Appalachia Photo Essay

Posted on Posted in Business, Community, Cultivating Resilience, Films, Food, Nature


This new portrait series features the 2019 cohort of women-led businesses that are Accelerating Appalachia 2019. Accelerating Appalachia is the world’s first nature-based business accelerator – envisioning a regenerative and inclusive economy built on the values of soil and soul. Accelerating Appalachia connects innovative businesses, investors and mentors aligned with people, place and prosperity to accelerate solutions in food, clothing, shelter, and wellness. Appalachia is one of the most biologically diverse regions in the world and North America’s largest food shed. Accelerating Appalachia is creating a new regenerative economy to improve soil, retain water, sequester carbon, and help communities by accelerating entrepreneurs sustaining good jobs and keeping sustainable farmers on the land where mining, logging, textile and tobacco/farming industries are on the decline. 


Photos: Dayna Reggero, Climate Listening Project

Advisor: Sara Day Evans, Accelerating Appalachia

We want other black and brown faces in Appalachia to know that we are here. I want to see more local farmers making money and local farming networks flourishing. It starts with storytelling, listening, writing, and keeping those stories going. Appalachia Kentucky is my grassroot, from the foothills to the hollers. I spent most of my childhood with my grandparents learning to work the land. I helped with vegetable/fruit, and flower gardening, that was Grandma’s passion. The money came from tobacco farming. As a child, it was fun to me, I would weed the tobacco beds, or count the sticks. When I was older I was able to set the tobacco plants in the summer and strip tobacco in the winter. It was a 365 day/year round job. It was never something I felt like I was forced to do. The work I put in and the knowledge I gained, put me in the perfect position for current day. I appreciate my rural roots. I love Appalachia. I inherited 4 acres there (of a 26 acre family estate), from my grandmother about 4 years ago. A year and half ago I established Ballew Estates LLC; named after the family name (my Grandmother’s maiden name). Ballew Estates LLC is a pollinator conservation where we grow trees, flowers, herbs and other plants that help support and protect Kentucky native pollinators. Through our herbal teas and community outreach we show how nature heals and provides for us. We want our customers to walk away with a sense of knowledge and appreciation for pollinator habitats and their role in our lives. As I watched my grandparents try to cope as tobacco sales diminished, I always knew that when I began my farming journey I wanted diversity. If the plants fail, I can still have programs I can still teach; small farming, permaculture, community events, and seeing what our native land has to offer as well. Our land has so much already here and the lesson in that is endless!

Tiffany Bellfield, Ballew Estates, Kentucky

Every culture carries the burden of negative stereotypes and Appalachia is no exception. The heart and soul of my work is to welcome guests from all over the world to experience the untamed beauty of Appalachia while creating a space for cross-cultural exchange. Our ultimate goal is to be a place that breaks down walls and builds bridges through the simple act of sharing our home.

Jessa Turner, HomeGrown HideAways, Kentucky

What draws me to this work is how meeting these plants and fungi (often types we encounter regularly) causes people to open up and begin to see the world in a new way. Once you learn that the lowly dandelion can provide food, medicine, and more, it opens your eyes to what else you may be overlooking in your everyday world. We want to create an experience that gives people this sense of reconnection, where they begin to see their place in, rather than outside of, nature, and to feel a little more at home, wherever they go.

Rebekah Jopling, No Taste Like Home, North Carolina

Deeply rooted in Appalachia, my family tree is filled with coal miners and moonshiners, neither of which is environmentally sound or provides a sustainable future. As a first generation graduate, I never would have imagined I’d one day be organically growing hemp and making hemp-derived CBD products. My goal is to leave a better future for my son than my parents left for me. My work allows me to heal the earth, help ease the suffering of its people and cultivate partnerships with other like-minded businesses that will ensure there is a clean beautiful environment for our children to enjoy.

Rae Edmiston, Kentucky Green Grass, Kentucky

The Appalachian Mountains inspired me to throw down roots to help keep the culture of nurturing our forests and farms going and staying alive in our children – to be sure our children will have the opportunity to continue nurturing this incredible place. I think this is a very exciting time to have a business in Appalachia, and it’s an absolute perfect time for women in business to be rising up in Appalachia.

Deborah DeLisle, Woodson Branch Nature School, North Carolina

In a time when so many people have totally lost touch with the huge role agriculture plays in their lives, but are becoming more and more concerned with where their food comes from, I feel so lucky to be able to work with local farmers and consumers on a daily basis. This gives me the opportunity to impact the local food movement in so many ways by working with local farmers who raise animals, people who are trying to make a living by selling the meat products that they raise, the consumers who want to know their farmer and understand how meat is raised and processed, or even the young people in our community who are wanting to learn about agriculture in general. I have learned that I have a heart for education and service – coupled with a passion for my local community, I feel like I am blessed to have found my niche.

Anne Bays, Moonlight Meat Processing Inc, Kentucky

Being a daughter of Appalachia has helped me develop an even deeper appreciation for this region. I grew up understanding the importance of knowing your grower, your baker, your maker. To be creating community and spreading the message of gratitude with women, food and community-driven spaces is my highest calling. Launching the first incubator kitchen in Kentucky, as a woman, where spreading the mission of gratitude and creating community are at the core of every business decision I make, it reminds me of how deeply rooted I am in my Appalachian family and community tradition of creators and dream believers.

Rachel Grubbs DesRochers, Ohio and Kentucky