Regenerative business development: Laura Lengnick

Laura Lengnick is an award-winning soil scientist who has explored agricultural sustainability for more than 30 years as a researcher, policy-maker, educator, and farmer.  Her work in sustainable farming systems was nationally-recognized with a USDA Secretary’s Honor Award and she contributed to the 3rd National Climate Assessment as a lead author of the USDA report Climate Change and U.S. Agriculture: Effects and Adaptation. Laura led the academic program in sustainable agriculture at Warren Wilson College for more than a decade, where she also served as the Director of Sustainability Education, conducted research in sustainability assessment and holistic management, led energy descent action planning, and developed an innovative sustainable dining policy for the college.  In 2015, Laura left the college to launch Cultivating Resilience, LLC, a private consulting firm offering ecosystem-based climate risk management services to business and government.  She is Vice President of Resilience at Climate Optimize, Inc,,serves as an advisor to the North American Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance, and holds a research position in the Resilient Landscapes Program at the Stockholm Resilience Center.  Laura is the author of the 2015 award-winning book, Resilient Agriculture: Cultivating Food Systems for a Changing Climate

Desiree Adaway – Diversity as an Asset training

A Group Program helps you embrace and benefit from the diversity in your personal and professional life. We will analyze issues of race, class and gender through a lens of power, privilege, and binaries while helping participants develop their social justice muscle and critical observations on key issues occurring in our world today that will impact their businesses, clients and communities.

The Adaway Group has developed a thorough and effective model for business planning that has been used in corporate, and non-profit settings. Our process brings groups into clear alignment about their purpose and direction. The planning tools we provide help decision-makers, teams and organizations determine how to best use their resources to achieve their goals

Desiree specializes in strategic planning, program design and development, curriculum development, training design and facilitation. She has extensive experience designing and directing leadership development trainings.  She is a strategist, experienced presenter, knowledgeable curriculum designer and a skilled discussion leader. Her past audiences range from high school students to seasoned professionals.  She has trained over 2000 individuals.

Executive Director – Sara Day Evans

Sara Day Evans, Founding Director for Accelerating Appalachia and Co-Founder of Prosperity Collective, is a sixth generation Kentuckian, and has worked with communities and small businesses across the southeast for over 20 years. She’s served over 300 communities and small businesses in economic development, entrepreneurship and environmental protection and leveraged over $250M in funding in service to the southeast and Appalachian region. She was awarded a presidential commendation from Bill Clinton for her work in the health and livelihood of women living in Appalachian Kentucky through her clean water efforts. With degrees in Geology/Hydrogeology and a background in water law, she was instrumental in developing Kentucky’s groundwater protection programs and later developed Kentucky’s first ongoing solid waste management fund, resulting in an 85% reduction in illegal dumping and a 25% increase in recycling. She served western North Carolina’s hardest hit counties by developing sustainable economy plans that fit with the people and place of the region and created North Carolina’s Green Economy Resources Directory. She’s particularly proud of the program she developed and implemented to install clean energy systems on farms in western NC’s high-unemployment counties while also training high school and community college students in clean energy installation.  In 2011, Sara Day co-founded the social enterprise Prosperity Collective and inspired by the textile, farming, forest products skills of Appalachians, the expanding world of social entrepreneurs and investing for good, she launched Accelerating Appalachia in 2012 to serve nature-based businesses in Appalachia and beyond. For most of her life, Sara Day has been a singer/songwriter and guitarist, performing and also producing exceptional house concerts for good causes. Her most profound influencers are her parents, her children and her lifelong friends, Wendell and Mary Berry.



Erin Bridges

Erin Bridges is a native Kentuckian who recently returned home to support Accelerating Appalachia’s development and outreach work as our Assistant Director. She graduated with honors from University of North Carolina at Asheville in 2016 where she studied Agricultural Ecology in the Environmental Studies Department. While in school, she co-founded a statewide fossil fuel divestment movement on college campuses in North Carolina. She worked closely with the Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network and during school and after graduating, and coached other students on organizing and activism. She currently works with Accelerating Appalachia to network, build, and sustain our important work in her beloved state of Kentucky. She also spends part of her time as a national leader with Sunrise Movement, a youth movement to stop climate change.