Appalachian Transition fellowship 2014-15 closing gathering

May 18-19, 2015 / Knoxville, Tn

The Highlander Research and Education Center celebrated the close of the inaugural fellowship year in May 2015 with fellows, host communities, and people and groups from throughout the the region working on a just economic transition for Appalachia..

The two-day gathering highlighted the program's success and the amazing work toward a just transition that's happening throughout the region. An opening reception featured a discussion on intergenerational leadership and alternative economics in Appalachia with Anthony Flaccavento of Rural Scale, Highlander's Elandria Williams, and Ethan Hamblin of the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky. The following day, fellows shared TED-type talks highlighting outcomes and lessons learned from their projects and partnerships with host communities. Participants worked together to discuss next steps for intergenerational leadership in Appalachia and broader economic transition work to advance our collective efforts throughout the region.  

We extend our sincere gratitude to everyone who made the inaugural year possible: the fellows who did such amazing work, the host communities and partners who opened their doors and hearts to the fellowship, the funders and supporters who made it possible, and the many groups and people throughout Appalachia building a just economic transition for our region. Thank you!




Abandoned Mine Land Policy Paper by Kendall Bilbrey and Eric Dixon

Breaking Beans Final Report by Mae Humiston



  • Carol Davey
    • Host Community: ACENet, Athens City Government, American Electric Power, and Rural Action
    • Project Summary: AppFellow Carol Davey joined the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACENet), Athens City Government, American Electric Power and Rural Action to support locally owned businesses in Athens, Ohio, as they shift behaviors toward zero waste, green energy and energy efficiency practices through an exploratory “Green Your Business” initiative. The fellowship resulted in an organized system providing local businesses access to information, resources, and capital needed to incorporate zero waste and supports businesses in reducing their carbon footprint and increasing profitability by implementing energy efficient procedures and utilizing renewable energy sources.
    • Impacts: A federal REAP grant written by Carol awarded $10,000 to Village Bakery to install a solar panel, and is now a finalist in Upgrade Athens!, a $5 million funding opportunity coordinated by Carol to advance sustainable energy in the city.
    • Post-Fellowship: “I have been able to stay in my host community, Athens Ohio, and am continuing to work on Energy Economy and Efficiency. Currently I serve as the Community Director for Empower Athens, supervising a team of ten and shaping the messaging and programming to supplement our work in residential, commercial, municipal, and rental efficiency. My role with Empower allows me to continue to assist UpGrade Athens County in educating the public about energy usage and the new energy economy emerging in Athens.”
  • Zach Swick
    • Host Community: ReUse Industries, Ohio’s University Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Policy, and Rural Action
    • Project Summary: A partnership among ReUSe Industries, Ohio’s University Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Policy, and Rural Action welcomed AppFellow Zach Swick. Their work together increased market access and opportunities to entrepreneurs in Ohio’s Athens and Vinton counties by supporting the development, marketing, and selling of remade products or repair services derived from the waste stream. The fellowship helped establish a community infrastructure for the Appalachian Ohio Zero Waste Initiative, establishing a community tool library, developing products from discarded textiles, and expanding engagement of community members, resulting in increased employment and income-generating opportunities.
    • Impacts: ReUse Industries Now has the only tool library in the region, started by Zach after researching more than 70 tool libraries in the U.S. Zach also created a business model canvas examining reclaimed wiping rags in the context of demand, competitive pricing research, and logistics.
    • Post-Fellowship: "I'm currently working for the New River Valley Regional Commission, a planning district commission in southwest Virginia, as Data Systems Manager. I serve as the Commission's geographic information systems (GIS) specialist, data analyst, and IT administrator."
  • Eric Dixon
    • Host Community: Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, MACED
    • Project Summary: Appalachian Citizen’s Law Center, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, and the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED) worked with AppFellow Eric Dixon to create sustainable opportunities targeting skilled workers, including out-of-work coal miners, in Whitesburg, KY. Through policy research and documentation of projects like stream cleanups and reforestation plantings, the project sought to increase access to funds for environmental restoration projects in central Appalachia, decreasing outmigration, increasing jobs and improving the environment.
    • Impacts: Eric established a partnership with fellow Kendall Bilbrey, Appalachian Citizens Law Center, Virginia Tech, and Alliance for Appalachia that led to the formation of an Abandoned Mine Land Policies and Priorities working group, including the development of a white paper and a custom-made presentation on AML Funds that can be readily presented to various groups across the region to meet individual needs and interests. Kendall and Eric also embarked on a regional educational tour in April 2015 to spark community dialogue and understanding about the opportunities surrounding AML funds.
    • Post-Fellowship: Upon completion of the program, Eric joined ACLC’s staff in June 2015. Eric coordinates ACLC’s policy analysis and engagement efforts, particularly around abandoned mine land reclamation, renewable energy, electric utility issues, and the proposed POWER+ Plan.
  • Mae Humiston
    • Host Community: Community Farm Alliance, Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky, Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky
    • Project Summary: AppFellow Mae Humiston, in partnership with Community Farm Alliance, Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky, and Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, worked together to engage low-income populations and Eastern Kentucky communities in building a cohort of local leaders to support the expansion of local healthy food initiatives in the state. The project addressed pervasive unemployment, poor nutrition-related health, and poverty in Bell, Clay, Harlan, Knox, Leslie, Letcher, Perry and Whitley counties by building support for a local food system that sustains the region’s traditional farming practices and builds healthy community support for future planning.
    • Impacts: Mae helped establish a steering committee for the Perry County Farmers Market by researching and visiting similar farmers markets to help learn and share best practices; farmers were assisted with grant funding from the University of Kentucky and other universities, and Breaking Beans: The Appalachian Food Story Project was created to capture stories along the value chain to enhance policy advocacy, assist Appalachians in learning to share their stories, and to build skills for community organizers.
    • Post-Fellowship: Mae joined the staff of Community Farm Alliance as the Development Associate.
  • Joshua Outsey
    • Host Community: Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, City of Benham, Christian Outreach with Appalachian People
    • Project Summary: The City of Benham owns its own utility, giving the community the ability to be visionary and innovative in its path to a clean energy future. This fellowship strengthened and increased community partnerships, assets, awareness and participation, providing a replicable model of a community energy program that includes a revolving loan fund for residential energy efficiency upgrades and an on-bill financing mechanism for retrofitted homes.
    • Impacts: Residents and community groups benefited from a weatherization process implemented during the fellowship, with fellow Joshua Outsey conducting a survey, hosting trainings, and developing policies and procedures to advance this work moving forward, leading to a grant for one host partner and the development and dissemination of energy kits to all homes identified in an assessment as having the most need.
    • Post-Fellowship: Joshua returned to his home community of Knoxville, TN, and works in the hotel industry while continuing to support SEEED (Socially Equal Energy Efficient Development), an organization he co-founded.
  • Derrick Von Kundra
    • Host Community: Appalachian Sustainable Development, Virginia Tech
    • Project Summary: A partnership among Appalachian Sustainable Development, Virginia Tech, and AppFellow Derrick Von Kundra supported Central Appalachian food systems by maximizing efficiencies between food hubs, farmers and buyers in southwest Virginia, northeast Tennessee and western North Carolina. The fellowship increased income opportunities for food producers in the region and improved sustainability by expanding distribution using the existing infrastructure, increasing connectivity between farmers and buyers and developing partnerships and collaborative efforts to support the systems moving forward.
    • Impacts: Derrick developed an online route calculator for all producers that easily determines the expense and logistics of produce distribution, the farmers market increased from 9 to 29 farmers, and accessibility expanded for farmers throughout the region through a partnership with EarthFare Markets.
    • Post-Fellowship “I took on a full time position with Appalachian Sustainable Development. I'm currently managing their Rooted in Appalachia program which connects small growers to restaurants, helping them find partners and infrastructure needed to purchase produce from farmers for our canned goods, filming/editing a crowdfunding video, creating a YouTube series that will teach farmers how to grow organically, and building their website.”
  • Willa Johnson
    • Host Community: Burke Industries, Opportunity Threads
    • Project Summary: Opportunity Threads and the Carolina Textile District, a worker-owned cooperative it helped establish, worked with AppFellow Willa Johnson to support Morganton, North Carolina’s small business community, its existing textile companies and entrepreneurs seeking opportunities within the textile sector. The project expanded the creation of new businesses that are locally owned and roots wealth in the community, adding well-paying jobs in the region by developing a value chain network around the outdoor sector, local food systems and holistic medicine practitioners, and by developing communications strategies and increasing the online presence of local mill entrepreneurs to reach a broader consumer base.
    • Impacts: Willa developed a Strategic Media Communications Toolkit to improve outreach in the worker-owned cooperative textile industry, supported the “Craft Manufacturing” model development and boosted outreach and communications with specialized target-audience messaging for the industry.
    • Post-Fellowship: “I accepted a position with the Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative as a Community Engagement and Career and College Readiness Coordinator.  I also spent the summer as the Appalachian Media Institute Educator.”
  • Tyler Cannon
    • Host Community: Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Mountain View Solar, One Foundation
    • Project Summary: As communities in West Virginia work to transition from an economy entrenched in fossil fuel industries to one fueled by energy efficiency and renewable energy sources, this project supported by the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Mountain View Solar, the One Foundation, and AppFellow Tyler Cannon developed public policy initiatives to advance efforts in the state and highlight success stories of individuals and businesses who have achieved energy savings and job creation. The fellowship created educational materials to impact public policy and broaden volunteer and public support, advocating for economic diversity, sustainability, and green job expansion.
    • Impacts: Contractors, lobbyists, program coordinators, and energy-efficiency facilitators were convened in listening sessions that resulted in the creation of profiles of success stories with policy recommendations to ease citizen advocacy and policy outreach
    • Post-Fellowship: Tyler is working on food justice at Wild Ramp in West Virginia, a year-round community-supported market that provides a viable economic outlet for local food producers while providing consumers access to locally grown agricultural products. He also received a full scholarship to attend college in Virginia.
  • Joey Aloi
    • Host Community: The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation, Charleston Area Medical Center, Corey Brothers
    • Project Summary: The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation, Charleston Area Medical Center, and the Corey Brothers worked with AppFellow Joey Aloi to transform diet and nutrition offerings at the local hospital, and ultimately throughout the surrounding 12-county region, by supporting herb cultivation in a local food system. The fellowship expanded current partnerships with local farmers to increase capacity, improving the health of hospital patients, employees, and their families by reducing the amount of salt and fat in their diets with the substitution of locally grown herbs and expanding the market for locally grown herbs to ultimately stimulate an increase in the Appalachian agricultural output and increase the local economy through increased sales and employment.
    • Impacts: Partnerships, networks, and collaboration were expanded with groups like the Department of Agriculture and Extension Agencies and WV Farm to Food, the number of acres producing increased, and healthier eating habits are instilled at the Charleston Area Medical Center, with this outcome creating a replicable model for the community.
    • Post-Fellowship: “I'm working at the Kanawha Institute for Social Change and Action right now, as the food hub marketing specialist. As a Fellow, one of the things I noticed was needed in the Kanawha Valley food system was aggregation potential that helps smaller growers engage in larger markets. I'm working to develop that potential at KISRA.”
  • Catherine Moore
    • Host Community: WV Center for Civic Life, WV Community Development Hub, WV PBS
    • Project Summary: AppFellow Catherine Moore joined the West Virginia Center for Civic Life, the West Virginia Community Development Hub, and the West Virginia Public Broadcasting Station in a project to develop trusting relationships across sectors in the state, culminating in a statewide dialogue-to-action economic transition initiative. Through an intentional process to convene diverse gatherings of stakeholders, including local coalitions, groups typically left out of local decision-making and groups who do not normally interact, community-based initiatives were developed and implemented, leading to informed, responsive policymaking at local and state levels; deepened knowledge about local and statewide economic challenges and opportunities; increased utilization of existing resources; new partnerships that align complementary goals with productive practices; and increased capacity for West Virginians to talk and work together on a wide range of issues that affect the quality of life in the state.
    • Impacts: 5 regional workshops with 400 participants and 2 statewide partners were held in a train-the-trainer format supporting participants in holding discussions in their communities, resulting in 21 communities involved in a planning process for statewide dialogue on economic transition, 200 community members trained in facilitation, and 30 earned media pieces across the state.
    • Post-Fellowship: Catherine is continuing to work in West Virginia to document and develop communications around Appalachian economic transition, following up on her work with What’s Next West Virginia.
  • Tom Torres
    • Host Community: University of Tennessee, Green Energy Initiative
    • Project Summary: AppFellow Tom Torres joined the University of Tennessee Green Initiative to contribute to energy efficiency by expanding access to new, greener manufactured products among low-income households in East Tennessee and shifting energy consumption to simultaneously reduce the amount of energy used and carbon emitted. This frees money currently spent on heating and cooling, leading to more stability and strength for Appalachian communities and creating jobs that can expand democracy in the region. 
    • Impacts: Social and political capital were increased through UT Green Initiative outreach, research, and advocacy, 5 cross-sector working groups were supported in the planning and development of a second Green Energy Forum in the community to build more and more accessible green jobs in the area, and workforce development group Pathways to Prosperity was supported, uniting labor, religious, and other groups.
    • Post-Fellowship: Tom was hired as the Conservation Program Coordinator in the Forest Watch Campaign at the Sierra Club’s Pennsylvania Chapter
  • Kendall Bilbrey
    • Host Community: The Alliance for Appalachia, Virginia Tech
    • Project Summary: The Alliance for Appalachia and Virginia Tech welcomed AppFellow Kendall Bilbrey to sustain and build on the momentum of the Appalachia Economic Transition Team, a process developed in 2012 to explore potential federal-level vehicles that can bolster and supplement ongoing economic transition throughout the region. The fellowship continued to convene stakeholders in an agenda-setting and alignment process and helped develop campaign proposals from three legacy-cost campaign ideas that emerged from a 2013 economic transition listening tour, addressing  issues that compromise the region’s water, air, and land base, and therefore its health, economies, and quality of life.
    • Impacts: Kendall established a partnership with fellow Eric Dixon, Appalachian Citizens Law Center, Virginia Tech, and Alliance for Appalachia that led to the formation of an Abandoned Mine Land Policies and Priorities working group, including the development of a white paper and a custom-made presentation on AML Funds that can be readily presented to various groups across the region to meet individual needs and interests. Kendall and Eric also embarked on a regional educational tour in April 2015 to spark community dialogue and understanding about the opportunities surrounding AML funds.
    • Post-Fellowship: Kendall was hired as the first paid Coordinator of Stay Together Appalachian Youth!