Tonight we had the pleasure of hearing some music and words of wisdom from Jimmy Wolford, a local man who “has done it all”. From serving as a drummer in the navy to working on Hubert Humphrey’s campaign to his friendships with Lorne Greene and Jack Palance to his songwriting about the Hatfields and McCoys, he sure has done a lot. He had a great sense of humor and some words of wisdom to share that we’ll take with us forever…
“You can’t be 100% right and you can’t be 100% wrong, but you can be 100% kind.”
“If you get a chance, go everywhere and take the best part of you with you.”
While the practice of mountain top removal and strip mining can be scarring to the land we were surprised to learn how resilient the land can be and how quickly new growth can occur. We spent time in an orchard that has been planted in one of these reclamation projects. Sadly this has created new problems such as various diseases that can attack the different fruits. We spent some time removing diseases peaches from one part of this orchard.
Today half of the group worked on a local farm. The farmer, Doug Dudley, lives with his wife on the farm. He spent 33 years working in the coal mines during the day while tending his farm in the evenings. After retiring from the mines he now runs the farm by himself. Doug needs all of the help he can get so he was very appreciative that our group was there, sponsored by Sustainable Williamson. He uses no chemicals on the farm and prefers to run it has his father did earlier in the 20th century.
Location:Doug Dudley’s Farm
The one tourist activity we have while we are visiting West Virginia and Kentucky is the tour of the historic sites associated with the famous American cued between the Hatfield and McCoy families. Our host here in Appalachia runs a guided tour of many sites associated with the feud.
“A lot of your problems are your opportunities.” On Monday evening we met with the mayor of Williamson, Darrin McCormick. He spoke at length about the issues apparent in Williamson around the integration of sustainable resources into the economy. In the Williamson area, coal is essentially the entire economy. The coal industry has been highly politicized. What many people don’t realize is that Mingo county has already lost one third of its population. If coal were to simply disappear then so would the town if Williamson. “People can sometimes be opposed to things without a full understanding of all if the issues around jobs and the livelihood of the community” said Mayor McCormick. The transition to sustainability will take a long time and require cooperation from all sides. It is taking some effort to teach the local population that sustainability does not mean that the “green” side is winning out over coal. Everyone needs to come to the meetings and workshops and learn how to diversify the town and county’s portfolio of energy consumption and economic models. The consensus needs to be on new efficiencies, new revenue sources. Sustainable Williamson is just one piece to this puzzle. Mayor McCormick has a tough job ahead but seems to be the right person to take it on.
In addition to the community gardens we are spending time working at a few different low income housing projects. This was some of the first subsidized housing created in the country. The work includes building a playground, constructing raised flower beds and painting.
We ended our first day at a pig roast at the community gardens where half of us worked today. A local bluegrass band was amazing and set just the right tone for the event. After they finished their set we got to share some of our music and some other locals joined in the fun.