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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Residents Demand Transparency, New Jobs on Problem Strip Mine in Appalachia

Looney Ridge Letter Delivery 030

Pre-dawn letter delivery to strip mine gates in response to denial of citizen inspection

Appalachia, VA – In the pre-dawn rain, members of the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards (SAMS) waited to deliver a citizen mine inspection request letter to workers at the foot of an A&G Coal Corp. surface mine in Appalachia, VA. The strip mine on Looney Ridge of Black Mountain, above the community of Inman, was the source of the boulder that killed three-year-old Jeremy Davidson 10 years ago today. The mine was recently cited for bond forfeiture by the Virginia Department of Mines Minerals and Energy. Local residents are concerned that the mine, and many others controlled by billionaire Jim Justice, continues to be out of compliance for required reclamation and reforestation.

The community group is asking that Jim Justice and the VA DMME allow for regular citizen mine inspections to ensure that Justice is in compliance with the law, and applying the best available reclamation techniques on operations like this one. The group has previously asked for citizen inspections of this mine, as allowed by SMCRA, but been denied.

The Wise County residents hoped to meet the morning shift at 5:30 this morning, before delivering the same mine inspection request to the DMME. By 7:00 AM, workers had still not arrived, and so the group left their letter behind a band of caution tape in front of the entrance. The letter can be found at, or below.

“I’m from Inman and we’re here today to deliver a letter to someone from the Justice Group,“ said Ben Hooper, member of SAMS. “They should be working here today as part of the deal worked out with the DMME for reclamation on Looney Ridge, where their bond was revoked, but apparently they’re not. We left a letter here at the entrance to the site, we’re hoping to get the attention of Mr. Jim Justice, to tell him that he needs to be here, working, cleaning up the mess he’s made, as he promised the DMME he would. We need these issues addressed, for the safety and health of the people living in these communities below these operations.

Justice’s operations across the region have fallen under scrutiny, including a $10 million dollar reclamation settlement announced August 19th in Kentucky, including $1.5 million in fines. In July it was revealed by the Louisville Courier-Journal that Justice companies had at least 266 pending surface mine violations in five states .

Jim Justice was recently handed down bond forfeiture requests by the VA DMME for failure to comply with reclamation requirements on four different Wise County mines. The group is demanding that Justice immediately put people to work reclaiming and reforesting these operations, using techniques prescribed by the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative, and that citizens be allowed to monitor these activities to ensure independent verification of the work.

Jane Branham, Vice President of SAMS, shared “We came here, before daylight, to the gates of A&G’s operations, to deliver a message: Pay off your fines, pay your debts to workers, and clean up your mess, or get out of our community. These jobs are sitting idle, and people are not working. There’s opportunity to create lasting jobs, and a better future, if we clean up these strip jobs. There’s enormous potential for jobs in healing the land and sustainably using our natural resources. Justice wants more permits to create more devastation, and we want it to stop.”

According to a 2010 study by West Virginia-based Downstream Strategies, there is potential for up to 35,000 new jobs in the Central Appalachian region through the remediation of bond forfeiture sites, abandoned mine lands and acid mine drainage sites.

The letter delivery this morning is part of the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards Justice to Justice campaign. The campaign aims to draw attention to Jim Justice’s legacy of violations and impacts to communities, and to push him to aid in the economic future of Central Appalachia by putting people to work healing the land that has been scarred by his surface operations.



Three year old killed in 2004:


Bond forfeiture notices:


$10 million settlement:


266 violations in 5 states:


Appalachian Regional Regforestation Initiative Forest Reclamation Approach:


Downstream Strategies 2010 report: “Creating green jobs and economic diversification in Central Appalachia by reclaiming polluting coal mines”,d.aWw

Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards (SAMS) is an organization of concerned community members and their allies who are working to stop the destruction of our communities by surface coal mining, to improve the quality of life in our area, and to help rebuild sustainable communities. We support safe and responsible underground mining and work for the diversification of our coalfield economies.


The Justice To Justice Campaign is a regional effort calling on Jim Justice to commit to supporting a bright, healthy future, a diverse economy, and fair treatment of workers across Central Appalachia.

Citizen Mine Inspection Request Letter

Delivered 8/20/14


Justice Group operations across the region are facing cessation orders and violations from both state and federal agencies. We believe that this mine is in violation of SMCRA, the Clean Water Act and other statutes meant to protect human health and communities from the worst impacts of surface mining

We call on Jim Justice to immediately, settle outstanding debts to workers, settle fines and violations with regulatory agencies, and to put local people to work on these permits by beginning reclamation and reforestation activities.

Jim Justice’s operations have demonstrated an on going problem with maintaining full compliance of laws meant to protect communities, and state agencies have not done enough to reign in these problem sites.

We as SAMS call on Justice to voluntarily start cleaning up his mess, as a gesture of good faith, we would like to see you begin by granting us a citizen inspection that was denied to us last year when the Meg Lynn land permit on Looney Ridge was being renewed.    We would also like permission to test outfalls on this permit, as well as the Bearpen Hollow and Looney Ridge Surface mine permit, where you failed to turn in quarterly monitoring reports according NOV  JRJ0000710 as well NOV JRJ0000992.   We wish to verify for ourselves, the water quality from these ponds.


We are focusing on this operation today due to pending bond forfeitures, but we are generally concerned about all of your operations, and would like to set up a meeting with Jim Justice and Southern Coal leadership, to discuss our concerns.


If you wish to address our concerns feel free to contact us at our office at 276-565-6167, or via email:



The Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards,


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