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How Ex-Miners are Transforming pit-scarred Landscapes into fragrant Lavender Farms

How Ex-Miners are Transforming pit-scarred Landscapes into fragrant Lavender Farms
Source: Instagram/appalacianbotanicalco

A West Virginia startup is creating jobs in a state struggling as the fossil fuel energy is on its way out, and providing a sustainable path to restoration and rehabilitation of land destroyed by coal mining.

Appalachian Botanical Co. is growing lavender and raising bees on mine site

Appalachian Botanical Co. is growing lavender on reclaimed coal mine land in Ashford, Boone County, West Virginia. Their mission is to build a botanical enterprise that puts West Virginians and reclaimed coal mines land back to work.

Appalachian Botanical Co. hand harvest organically grown lavender and raw honey produced on their farm and use these ingredients to create all-natural, high quality products. Source: Instagram/appalacianbotanicalco

Appalachian Botanical Co. is growing lavender and raising bees on mine site

Appalachian Botanical Company is a woman-owned business in Boone County, West Virginia, transforming sections of a depleted strip mine into an aromatic wonderland of verdant lavender blooms and buzzing honey bees.

The Ashford, WV company was founded in 2018 by Jocelyn Sheppard on 35 acres previously used for surface mining. Surface mining consists of exposing the uppermost levels of the earth in order to expose and retrieve the underlying valuable resources. 

These mining depressions offer full sun with easily-draining soil, making the well-exposed reclaimed land a prime growing spot for lavender.  

Once these strips are excavated from surface mining, they are not always repurposed. Although state-led environmental regulators usually require some repurposing (such as planting trees), those avenues are costly and take years to be marked as “successful.” 

Joceyln Sheppard’s plants, however, have a quicker growth time, allowing the reclamation checkpoints for the mine owner to be met much more quickly. It’s a win-win. 

Source: TheBusinessDownload

They say they are proud to offer exceptional, curated body care, aromatherapy, culinary and home goods products made by West Virginians. Through their commitment to sustainable agriculture on reclaimed coal mine land, they have brought  economic opportunity and growth back to Boone County.
Since 2019, Appalachian Botanical Co. has been growing lavender and raising bees in Ashford, WV. They say they are proud to offer exceptional, curated body care, aromatherapy, culinary and home goods products made by West Virginians. Through their commitment to sustainable agriculture on reclaimed coal mine land, they have brought economic opportunity and growth back to Boone County. Source: Instagram/appalacianbotanicalco
The company offers flexible employment to people who, due to substance use issues, prior incarceration, lack of transportation, and/or lack of a high school diploma have limited opportunities for decent-paying jobs. They are hiring and training previously unemployed or underemployed workers, some of whom lost their jobs during the coal industry downturn over the past several years.
Jobs for all. The company offers flexible employment to people who, due to substance use issues, prior incarceration, lack of transportation, and/or lack of a high school diploma have limited opportunities for decent-paying jobs. They are hiring and training previously unemployed or underemployed workers, some of whom lost their jobs during the coal industry downturn over the past several years. Source: Instagram/appalacianbotanicalco

Appalachian Botanical boasts a wide variety of products all made with their own lavender and honey

The majority of Appalachian Botanical lavender blooms in June and July and is harvested quickly thereafter to ensure premier quality oils. Notably, the organisation waits until after the “prime harvest” period to allow their honey bees to collect the nectar and pollen. 

Today, Appalachian Botanical boasts a wide variety of home and body products, all crafted with their own lavender and honey. 

In addition to utilising reclaimed mining land, Appalachian Botanical employs 50 full time employees during peak season. Some of these employees are former coal miners.

Appalachian Botanical has seen great success since its founding nearly three years ago. They operate as a “zero waste company,” using all of their ingredient parts to blend outstanding products. 

As the company moves forward, they hope to increase their revenues and begin to see profitability with their operations, which in turn they will use to expand with the goal of increasing sales nationwide. Part of that expansion includes increasing growth in reclaimed mining tunnels, as well as the surface outdoor mines. You can learn more about Appalachian Botanical on their website, here, or follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Source: TheBusinessDownload

Depending on the variety, can have minimal water and attention demands, with prominent variations only requiring watering once every one to two weeks.
Lavender is a relatively easy plant to grow. Depending on the variety, can have minimal water and attention demands, with prominent variations only requiring watering once every one to two weeks. Source: Instagram/appalacianbotanicalco

With 40 acres under cultivation and 85 jobs created, the company is already having an impact

The company currently operates with a lease from the landowner and the cooperation of the mining company. Yet given the well-documented challenges the coal industry is facing—challenges which did not abate with changes in political administrations—Sheppard weighs in on the long-term vision in terms of moving beyond coal in the community. She is clear neither she nor the company wants to get involved in the culture wars around coal.

“I see this as a truly purple project. Regardless of your views on the past, present, or future of coal, it’s fairly clear to everyone in our community that we need to diversify our economy—and we need to find safe and productive uses for the land that’s no longer being mined," Sheppard told Treehugger. "Folks have seen over a decade of company after company closing down, and that doesn’t seem to be getting better. So the community is very interested in and supportive of our efforts to explore something new.” 

With 40 acres now under cultivation and 85 jobs created in the process, the company is already having an impact. There are plans to expand too: With more than 100 acres available at the current site, Appalachian Botanical is actively working to get more plants in the ground and more people employed.

In a long-term vision for when the mine is no longer around, Sheppard suggests there may be opportunities to diversify like stepping into agritourism or other forms of income generation. 

Source: Treehugger 

Growing lavender has the potential to rapidly accelerate reclamation bond release. Growing lavender also means revenue in the form of annual rent and royalties for coal mine land owners. It’s a win-win-win situation.
In West Virginia, the most common reclamation method is reforestation, an expensive and time-consuming process. Growing lavender has the potential to rapidly accelerate reclamation bond release. Growing lavender also means revenue in the form of annual rent and royalties for coal mine land owners. It’s a win-win-win situation. Source: Instagram/appalacianbotanicalco
Most of Appalachian Botanical lavender blooms in June and July and is harvested quickly to ensure premier quality oils. The organisation waits until after the “prime harvest” period to allow their honey bees to collect the nectar and pollen.
Where there are flowers, there are bees. Most of Appalachian Botanical lavender blooms in June and July and is harvested quickly to ensure premier quality oils. The organisation waits until after the “prime harvest” period to allow their honey bees to collect the nectar and pollen. Source: Instagram/appalacianbotanicalco
It is drought and pest resistant, requires only a tiny amount of organic chicken fertiliser during planting, and can be grown successfully without the use of pesticides. “When we watch our honeybees forage in our lavender fields, we know that we are helping to protect a species whose numbers have fallen dramatically in recent years.”
Lavender thrives in the rocky soil typically found on a reclaimed coal mine site. It is drought and pest resistant, requires only a tiny amount of organic chicken fertiliser during planting, and can be grown successfully without the use of pesticides. “When we watch our honeybees forage in our lavender fields, we know that we are helping to protect a species whose numbers have fallen dramatically in recent years.” Source: Facebook/Appalachian Botanical Co.
The target market is the conscious consumer searching for high quality, healthy, and environmentally and socially responsible products. The company’s strong West Virginia brand identity appeals not only to local and regional residents, but also to the large numbers of visitors who stop in Southern West Virginia on their way to and from the Southeast, Midwest, Northeast, and Canada.
Lavender has a wide variety of uses and lavender grown using organic practices is especially valued by consumers. The target market is the conscious consumer searching for high quality, healthy, and environmentally and socially responsible products. The company’s strong West Virginia brand identity appeals not only to local and regional residents, but also to the large numbers of visitors who stop in Southern West Virginia on their way to and from the Southeast, Midwest, Northeast, and Canada. Source: Instagram/appalacianbotanicalco
There are over 6 million acres of abandoned coal mines across the US. Coal mine operators are legally required to restore the land they have mined. For each site mined, operators put up hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars in reclamation bonds, money they do not recover until the land is deemed to be restored and productive.
The company’s success turning lavender into value-added products also provides financial benefit to coal mine operators. There are over 6 million acres of abandoned coal mines across the US. Coal mine operators are legally required to restore the land they have mined. For each site mined, operators put up hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars in reclamation bonds, money they do not recover until the land is deemed to be restored and productive. Source: Instagram/appalacianbotanicalco
Appalachian Botanical Co. chose to farm on reclaimed coal mine land, reviving the land's purpose and returning it to both nature and the local economy.
The farm could be a model for lands destroyed by coal mining across the country. Appalachian Botanical Co. chose to farm on reclaimed coal mine land, reviving the land’s purpose and returning it to both nature and the local economy. Source: Facebook/Appalachian Botanical Co.
A lavender farm in West Virginia is restoring land destroyed by coal mining and providing jobs in a state struggling as the fossil fuel energy is on its way out. There are over 6 million acres of abandoned coal mines across the US, and more could go to waste if coal companies don’t restore their land. Source: Facebook/BusinessInsiderToday
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