Change in the Coalfields: A Podcast by Coalfield Development

Lacy Davidson and Park Ferguson

July 14, 2022 Coalfield Development Season 2 Episode 7
Change in the Coalfields: A Podcast by Coalfield Development
Lacy Davidson and Park Ferguson
Show Notes Transcript

Original intro/outro music: 
"'Till I See Stars" by The Parachute Brigade

John F. Kennedy:

The sun does not always shine in West Virginia, but the people always do. And I'm delighted to be here.

Brandon Dennison:

These are historic times in Appalachia. A lot has changed. A lot is changing now and a lot still needs to change. In our podcasts we talk with change makers right square in the middle of all of this working to ensure the change is for the good. You're listening to Change in the Coalfields, a podcast by Coalfield Development. I'm your host Brandon Dennison. Welcome to Change in the Coalfields. My name is Brandon Dennison. We're here at the Marshall University iCenter podcast studio. And I'm really excited to have two good friends and colleagues Park and Lacey Ferguson of the Twelvepole trading post. And actually, you all have like a bunch of different businesses that we'll get into, but I just, I've admired the work that you do for years, it's been fun to get to know you, see our kids play together. And thanks for coming on the podcast.

Lacy Ferguson:

Thanks for having us.

Brandon Dennison:

So let's we'll start it we'll start at the present, then we'll go back to the beginning. So tell us about your various your businesses, your farm and what you're doing and what you care about these days.

Lacy Ferguson:

Start with the farm.

Park Ferguson:

Okay, so I'm kind of over the the farming aspect. So at Elmcrest Farm, our main three products are meats, mushrooms and herbs. So we do beef, chicken, pork, a variety of herbs that are sold fresh or made into Tea's and seasoned salts, and then also a variety of mushrooms that are also sold fresh or have value added opportunities. And I think we've been official business for like five years, I've been full time on the farm for two. And we're, you know, getting by, and then we kind of formed the trading post as an extension of what we were doing on the farm. So Lacey kind of spearheads that initiative.

Lacy Ferguson:

Yeah, so the Twelvepole Trading Post, informally started during COVID, when we started our farm box service, which is like a subscription, hybrid CSA, we call it Community Supported Agriculture. A box of produce gets delivered to our customers, and it's aggregated from several farmers within our region. So that all happened.

Brandon Dennison:

You're talking to a proud customer, I can personally vouch. Awesome, every week.

Lacy Ferguson:

Yeah, three years and running. So that all started during COVID. Of course, nobody knew if farmer's markets were going to be a thing, and so we had to improvise, you know, we already had, you know, produce planted and mushroom logs inoculated. So we had to figure out something to to some way to move forward with those. And so that went really well, we slowly realized we needed a brick and mortar because having people pick up their boxes in front of our pig paddock wasn't ideal. So there was a vacant building located just between our two properties. And we moved in there, rehabbed it a bit. That building is now for sale. So we've moved into a location in downtown Wayne, which has brought even more customers to us, we serve kind of even a little bit of a different clientele at this point with folks that are working in the town of Wayne. So that's how the Twelvepole Trading Post was birthed.

Brandon Dennison:

I feel like adapting is a theme. I'm already hearing here, you hit a challenge you figure out a solution. Hit that challenge, figure out another solution.

Lacy Ferguson:

Yeah, for sure.

Park Ferguson:

Absolutely. In the farming, you know, you're constantly adapting one to just the challenges of nature, but also the markets, you know, you might have a good market that maybe is grant-funded, you know, through like a Food and Farm Coalition or something like that. And then, you know, in a year or two, it may be gone. And you're you kind of got to keep adapting and finding new things to take that place or just change your production plan and your production schedule. So yeah, every year is really different.

Brandon Dennison:

Park you you grew up in Wayne County, is that right?

Park Ferguson:

Yes.

Brandon Dennison:

Lacey, you grew up in Lincoln County. So did you both grow up on a on a farm?

Park Ferguson:

Yes, we both did. I think our backgrounds are really similar. You know, we both came from families that were pretty comfortable, and, you know, we had the ability to travel and see things when we were young, but also really deep, deep rooted families, you know, multigenerational had been in our respective areas for a long time, and we both were fortunate enough to have land in the family. So you know, gardening and cattle and things like that was just something that we grew up around and didn't really come to love and appreciate, you know, until we got older and saw some other things.

Lacy Ferguson:

Yeah, we normally say, 'We grew up in families that had land.' They weren't necessarily farmers, you know, we definitely subsistence farms, but no one did this for profits. You know, it was that's that's something new that that we've added since we've taken over.

Brandon Dennison:

And was it traveling like what sparked that entrepreneurial sort of like agro entrepreneurial interests? Was that an inspiration you got while traveling? Or? Like where did that come from?

Park Ferguson:

For me it was college honestly, I was a history major and sociology minor. And just every year that passed, you know, the more I learned, I just, I could only see like, the problems in society and problems in our history. And I just kind of kept like wanting to find the answer. And I just felt like it all kind of began and ended with food. I just kept coming back to like, local food, and I certainly, growing up, like, always dreamed about doing something on the farm. You know, I didn't know what it was, if it was, you know, building a gas station or 24 fitness or, you know, something like that. But I always dreamed and it's when I get with old college friends now they're, they'll remind me they're, like, 'You used to always say you were gonna do this used to always talk about doing this on a farm.' And so I kind of forgotten, you know, how early that idea was in my head, you know, until I kind of had forgotten that until it actually became a reality.

Lacy Ferguson:

When I was first seeing Park, we met in Huntington. I had just moved back from California and he he never said, 'You need to come meet my family.' He always said, 'You got to come see the farm,' that's how he lured me out to Wayne County.

Brandon Dennison:

What took you out to California?

Lacy Ferguson:

became a dietitian, and just to kind of follow up to what Park was saying, you know, how did we get here for me that the interest was a need, you know, their food and nutrition and health was was definitely an interest of mine. When we started all of this, and the ability to find and source, you know, good quality food. It was it was tough, you know, it was scarce at the time. And that has changed a lot. I like to think we're a part of that change, but also folks like Refresh Appalachia and all of the networks that are associated with them, it's become easier but you know, that's where and how I felt like it was important for us to do this on the farm.

Brandon Dennison:

And growing up in in Lincoln County, I happen to know your your family, the entrepreneurial bug goes way back in Lincoln County as well. Right?

Lacy Ferguson:

Yeah, I definitely grew up in an entrepreneurial household. I think, don't quote me on this. But I think my father's business, which his father bought from his uncle, so it's been in our family for a long time. It's like the longest running business still open in Lincoln County, which I think is kind of cool, the Branch Limb Lumber Company. So you know, I was selling zucchinis at like five years old out of my dad's store, trying to hustle and make $1.00 , so I've always kind of been an entrepreneur at heart.

Brandon Dennison:

What did you learn about business growing up around the Branch Limb Lumber store?

Lacy Ferguson:

You know, I don't remember anything that they might teach in, in the books but hard work was always you know, first and foremost, like you, you always if somebody showed up, you know, they needed help you help them above and beyond anything else. Like I think working hard was probably the most obvious thing that I remember taking away like you don't take you don't even take Sundays off in my family.

Brandon Dennison:

Go as long and hard as you gotta go, huh?

Lacy Ferguson:

Yeah.

Brandon Dennison:

You mentioned you went to California, moved back and met Park, so tell us the love story. How did you guys come together?

Park Ferguson:

I've been nominated. So I was working in Charleston. I had my first like, adult job there and we just wasn't really happy. I was kind of like, locked inside all day at a at a desk and yeah, I was 24 I finally just like alright, I'm going home. A bunch of crazy things happened that week, my grandpa's house had actually burned down I moved out of my apartment by myself you know just like every plan that was made just went haywire I got back, but finished all that that weekend, moved back to Wayne and was had been practicing yoga and I was like you know I need to find a yoga family in Huntington. So I went to Studio A and I barged in at the end of the class when everybody's like laying there in relaxation like I came in, I didn't realize there was class going on. So of course like disturbed everybody there, and Lacey was in that class. I remember I, you know, noticing her, you know, when she was sitting up and getting her things together, and then she ended up being the teacher of the class that I came to attend, coincidentally, a week later.

Brandon Dennison:

This is such a great story I'm so glad I asked, one of my favorite things about the podcast: good friends that I've had for years, it gives me an excuse to ask questions that I wouldn't normally just ask, this is a great story.

Park Ferguson:

Finally get some clarity on the whole story.

Brandon Dennison:

Yes, yeah.

Park Ferguson:

I went back like a week later, different class, different name different day. She was my teacher, coincidentally, you know, just that kind of stuff happened. You know, I went to a couple events there. So we crossed paths a couple of times, and, you know, talked every time and eventually just, you know, started spending some time together. And, you know, she came out to Wayne and pretty much hasn't left since.

Brandon Dennison:

She came to see the farm.

Park Ferguson:

Yeah, that was it

Brandon Dennison:

And bought into nonetheless.

Park Ferguson:

Mom's home cooking, I think was what did it.

Brandon Dennison:

That's awesome. Well, it's cool. We can hear Luke in the background, you know, sharing your story that that's appropriate. That makes sense. So give us the timeline. So you all met you came, Park came from Charleston to Huntington. Lacy came from California back to Wayne County. How did the entrepreneur, how did the farm well I guess both the farm and the trading post, how did those sort of ramp up? Was it fast or slow?

Park Ferguson:

It was it was slow. Definitely. And you know, we were just balanced in, you know, career and work life. I had the dream, I'm definitely the dreamer. And she's the doer, you know, come up with crazy ideas. And that's like, if I let myself that's as far as it goes, you know? So she, she was like, Okay, what's next? You know, how do we get there. So she really kind of provided some some direction and tangible steps to bring things into reality. We first formed a nonprofit, which is still in existence today, Access WV, and the mission is to build prosperous communities through local food, outdoor activity, and preservation of culture. So we were doing events, trail runs at the state parks with Farm to Table dinners, and we're working our butts off, and you know, the money just kind of stayed in the organization. So we kind of had the thought if we, you know, if we're gonna do all this work, like, why not make it a real business. So then we formed, um, Elmcrest Enterprise, which is our legal name, we just kind of hodgepodged through it. Honestly, the first year we planted probably like 30 different plants like purple brussel sprouts. And I mean, like kohlrabi, like you name it, just anything you can think of, and we're gonna do farmers markets, we had bad soil, it was a new garden, bugs, you know, poor soil, like everything failed, except the herbs. The herbs did good, so we picked the herbs, we harvested them and dry them and had a bag a JQD salt. And we we mix that and made a seasoned salt. So you can picture a little it was in a little sandwich bag, a little, some green flecks and a little. And we had that on the table at farmers markets. And it sold like crazy. So that was like our first like, successful product. And, you know, we learned that like deer and bugs don't like herbs. So it's like, okay, we do herbs now that, you know, provided a little bit of income. And then do you have anything to add?

Lacy Ferguson:

I know I was gonna say is what Park saying without saying is we were clueless, and we didn't know what we were doing.

Park Ferguson:

Absolutely. But we just we kind of just like, plowed through the first three years and just like just like that for generally...

Brandon Dennison:

So that phrase for you, so you play like 30 different plants, only like the herbs made it so basically you're like one for 30.

Park Ferguson:

Yeah.

Brandon Dennison:

That was enough to keep you going. That was enough of a win, right?

Park Ferguson:

Yeah. And to all the beginning farmers it's it's it's not how good you are at growing stuff, it's how good you are and selling stuff. You know, that's like that's the thing is like I've learned over the years, spend more time selling if your goal is to sell foreign products, you need to spend more time selling or as much time selling as you do growing. So that was kind of like just something that we learned over the years, but it was the same thing like the next three or four years like we just took what we could get, you know, took what we had and made something out of it. Ben Gilmer with Refresh in 2017 called me and he goes, 'Hey, why don't you order about 80 meat chickens.

Brandon Dennison:

I am going to make sure Ben Gilmer listens to this podcast, that was spot on.

Park Ferguson:

I think he'd be proud of what we become, but he goes he says, 'Order 80 meat chickens and we'll do a processing workshop. We'll bring the trailer down.' It ended up with these like good, nice, you know, five pound chickens beautiful. Made a little money on that, you know, and I enjoyed that. We had a couple laying hens. So really in that in 2017, that third or fourth year of production was when we started getting into the meats more. And we always had cattle.

Brandon Dennison:

So the meats were not part of the original?

Park Ferguson:

Nah, not they weren't the cattle Dad has always had cattle was just kind of like a hobby for him. And I didn't, I didn't know the business well enough to see the opportunity in it, you know, in those early days. But now, let's see, this year, we'll be doing 700, maybe 800, meat chickens, we'll probably have like eight beefs processed big, big beefs that that. And I think I'll probably do about 12 Pigs this year. So, you know, meat, I'd say meat is half maybe more than half of our income at this point.

Lacy Ferguson:

Behind the scenes, you know, we're doing this too, because we want to eat well, you know, and selling a little of the excess is kind of just the cherry on top. But our core motivation in the beginning wasn't to, like do this as a business and make money. It was certainly to, you know, provide for ourselves first. And as a bonus, it's like, you know, we have all of these resources at our disposal, why not grow more than we can consume ourselves, you know, why not make extra money or feed more people or, you know, whatever. So that's kind of where that's how it evolved into a business.

Park Ferguson:

Yeah that was the original motive. And we still to this day, you know, if we don't eat it, we don't grow it. You know, if you're not willing to eat it, you know, how confidently can you sell it? You know? So that's definitely, you know, first and foremost, the foundation of everything that we produce, is what we love, what we love to eat and love to

Brandon Dennison:

You mentioned, both coming from really multi produce. generational Appalachian families, just a deep sense of family and community. Is that part of where the market inspiration comes from? I mean, the markets, it's a market for you all, but it's also a market for other local entrepreneurs. And it feels like a community development project. And I mean, every time I've been to a market, either location, there's like a 4H workshop going on, or there's like a arts and crafts for kids event going on. I mean, it's much more than just a store. Right?

Lacy Ferguson:

Yeah, I mean, that. And again, like we saw a need. And so we realized when we, when we opened the business, like, we one, we couldn't survive alone, just selling our product, you know, we needed to incorporate other people, and there isn't someplace to like go to go to attend a community workshop or event, there's nowhere to have a decent cup of coffee in Wayne. And so we realized that there are a lot of other components that we could kind of forge together. And hopefully with all of them combined, we can make it. So so far, we're about two years in and it's going well, but yeah, it's definitely more than just a business where we sell our things, you know, it's it's been important for us, throughout everything, you know, we've observed especially with our farm box concepts, like it helps to have more variety and diversity and bring other people into the fold. And we've met some really great friends, you know, farmer friends, and artisan friends who are super talented, and, you know, I don't know where we would be without them at this point.

Park Ferguson:

If you look at areas where, you know, farmers markets are really successful, it's a part of the culture. You know, so I think a lot about the trading post is like, we're really trying to forcefully create that cultural shift, where people like really respect and appreciate local and where local food even if it costs a little more, it's cool. And people want it and you know, young people can be inspired and you know, realize that there are careers like they can stay home and make crafts or grow food. So I think we're very public about it, because we want to impact the culture in our in our

Brandon Dennison:

And I think you are. I definitely I community. definitely see the impact. Talk me through I would love to hear about so being on the farm. So you live on the farm, you work the farm, I would love to just hear about a happy day. And a really tough day on the farm and not necessarily like a big event, but just a normal day that if somebody could like observe from a drone above and like you wouldn't even know that they were there like what is it like being a farmer in Wayne County in 2022. And give us an example of a happy day on the farm and a tough bad day on the farm?

Park Ferguson:

Well that I can I can talk probably spend the rest of our time on that one so cut me off but weather, weather and seasons you know are like two huge factors that you're constantly aware of, and that shape your day to day activities. You know So you're always you're always planning around, you know, being out there when it's dry. If it's insanely hot, you know, that's you want to try to do your office work from like, noon to four, you know, try to try to get out of that heat. So like a bad day would be a day that you just have to be out there for me, like, I don't mind the cold. And the winter is kind of like our offseason, just just shorter days, I mean, shorter, a shorter work day, essentially. And I'm spending more time at the trading posts, which for me, like checking people out or installing a sink is is easy work compared to being out like, in that, you know, 93 degree days, there's some days in the garden especially, which is not as probably, like, my least favorite thing that we do is just like, like working in a garden, I like growing produce personally, but commercially, just it's just a lot of a lot of work. So for me, a bad day would be like a really hot day. First and foremost, there's always, you know, things are breaking all the time, like, you know, we have, we have no debt in our business. So you're you're working with what you got, you're working with old equipment, you know, you're buying used equipment, things are tearing up a bad day, nature can give you bad days, I our first batch of meat chickens, I had 150 meat chickens had about $1,000 in invested in them at that point. And I had some wild dogs get into them at night and kill all but seven. So like 143 meat chickens, that would have had a retail value of probably like $4,000 when they were finished. So you'd have things like that. And honestly, after a while, you get like I wasn't upset, or I mean, I didn't cry, I wasn't mad, you know, because I've just I've seen it enough times, like, we've not lost that many, but I've lost 10 in one day and then a couple years later, we lost 40 in one day, you know, you can lose them too cold, you can lose them the hot, you know, nature throws curves at you. A good day, every day is a good day in its own right, you know, a good day to me that like what comes to mind is like October or April, you know, like 55 and sunny and like, you know, wear like long sleeve t shirt kind of work day, you know, and that time of year, we're usually that's kind of when we might be doing like building a building or getting stuff set up. Like in the spring we're getting set up to have the animals come and the plants come. So that's usually the kind of work that we're doing. And when we get into summer, I'm usually just caught in the heat, you know, pretty much the whole time in there. And I'm not an early riser. I mean, you should a real farmer would be out there at 5am and I'm not you know and we make breakfast and get Luke ready you know, so I'm lucky to get out there at eight or nine. So I'm I'm just in that heat.

Lacy Ferguson:

I'll say the only bad day on the farm for me is when Park's out of town which was recently 400 chicken, six pigs how many 20 cattle and a toddler to take care of that's tough. But as long as parked here, it's always a good day for us too.

Brandon Dennison:

Can you all describe your farm for somebody who's not not seen it? Like what are describe what it's like, what it looks like, what are some of the features? And do you have like a favorite spot that you all like to go to from time to time to recenter.

Park Ferguson:

So we have two properties in the family and this is this is my family you know here here in Wayne, in Wayne County. So the the farm where my parents live and really where we started things. It's kind of like a like your classic hollow, you know, so you got you got mountains on both sides, and what bottom land we have is just kind of there along the creek. I'd say in here we probably have like, probably like 18 acres of pasture so that's for every season but the winter and then in the barn lot on hay you know, in the wintertime. We have frontage on 152 So picture that hollow with some some pasture and flat ground and our garden and then we have frontage on 152 where the barn and greenhouse, walk in freezer is located so that's kind of like we that's kind of a point of sale you know if anybody's like coming to get meat out of the freezer or something like that, you know we can meet people down there by the road of course everything is stored down there you know tools, equipment, feed. And then our other farm is actually where we live and it has been in the family since the 70s it was it was an old dairy and no one has lived there because it's it's just challenging to get to you know we're on a well you know, there's no city water. We had to run utilities you know several hundred feet you know to get near the house so electricity, the roads Iike a mile and a half on like a bumpy, crappy gravel road. But that farm is really a better farm.

Brandon Dennison:

And I don't mean over a bridge.

Park Ferguson:

Yeah, like, yeah, you drive through the creek twice, and you cross the railroad four times to get to the house. So, you know, it's a long journey getting in and out of there. But that is actually better land, in my opinion. We have the hay fields, we probably have probably 30 acres in hay over there, which is, you know, pretty flat and good fertile ground. And then the cattle are grazing another 12 or 15 acres. And then at the house, you know, it's a lot of bottom land on Twelvepole, you know, that flat ground was created by, there's a big bend in the creek, kind of picture like the creek makes like a horseshoe shape. So you know, all that land on the bottom is good flat ground, and then the elevation gradually increases, you know, and goes back up to the hillside. So we're like, the house is halfway up that hill. And that's where we have the mushrooms, we planted a lot of fruit trees, we're working toward a edible landscape around the house. So that is really like the homestead, you know, is centered around the house. And we have raised beds that we made with our old mushroom logs that you know, can are like kind of like containers for soil and just have paths, you know, that go lead from one thing to the next. So it's really nice. We are you know, you mentioned a favorite spot we wanted to build over there because we wanted to farm over there. And so we just really liked the land there and favorite spot. Yeah, yeah. So that was it, you know, we, we thought about building over here at mom and dad's, you know, around here, just for the ease of utilities, you know, gas, water, electric, and, you know, ease to get to. But we were like, if this is the goal, like if the goal was to farm here and build here one day, like if we're going to build let's just do it right now. You know, so we so we build over there with the intent of growing the business over there. And we've been there almost three years and have slowly moved things over there. So all the chickens are over there. Now all the mushrooms are over there. The pigs are there, the cattle are like half and half. And then the greenhouse, the big garden and the walk in freezer are here on this Garrett's Creek side.

Brandon Dennison:

Making it happen. You mentioned the creek Twelvepole Creek, which anybody knows Wayne County. That's sort of the defining waterway right? It runs right up the middle of the county does that does that ever flood on you as flooding

Park Ferguson:

Those those big hay fields can flood it's been a problem? usually in the wintertime. And it hasn't really been a problem because the cattle have the ability to get to go to higher ground. So we don't have like crops down there anything that would be damaged by that we did and I've really only seen it once and that hay field. The railroad runs through there and the railroads a 500 year floodplain so that upper field is pretty much level it's at the 500 year floodplain and we were able we use the side by side to move square bales of hay so we drove on the railroad with the side by side to haul hay for the cattle that that were in that upper field because we had no way to move round bales you know it's...

Brandon Dennison:

It's interesting with with farming like in some ways there's rhythms and patterns that you get in sync with but then unexpected crisis sort of you it's almost like an automatic assumption you'll run into some things that will disrupt those patterns too.

Park Ferguson:

It is definitely you know as far as planning like I plan production like around the seasons and month to month you know this this time and it's like windows so it's like in this like two week window is when we need to get the first chickens this two week windows when the plants need to come out you know this two week windows when we need to whatever have our first beef come in. But yeah then there's that's why you plan for two weeks and not like one day because there's there's always something you know nature throws stuff at you weather, you know and you know you want to get your plants out you know last frost you know May 7, May 10 but you may not have weather you know your ground could be soaked for two weeks and you know just and the main thing is to not let that throw everything else off. And there's a lot of things that if you if you miss that window, it's almost pointless to do it. Like say like, you know, lettuce or kale or something that that you want to plant in the spring and harvest this time of year once it gets so hot, a lot of that stuff will go to seed and it's just useless. So this year, I had lettuce and kale and stuff like that planted on time. And I had mice in the greenhouse, I didn't really know where they're, and they ate, just picture a little microgreens, you know, and seed trays, like they mowed it down one night. And, you know, the stuff that I planted late, is like bolting now before a harvest, a lot of it is. So there's, there's certain things that if you miss that window, you're better off just waiting a lot of the time, because you put so much work and time into it. And if it doesn't yield, you know, you wasted precious time and precious money on that stuff.

Brandon Dennison:

So you're both Appalachian entrepreneurs, you're making it happen. It's hard, but you adapt, you problem-solve, persist? What are some of the biggest changes that you've seen in Appalachia? During your time? And then what are some of the biggest changes you still hope to see?

Park Ferguson:

I was so we have a we have a new employee. And I was telling her yesterday and she's moved here to Wayne from El Paso and absolutely loves it. And she's she's affiliated with the Orthodox Church in the monastery. And so she came to visit and that's what got her hooked. But I was telling her I was like, I know you really liked this place. I was like, but when I was a kid, it was much more vibrant. You know, there was a lot more going on and a lot more community engagement. You know, your classic, you know, Appalachian downtown's with empty storefronts, you know, there were at least half full, you know, when I was a kid, so I've definitely I've seen that, you know, the effects of population loss. The the effects of drug use, you know, is huge. And I couldn't tell you how many classmates or people that I just was in school with that have passed away, OD'd, you know, and it's common when you open the newspaper, they're in the obituary, you know, somebody else. So, you know, it's definitely been a change that I've seen throughout my lifetime. And I think even more recently, you know, with just inflation gas prices, I think people were being a little more cautious with their spending, you know, I think our our sales have kind of, just this month even just seem to have slowed a little bit. So I'm curious to see what the effects of that will be.

Lacy Ferguson:

Yeah, I mean, I can echo a lot of what Park said, with regards to Lincoln County, and my experience there growing up versus now, you know, I think there's just a lot less, there are fewer little leagues than there were when I was growing up, or, for instance, but I think about Huntington, you know, when I was in Huntington, going to undergrad like 2010, 2006 to 2010. You know, I think of that time and Huntington, it's a pretty low time, you know, Jamie Oliver came to town, which was in the field of Nutrition Dietetics, you know, that was kind of noteworthy and pointed out how poor health was in our region, you know, and there's not just one yoga studio, like, there are multiple now in the tri state, there are a ton of efforts being made just around health promotion in general, you know, Pharmacy with an F programs and lots of different clinics in the area. So, I think, you know, looking at, at the more rural areas, there's, there's definitely less happening, but I feel like in Huntington in general, there's a big movement for more, you know, cultural inclusion, you know, more diversity, more people who care that are just stepping up and creating change.

Park Ferguson:

I think, like, what the second part, you know, what we hope to see, in my opinion, I feel like entrepreneurship is the answer. You know, I think, you know, nobody's gonna come and save us. There's not like, and there's no, there's not a ton of venture capital that people in Appalachia have access to, you know, there's not even a lot of local wealthy people to, you know, guide people and, you know, kind of give direction or, or financing. You know, I can't imagine going to a bank and trying to get a loan for a small farm. You know, I think it would be a real challenge. But yeah, I just think like, entrepreneurship, local ownership, you know, they, I don't know the number but how much $1 circulates within a community. You know, we you know, we've had the reliance on extraction industries, and you know, the wealth, yes, people had good jobs, but the wealth that was generated from that left the area, you know, the person or families or people that own those mines or those companies did not live in West Virginia. So I think, for our people to have ownership and equity in our initiatives will lead to that retention of our dollars, you know, but also the cultural changes that we were talking about.

Brandon Dennison:

I couldn't agree more, I think entrepreneurship, it's, it's our hope for the future. And there's no doubt that, you know, 2010, to, you know, 2015 2016 really dark time for a lot of central Appalachia. But I think we are starting to see we sort of hit rock bottom, in my opinion, you know, and it's like, we're dealing with that, and coming to terms with that. And now, I'm seeing more and more startups, you know, more and more entrepreneurs, a lot of times young people, not always young people, but a lot of people are just gonna take this into our own hands, you know, we know, we can do better in Appalachia, we know Appalachia deserves better, and we're determined to do better, and you all truly, you're good friends, but you're you're an absolute inspiration, and what you're doing and the way you stick with it means a lot. And it's great to just hear some of your stories, in your own words, I know our guests are going to appreciate it. And I really appreciate your time today.

Park Ferguson:

We appreciate you. I do want to add like, you know, you mentioned young people in startups, and I know more people that have left the area than that have stayed, uh, you know, really intelligent, talented people, my brother and sister both of my brothers and Morgantown sisters in Jackson, Wyoming. And they're killing it, like, you know, they get a promotion or better job offer every six months. And I know, I can think of 10, 15 people that are, you know, doing the same thing in Charlotte and Baltimore, and, you know, wherever they may be, and I just, I wonder how transformative it would be if if they came back, you know, if they were putting that same energy and same effort into Wayne, you know, or into, you know, the respective communities around the state. What kind of difference would that make? You know, so I think, and I'm always I'm selling everybody, like, come back, you know, come back, come back like this is, this is a place to be, you know, this is where you can really make something happen. But I really think the more of them that are able to get back or the more of the talented young people we are able to keep, you know, that are in high school now or in college now, the better off we're going to be.

Brandon Dennison:

And to do that to get people to come back. They need to have a place to get a cup of coffee. They need to have fun activities for their kids to do. They need to have a beautiful landscape to interact with. And that's what it takes, right? . That's part of it. That's got to be part of it.

Park Ferguson:

Absolutely. We definitely got the natural assets. But you know, doing the state parks, outdoor recreation, and we've got something to leverage, you know, just just there. We've got a selling point.

Brandon Dennison:

All right, thank you both so much, and good luck with the hot hot days of July and August ahead. And we'll be following all the progress that's to come.

Park Ferguson:

Thank you, Brandon.

Lacy Ferguson:

Appreciate you guys.

Brandon Dennison:

All right. Change in the Coalfields is a podcast created by Coalfield Development in the hills and hollers of West Virginia. This episode was hosted by Brandon Dennison, and produced and edited by JJN multimedia. Become a part of our mission to rebuild the Appalachian economy by going to our website Coalfield-development.org. To make a donation, you can email us anytime at info@Coalfield-development.org and subscribe to our newsletter for more information on the podcast. You can follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn by searching Coalfield Development. Check back soon for more episodes.