Former mining site
Former mining site in Central Appalachia. (Photo: Courtesy of Nathan Hall)

In West Virginia and other areas of Central Appalachia, coal mining has turned the tops of formerly green mountains into rocky plateaus.

Hall: “You have compacted, rocky, invasive-species infested land.”

That’s Nathan Hall. He once worked as an underground coal miner. Now, he’s president of Reclaim Appalachia, an organization working to convert former mine land into low-cost, useable farmland.

Hall: “Central Appalachia has almost no viable farmland.”

At a pilot site in Mingo County, West Virginia, goats, chickens, and hogs are rotated through six acres of land. The animals eat the invasive plants and their manure adds nutrients to the ground.

Then, heavy machinery churns the compacted earth and pulverizes rock to make the ground suitable for planting. The goal is to grow specialty crops like berries, nuts, and herbs, and raise meat and eggs.

'It's the only place that I'm really comfortable, and I think I can make an impact here.' Click To Tweet

Hall says that reviving this depleted land can provide a new, sustainable industry for the region he loves.

Hall: “It’s kind of hard to explain just how intrinsic these mountains and this landscape is to your being. It’s the only place that I’m really comfortable, and I think I can make an impact here.”

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.

Topics: Food & Agriculture