know, that’s one of the key components I feel is is getting people who have addiction issues, you know, in a lot of cases get them back into the workforce to make them productive members of society, you know, so with this program, we’re able to do that.
Dave Martin: Gene Area is the office manager for Appalachian Botanical, but she does so much more and she brought her daughter up there to work with her at the farm and she says she really likes it and she likes getting into the ground. She calls it dirt therapy.
Carol D’Auria: Oh, wow.
Dave Martin: Right. So she likes to go out there and get her hands dirty. But she really is the point person for a lot of the new workers coming into the farm.
Jeanne Eary: A lot of them has adapted very well. They come into us, which we have people that will help. We have people that come in and help. If they need some type of counseling and help. We help find housing. We help get food. If they’re needing a food and some housing projects or different houses in the community that will help find housing for them and just everyday needs whatever they need.
I’ll try to reach out and find somebody to help them.
Carol D’Auria: You know, this just really continues to be quite impressive, this program they have going.
Dave Martin: So, Carol, here’s your president from coal country, Appalachian Botanical Lavender Lotion. There you go. Try it out. Wow.
Carol D’Auria: It really smells good. So this is from the farm?
Dave Martin: Yes. This is one of the many products they make from the lavender farm. They have oil. They have beard, wash.
Carol D’Auria: Beard, wash.
Dave Martin: Yes, beard, wash. I didn’t try it out, but they have it. They have a lavender mist, they have oils, they make CBD products and they’re starting a beekeeping.
Carol D’Auria: Oh, really?
Dave Martin: Yeah. They have lots to do up there. So go to good government show ecom. We have a link to their page. And so, Carol, what do you think?
Carol D’Auria: You know, I really I really like it. It has a stronger smell than I realized it would. It’s wow. It’s much better than I thought it would be.
Dave Martin: Well, there you go. That’s your gift from Appalachian Botanical in West Virginia.
Carol D’Auria: Well, that’s very nice. I think I actually need to do some online shopping. I should get some Christmas presents. So there really is a future in Appalachian.
Dave Martin: I say, yes, there is. And this is based on the people I talked to. And I think this generation right now, the kids that are coming off the 18, 19, 17 year olds, they aren’t automatically thinking about working in the mines and working in coal and I think once that generation grows up, the total reliance on coal will diminish.
Dave Martin: So I think with innovations like lavender farm and creating opportunities for local folks turning coal mines into solar farms, teaching programs, all of that puts this region on a different path, right?
Carol D’Auria: And that’s reassuring that they don’t have to pine over losing coal, that they are really going in a different direction.
Dave Martin: Right. And don’t forget about tourism. West Virginia has beautiful lakes and mountains and the governments are, you know, open to new ideas and they’re searching for ways to build up what they have left the ATV trails. They have not quite trails, hiking trails, other outdoor activities.
Carol D’Auria: So it makes a great vacation spot.
Dave Martin: It does make a great vacation spot. And in fact, next season I’m going back to West Virginia.
Carol D’Auria: Really? All right. You know, the nation’s newest park is in West Virginia, and that has a huge impact on the region and it’s really expected to grow. So here’s the question. Are we both going to be live from Boone County?
Dave Martin: Well, maybe where we live from Beckley, that’s that’s a bit more of a town and it’s pretty close to the New River Gorge. That’s the new park. Okay.
Carol D’Auria: So Lavender is leading the way?
Dave Martin: Yes, Lavender is leading the way. But let me have Jocelyn give you the last word on the story.
Jocelyn Sheppard: I couldn’t have imagined all the ups and downs in the ins and outs. I knew there’d be some and and we’ve had those. And every once in a while I’m just kind of gobsmacked by the whole thing. But you had to have people, local workers, recruited to work here, have plants go into the ground and survive and thrive to be able to distill the oil, make product, make it and have them be very high quality products and be able to ship orders now to all 50 states and to have more than 45 retailers in eight different states.
It’s like there are days where I say, you know, pinch me, I don’t believe this is happening.
Carol D’Auria: Is really quite impressive. And this is a story I just didn’t even know about. Lavender Farms out of coal fields, mountains removed and reclaimed. Something useful develops a depressed region trying to bounce back. This is why we tell these stories, right?
Dave Martin: This shows how someone working in government came up with a better way and the effects might just change an entire region. It’s brought jobs and more importantly, change and hope to a region that desperately needs it. And that’s good government.
Carol D’Auria: And that’s our show. Thanks for listening. The next episode, we are going back to West Virginia.
Dave Martin: Yes, yes. I’m going to tell you about a program called Reconnecting McDowell. I went to the poorest county in West Virginia, and I saw a town that is struggling. But with help, they’re providing a path for good careers and helping both students and teachers. And as a result, it’s improving the entire region.
Carol D’Auria: And that really sounds good.
Dave Martin: Just you way you’re going to hear it next episode. Until then, go to our website check out the good government dot com and we have photos of all the people we’ve met, the places we’ve talked about. You can see the farm.
Carol D’Auria: It’s really impressive.
Dave Martin: It is. It is. It was and it was a lot of fun. And everybody I met there was great. It was a really, really interesting time out there. I never been to a strip mine coal farm and now I have. So yeah. Glad you enjoyed our first trip to West Virginia. Yes. I’m David Martin.
Carol D’Auria: And I’m Carol D’Auria.
Dave Martin: Thanks for listening to the good government show. See you next episode. Don’t forget to follow the good government show on your favorite podcast app so you don’t miss any of the great stories we tell. Join our community on Facebook and part of the conversation. Join our discussion on Twitter. If you like our show, tell your friends to listen to.
For my extras on the show, check out our website. Good Government Show dot com. This good government show is produced by Valley Park Productions. Jim Ludlow, David Martin and David Snyder are the executive producers. Jason Stershic is our producer and editor. Some transcriptions were done by Kofi Jean Pompa, our host for me, David Martin and Carol D’Auria. Join us again for the good government show. Wherever you listen to podcasts.