AppalCEED’s first Harvest workshop a success!

On Saturday, November 8th, a group of about 30 people gathered at Mountain Rose Vineyard in Wise, VA for The Harvest: Wise County Apple Days, an event focused on Apples, Hard Apple Cider, and the potential for new economic engines in our region based on these industries. The event was hosted by Appalachian Communities Encouraging Economic Diversity, or AppalCEED.


The group gathered for a potluck lunch, and started by getting to know eachother. In attendance were local apple growers, small business owners, brewers and people enthusiastic about building a more diverse economy in Southwest Virginia.

After lunch, Suzanne Lawson, owner of Mountain Rose Vineyard, took the group on a tour of the Vineyard. She explained some of the difficulties they’ve had in remediating the soil on the property, a former strip mine, to make it suitable for successful grape growing. They’ve tried everything, she explained, dozens of different cover crops, compost, horse manure. Despite set backs over the years, their grapes are growing well now, and they are producing tons of grapes for wine production.

During the tour, Lawson described some of the difficulties that face small producers of any agricultural product, but especially those involved in selling alcohol. Federal, State  and local laws create a web of paper work to track every grape involved in making their wine, and every bottle, once produced.

After the tour, the group sat down for a presentation by Jeff Irvin, instructor and Brewmaster at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College in Asheville, NC. The school has the first program in the country to offer an accredited program and associate’s degree in brewing, fermentation and distillation.

The engaging presentation focused on the basic how-to’s of Apple Cider brewing, from picking the right apples at the right time, to learning to develop a taste pallet for testing ciders and apples, to the equipment and materials needed for commercial cider production to  the need for unique and creative marketing. Perhaps one of the most exciting moments of the day came when Mr. Irvin pointed to the rapid growth of the apple cider business.

Since 2012, volume of Apple Cider sales have risen by 70%, and in the last two years, big players in the beer and wine business, like Anheuser-Busch, Miller and Sam Adams have all purchased large Hard Cider companies. This interest from large corporations shows that they believe the recent rapid growth in Hard Cider sales is destined to continue. Just in the Asheville area, six new cideries have opened in the last few years.

Especially relevant to Wise County and Southwest Virginia, where the climate is beneficial to growing apples, the rise in demand for Hard Cider, and for the apples needed to make it, could be a boon for a return of the apple industry which once flourished in our area.

The event wrapped with up with the giving of door prizes, including Wise County Historical Society’s book, Wise County’s Apple Blossoms of Yesteryear, which highlights the many many small apple farms that once dotted the hills and hollers of our area.

The next AppalCEED event is not yet set, but stay tuned, and get in touch if you’d like to get involved in building new economies in Southwest Virginia!

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The Harvest: Apples, Cider, and Apple Cideries for Economic Diversity

Harvest Poster


Wise County, Virginia was once among the top apple producing counties in the United States and a local group, AppalCEED, which stands for Appalachian Communities Encouraging Economic Diversity, would like to see apples become a viable part of our economy once again.

Our first AppalCEED workshop, in early spring of this year, focused on grafting apple trees and included a spirited panel discussion made up of local apple growers.

On Saturday, November 8th, from 12pm to 4pm at the MountainRose Winery in Wise, VA, AppalCEED will host a second event, “The Harvest”, focused on creating hard apple cider breweries, which have proven to be successful businesses in other parts of Virginia and surrounding states.

The event will begin with lunch at noon followed by a tour of the Mountain Rose Winery and Vineyards. 

Our guest speaker is Jeff Irvin, Brewmaster and instructor in the Brewing, Distillation, and Fermentation Department at AB-Tech in Asheville,

Producers, potential producers, eaters and lovers of apples are all welcome.

The event is free, though donations are welcome.

For Questions, you can call AppalCEED at 276-565-2073
Or you can email Jane at <>.

See you at the Harvest!

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SAMS Mourns the Passing of Judiana Stines

While the last few months have been marked by success and victory, our hearts are heavy with the recent loss of one of our beloved board members, Judiana Stines. Jude went to be with her Lord on Tuesday September 30th after a long and painful struggle from complications with diabetes.

Judiana is remembered by us all for her unshakable optimism and joy. I remember the first time that she walked through the door of the SAMS office after having been urged by a friend to go to the top of Black Mountain to have a look at what was going on up there. Of course, what Jude saw was the devastation of mountain top removal being played out on the hollers that she had known since childhood. Most people, including myself, are hit with an intense sadness and hopelessness when they first see what a few bulldozers and explosives can do to our mountains, but not Judiana. She came into the office that day so sure that if we all worked together- diligently, intelligently, and with hope- that we could turn the tide.

Judiana went home as a peacemaker. She never said anything bad about anybody and always looked for the good in people. When there was disagreement within the SAMS family, Jude was always able to hold a space for that disagreement without getting wrapped up in it, and in doing so helped us to move toward consensus and unified action. Looking back on it, even the worst or the worst- the men that most of us consider the “bad guys”- I think that Judiana looked at them and saw their humanness, that light that lives in us all and binds us together. That light shined so brightly in her.

Even as her health was failing, Judiana never stopped working for what she believed in. She always found ways to contribute to SAMS, even from her hospital bed. At a time in her life when most people would become wrapped up in their own pain, Judiana remained outwardly positive and engaged in the things she cared about the most. Though she would have had every right to seek sympathy, she only looked for ways to keep helping.

I believe that Judiana’s passing has forced all of us in the SAMS family to look deeply into why we keep showing up to the work that we do for our mountains and our people. Judiana’s life stands like our mountains as an unshakable example of what is good and worth fighting for. Her work, faith, joy, and love will live as a benchmark for us to judge our own lives against. And we know that she lives with us in spirit to help us as we strive to joyfully fight the good fight and work for what is good. We will miss her dearly.

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Successful Rally at the White House Council on Environmental Quality

Successful Rally at the White House Council on Environmental Quality


Last week dozens of residents from Appalachia and allies from across the country rallied at the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). This office oversees the Environmental Protection Agency, the Office of Surface Mining and other agencies that are responsible for protecting Appalachian residents from the severe water and health impacts of mountaintop removal and other dangerous coal practices.

Appalachian leaders met with the agencies and were disappointed with the attitude the administration showed towards those that had traveled many hours to DC for the visit. The agency representatives asked for more time to work on the issue, but mountain leaders have been waiting five years since an Obama administration Memorandum of Understanding that promised action against the destructive practice as well as reinvestment in the economy of the region.

The tragic and unbelievable series of toxic water spills in Appalachia in 2014 alone – from the 300,0000 people impacted by the spill in West Virginia to coal ash and coal slurry spills in West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina – are just the most recent disasters to show the failures of the Obama Administration to follow through on its promises to protect Appalachian communities. There have been over 500 mountains destroyed by mountaintop removal coal mining and the region is ready for a just transition to a new economy beyond this destructive practice.

The group engaged in a sit-in on the front steps of the CEQ and waited several hours for an agency representative to come out to speak with them – as well as hosting a square dance with a live band playing traditional Appalachian music in front of the CEQ. In addition, residents organized a bucket brigade to collect clean water from DC to bring back home to their communities which do not have access to safe water to drink.

When no representative agreed to meet with residents after several hours of waiting, residents placed a report card on the steps which evaluated the progress so far of the CEQ on important areas such as protecting the health and water of Appalachia. Participants in the rally gave the administration a grade of “incomplete.”

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