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Episode 3 - Set to Refresh

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On a mountaintop that used to be a coal mine, a team of ex-miners are tending livestock. An hour or so away, new farmers are growing vegetables under a makeshift greenhouse covered in plastic sheeting known as a high tunnel. And several counties in the other direction, workers are helping high school students run a year-round garden.

A couple of years ago, none of this was happening.

Ben Gilmer, MA ’07, Geography, saw the need for jobs and the need for local food in southern West Virginia. And Refresh Appalachia was born. He trains ex-miners and others out of work to create local food sources and a distribution network for that food and the food produced by local farmers.

Lola Cline rides a tractor.
Lola Cline sits on a tractor as Joe Duncan stands at the back.

It’s one complex answer to the even more complex problem of getting jobs in Appalachia. 

Thanks to Refresh Appalachia, and its parent organization, the Coalfield Development Corp., for letting us tour their sites in southern West Virginia.

You can read a story from the Spring 2017 issue of WVU Magazine about industry in West Virginia that includes Ben Gilmer’s work with Refresh Appalachia.

Ben Gilmer stands on land that Refresh Appalachia is reworking for agriculture.

Ben Gilmer stands on the land that is being reworked by Refresh Appalachia.