A Day on the Farm: Coalfield travels to Highwall location in Mingo Co.

For April’s Council Day, we traveled to Mingo County to Coalfield Development’s Highwall location to tour and celebrate progress occurring in the coalfields we work to promote. 

Friday morning began with a moment of pause to take in the sounds and scenery at the Highwall. We also celebrated several personal and professional highlights, including the introduction of our new crew and staff members, car purchase, and a crew member’s 100 days of sobriety. 

New staffers and crew also received their Coalfield hats, including Dreama Buck, Caroline Hunter, and Carrie Cyrus, who received blue hats, and Danny Burnside, a new trainee who received a brown hat.

Brown hats are given to WRAPS crew members, which honors their start at Coalfield and our role in rebuilding the Appalachian economy from the ground up. Blue hats are given to staff members and symbolize the big vision and the ways incremental change can sustain a new Appalachian economy with less poverty and more wellness and health.

Our role in rebuilding the Appalachian economy

CEO Brandon Dennison’s Mission Moment focused on the significance of our Highwall location and its role in rebuilding the Appalachian economy. The Highwall site is a former coal mining site that Coalfield Development reclaimed for agricultural efforts. Today, the site is home to a high tunnel, farming operation, and livestock. 

“Being here speaks to what we’re all about,” Brandon said. “This site takes a lot of courage on a lot of different levels.”

Highwall represents the culmination of multiple Coalfield enterprises’ efforts: The Revitalize team built a cabin near the entrance of the site, which is now rented out for ATV riders, and the Refresh team currently runs the agricultural side. 

“We looked at things [like Highwall] that others thought of as a liability, looked at it differently, and thought it could be an asset,” Brandon said. 

Kaleb Hanshaw, project manager at Highwall, said he was elated to have the rest of the Coalfield crew on site.

“This is the heart of the project: bringing balance to the Mingo County ecosystem,” Kaleb said. “We love our history and we love our heritage of coal, and what I love about how the earth works is that it will heal itself. What we get to do is a privilege to come alongside it and partner with nature to make that happen a little bit quicker.”

Kaleb said he has recently seen foxes and birds return to the land, which means the land is healing faster. Every action we take, he said, can make a difference for other aspects of the farm. 

“We do things that help other things,” Kaleb said. “It’s a system. Everything on this farm helps the other things on this farm. We do things that help the soil. We’re bringing life back into the bare rock.”

The use of permaculture, rotational grazing, livestock, and food have also been incorporated into public and internal education. Kaleb said.

“Everything we do can be implemented in your backyard,” he added. 

Commemorating the Mountain Mindful Anniversary

Next, we turned our focus to personal and group reflections to collaborate on making processes more efficient or impactful and took the opportunity to explore the property. Following lunch, we reconvened to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Mountain Mindful launch, which took place on Earth Day last year. 

In honor of the milestone, we divided into groups to plant berry bushes and other produce. Jim Caldwell, crew chief of Mountain Mindful, expressed his gratitude for his crew, their outstanding work ethic, and Coalfield leadership’s support — all of which have enabled the enterprise to thrive. 

“As I reflect back on our first year of Mountain Mindful, I’m reminded of both the great challenges faced by every team within our walls and the abominable spirit that has shown time and time again as this team rose to the occasion.”

Many challenges, Jim said, have risen over the last year, from material shortages, tough deadlines, operating around equipment failure, making sales in uncertain times. Amid these adversities, the team has “consistently outperformed” expectations.

“As we look toward the future and see other apparel and embellishment companies and woodshops moving more toward sustainability and greener operational practices, we can take great pride in being at the very forefront of this emergence,” Jim concluded. “It’s been a busy and hectic year full of twists and turns, new friends and opportunities, it’s our dedication to people and the planet that is driving not only our profit, but our recognition as environmentally conscious leaders in our industry.”

Adam Hudson, of Revitalize, also shared some reflections on the past year’s growth. 

“There’s an old Chinese proverb that says, ‘The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The next best time is today,’” Adam said. “That goes for blueberry bushes, which can last for 30 years — that’s longer than most people in here have been alive. Those plants will produce pounds and pounds we’ll be able to harvest, share with livestock, share with local markets and schools.” 

A Note from the Team: Thanks for celebrating these milestones with us today. We have several new and exciting projects on the horizon, including the debut of our upcoming Council Day podcast. In this podcast, you can hear speaker highlights, conversations with our crew, and remarks from CEO Brandon Dennison. Stay tuned for the release of our first episode in mid-June.

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