Storm Cloud Media spent some time with us in Appalachia. Watch to learn more about the heart of Accelerating Appalachia and our participant businesses.





We are so excited to partner on HempX Asheville! HempX is the first festival in North Carolina with a focus on educating the public on the multiple uses and diversity of products that come from industrial hemp. All proceeds benefit Accelerating Appalachia. Join us at Highland Brewing for two days of talks, hemp foods, networking, and of course, live music and beer.

The 2015 Accelerating Appalachia nature-based businesses will be presenting at the Pitch Party in Asheville on May 14th. We are so proud of this incredible group of graduates in food, farming, eco-services, seeds, botanical essences, natural building and games! Our keynote is the fabulous Judy Wicks, thought leader in growing good economies, co-founder of Be A Localist Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) and reading from her book, “Good Morning Beautiful Business”. Emcees for the evening, from Our Southern Community, are the lovely Michelle Smith and the handsome Ned Doyle! Join us for a meaningful and fun-filled evening with yummy local appetizers and cash bar. Tickets available now.

The Accelerating Appalachia team and  2015 participants

The Accelerating Appalachia team and 2015 participants



esam-final_logoEcological Services & Markets, Inc. is an environmental consulting firm that mixes research and management, working with private landowners, Federal agencies, and academic institutions to determine the best ways to establish tradable credit systems for natural resource assets. The team has a strong background in natural resource policy, environmental economics, both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and computer science. Services developed and provided by ESAM include: metrics for trading habitat at a landscape scale including climate change scenarios; landscape-scale population viability analysis; habitat suitability models, using soil, vegetation surveys, and remotely sensed data; estimation of dispersal behaviors of cryptic species using indirect methods such as genetics and inverse simulation modeling; evaluation and prioritization of species monitoring programs; workshops for public and private landowners; software for evaluating the ability of habitat trades to provide conservation value at a landscape scale; high-performance computer network for evaluating uncertainty in landscape-scale management decisions; and quantitative Adaptive Management approaches for managing habitat networks. Contact ESAM founder, Doug Bruggeman, via email:


logo_fbsmFarmer-Baker-Sausage Maker is a company that seeks to energize the local economy by returning to foods crafted by hand. Their restaurant, Harvest HMG RGB 72dpi Circle (2)Moon Grille, nourishes its patrons and the local economy by sourcing its ingredients from small scale farms within 100 miles.


GRPlogo10.29.14 copy copyGreen River Picklers strives to produce the highest quality pickled vegetables using the simplest and most sustainable means. Locally sourced, consciously produced, and hand packed in small batches, Green River Picklers aims to pay tribute to our southern heritage by continuing family traditions & preserving local food, while continuously fostering growth in our community. kickstarter_logo-try_staffGreen River Picklers has a Kickstarter campaign under way right now. Click the image above to contribute!


PrintGrowJourney is a seeds of the month club specializing in certified organic heirloom seeds. We make organic gardening simple for members across the United States and Canada.


RIALogoRiver Island Apothecary is a product line of all-botanical perfume and skin care designed and produced in thoughtful batches by Katie Vie.


SmilingHara_Logo-High RESSmiling Hara Tempeh is the only company offering soy-free tempeh on the market today.  Over consumption of processed soy in the vegan/vegetarian populations is causing health issues, and consumers are looking to companies like Smiling Hara to offer nutrient dense, high quality plant-based protein.

The Smiling Hara Family

The Smiling Hara Family


“The Underdog Crew” is a Hip Hop toy and game that promotes the ultimate positivity.  These figurines are the next “little green army men,” only these warriors do not carry weapons. They dance!  They have no particular nationality, nor are they gender specific.  They can be imagined to be anyone from anywhere.  These toys are tokens, or symbols, of all things good and possible.  Everything that you believe to be good, everything that you believe to be possible – so do they!  The toys are functional, and players can battle one another in a game of skill.  Players are also challenged by the question, “How many ways can you play?”  Players are welcomed to create their own rules and games, customize their figures, and to imagine a better world for us all.  Do you care to play? Contact Joseph Adams at


The 2015 Accelerating Appalachia nature-based businesses will be presenting at the Pitch Party in Asheville on May 14th. We are so proud of this incredible group of graduates in food, farming, eco-services, seeds, botanical essences, natural building and games! Our keynote is the fabulous Judy Wicks, thought leader in growing good economies, co-founder of Be A Localist Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) and reading from her book, “Good Morning Beautiful Business”. Emcees for the evening, from Our Southern Community, are the lovely Michelle Smith and the handsome Ned Doyle! Join us for a meaningful and fun-filled evening with yummy local appetizers and cash bar. Tickets available now.

In 2014 the Capital Institute published its Field Guide for a Regenerative Economy and featured Accelerating Appalachia as a leader in the field of nature-based business support. The Field Guide focuses on the use of story telling as a means of developing a supportive network for regenerative businesses. You can read the early story of Accelerating Appalachia, our 2013 cohort of businesses and plans for our growth.

The Capital Institute published a follow-up study to the Field Guide, Regenerative Capitalism: How Universal Principles and Patterns Will Shape Our New Economy in the spring of 2015. Accelerating Appalachia is listed on page 88.

The Guardian published a great overview of the study here.

Accelerating Appalachia is honored to be featured in a new organizational trailer by the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE):

This video includes Accelerating Appalachia founder and BALLE Fellow, Sara Day Evans, with Kimberly Hunter, Jennifer Flynn and Dayna Reggero, as well as the beautiful city of Asheville, our partner Warren Wilson College and inspiring sustainable students, and several 2013-2014 Accelerating Appalachia nature-based businesses: Bark House, Riverbend Malthouse and Echoview Farm and Fibermill.

Here at BALLE, the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, we know that real prosperity is local by its very nature. It’s in our place where we recognize that how we treat each other matters. That we are connected. From Seattle to Cincinnati, Asheville to Minneapolis, New Orleans to Buffalo, BALLE is celebrating, recognizing, supporting, and connecting the leaders of a new economy.

Narrated by BALLE Executive Director Michelle Long, this organizational trailer highlights a sampling of BALLE Local Economy Fellows in action in their places — James Johnson-Piett, Alfa Demmelash, Aaron Tanaka, Kimber Lanning, Carlos Velasco, Sara Day Evans, Malik Yakini, Nikki Silvestri, and José Corona — along with many other Localist leaders who together form the BALLE Community.

We’re thrilled to host Judy Wicks, co-founder of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) and author of “Good Morning Beautiful Business” at our upcoming 2015 Accelerating Appalachia Pitch Party in Asheville on May 14.


In her October 9, 2015 Voices of Industry article “Hemp, Industrially”, Adele Stafford eloquently describes the subtleties we must attend to as we re-awaken hemp farming after 70 years dormant. We must take care that we don’t build hemp into another extractive ag industry as we have done with corn and soy. I could not be more aligned with Adele’s thinking, love her writing and am excited for her Kentucky visit in November. She has also unwittingly permitted me to pen my own swirling and colliding thoughts on hemp, abundance, Appalachia, biocultural diversity and People, Planet & Prosperity meets Private, Public & Personal. FB, I thank you in advance for this archive.

Speaking at Hemp X Asheville NC a few weeks ago, I may have startled a few folks by saying that hemp was not going to save the family farm. No single crop is going to save the family farm – it’s not a silver bullet, it’s buckshot, and it’s complicated. For the sake of our land, our farms, our families, our health, vibrant rural communities, our resiliency, our way forward must be diverse – diverse people, cultures, indigenous wisdom, food crops, hemp, forest farming, fiber farming, botanicals, and other thoughtful consumption of our basic needs in ways that regenerate us, our land, plants, animals, water and air. Resilient systems are diverse systems – mono-crops and mono-economies are subject to blight, famine, collapse – we’ve seen this with superpests that wipe out a 10,000 acre mono-crop and a monolithic trade agreement that ships half of our jobs overseas. Diversity = Resilience. Period.
When it comes to biodiversity, Appalachia is unparalleled, in the top 5 most biodiverse regions in the world. Southern and central Appalachia has recently been anointed as THE most AGRO-biodiverse (most diverse foodshed) region in the U.S, Canada and Northern Mexico. With over 1500 heirloom seeds under cultivation, we grow abundance. From anthropologist Jim Veteto’s “Place-Based Foods of Appalachia”:
  • “Let’s just go ahead and say it: People across southern and central Appalachia are crazy about plants and animals. In my lifetime of interacting with Appalachian farmers, gardeners and wildcrafting enthusiasts, I have never ceased to be amazed by their knowledge and love for all things green and growing. Whether they save seeds, graft fruit trees, dig roots and bulbs, can foods, harvest wild plants, hunt game, or raise heritage livestock breeds, it is a truism that older people and a smattering of younger people across the region have immense wildcrafting and agricultural skills. The deep mountain backcountry areas of North Carolina, East Tennessee, southwest Virginia, Kentucky and West Virginia are pockets rich and diverse in food crops within the central/southern Appalachian foodshed. This should come as no surprise: Appalachian people live in one of the world’s most bio-diverse temperate zones. Global areas of high agrobiodiversity correlate with high degrees of economic, cultural and geographic marginality—conditions that are no stranger to the highlands of Appalachia. Additionally, most of the world centers of agrobiodiversity are in mountainous areas. Given these factors, southern and central Appalachia has the highest documented levels of agrobiodiversity in the U.S., Canada and northern Mexico. Appalachia is the longest continuously inhabited mountain range in the United States, and it has an extensive history of indigenous agriculture by the Cherokee and other American Indian peoples.”
Appalachia’s geography, geology, climate, elevation, latitude have birthed this abundance and it’s ours to revere or lose. Our craggy mountains, which have been frowned upon for their lack of ‘flatland” on which to build and grow, are actually a blessing if we care to embrace and nurture our unique place-based natural economy. Small holder farms growing a diversity of crops, owned by a diversity of people, are good for us, our place and planet. As pastoral and lovely this vision, there is plenty working against us: the not-so-free-market, onerous public policy and we, ourselves and us.
Private Sector: Millions of people across the globe are trying to disrupt the extractive, profit-by-any-means-necessary market by building social enterprises that do well by doing good, investing in those enterprises (impact investing), supporting local & regional, divesting from Wall Street and investing in Main Street and trying to make capitalism work for us and our place. There is wind in our sails: smaller, neighborly, local, even for some of the biggest organizations, is trending; Social Capital Markets, the largest convening of impact investors on the globe, is looking more like Be A Localist every year.
Accelerating Appalachia, Growing Nature-Based Businesses for Good, seeks to solve for our economy and ecology by supporting enterprises that do more good, pay a fair wage and seek to regenerate nature in their business design. Our businesses span the sectors of food, farming, forest products, fiber, clean energy, natural building, outdoor enterprises, wellness and botanicals and serve our basic needs of food, shelter, energy, wellness and clothing: they are models of collective corporal responsibility and not just an industry arm of corporate social responsibility. We iterate the new accelerator model with old wisdom – the wisdom of nature, the wisdom of diverse and indigenous cultures, the wisdom of generations of families that know and love the land. We help these nature-based businesses quickly iterate their business model, saving them years of trial and error and connecting them quickly to a expanse of problem solvers. Our accelerator is new, just over 2.5 years in, but our team has been doing good work in Appalachia for over 70 years. We have gained traction with applicants from all over the world and plenty of folks from across the globe to help build an accelerator for nature-based businesses. But mostly, we are gaining traction in Appalachia, faltering and succeeding, just as with any start-up.
As founding director for Accelerating Appalachia, I’ve spent 20 some odd years solving for the ecology and economy of our region, with some success. Besides being an entrepreneur, geologist and policy developer, I am an artist, musician and love to write, and tho my songwriting has been somewhat dormant as we launch and grow our program, it’s easy for me to type away and prescribe this resilient/regenerative path, knowing full well the huge challenges that “sustainable farming” presents, that a “regenerative economy” presents, knowing full well that the “free market” is not at all a free market, that in fact the market is stacked against small farms and stacked against most of us. I love our work and am excited about the global social enterprise revolution that is happening and am proud to be a small part. But the big missing piece from our “triple bottom line” of people, place, prosperity, and which I see consistently in social enterprises, is that pesky “prosperity” part, and especially small farmers: how do farmers make a living and afford to stay on their land? We need them on our land and we need more farmers, as we are constantly reminded by Mary Berry of the Berry Center in New Castle, KY.
Policy: As much as I love working with the private sector, with hopeful social enterprises and regenerative agriculture businesses, I know its going to take more than the private sector to resettle our economy and regenerate our ecosystems. We are up against corrosive Policies and Laws, with huge corporate incentives for agri-business and big business that create a deeply unjust market – food deserts in rural farmlands, where moderate to low income families living in the midst of natural abundance can hardly afford to support their equally low income local farmer, even though they want to. The equation is fixed and not fair and we cannot ignore policy or our policy-makers – we have entrusted them to manage our money and make our laws and they are failing. Yes, I vote and you should too. Yes, I write and advocate for better farm policy and I wish you would, too.
While employed by N.C. Department of Commerce, I was working to help rebuild Appalachian western NC counties that had lost half their jobs when textile and furniture industries fled for cheaper labor. A practically impossible task, given that state incentives were only available to those same large industries that had gotten us into the dire unemployment conditions we were trying to solve for, industries creating 100 jobs or more. Ever the pollyanna, I had the bright idea to establish incentives for a collection of small businesses that together created 100 jobs or more, building a truly diversified economy that would not crash if one or a few of those businesses did not succeed. Crickets. And bumfuzzled, since 70% of U.S. jobs are created by small to medium enterprises. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and soon after the 2010 elections, my program and many others met the budget axe. But, ever-determined, I still hold out hope that we can make this transition within federal, state and local policy to provide more incentives for small to medium enterprises creating good jobs locally. I stay active in policy discussions and actions in my community, and nationally as a BALLE Fellow. I’m active in opposing extractive, local economy killing trade deals.
Policy CAN work: during my 13 years in environmental policy, I wrote the first draft of what many consider to be good legislation – the Kentucky Pride fund – for the clean up of dumps, remediation of landfills, implement recycling programs and cleaning up litter. I testified before the legislature, and with a team of 22 committed folks, built consensus across counties and the private sector and we got it done. And we built a fund that has made a real difference to counties, cities and across the state. Costing only about $1 per month per household increase in garbage bill, we made real progress over 5 years: illegal dumping declined by 85%, recycling increased by 25%, millions of waste tires cleaned out of rivers and hollers, roadsides & rivers observably and consistently cleaner and began the long delayed task of remediating old landfills. This could not have been accomplished had we not worked to repair previously strained relationships between counties and state government, who had previously enforced an unfunded mandate on the counties. I distinctly recall this conversation and the first briefing to my cabinet Secretary that if he wanted to clean up Kentucky, we could not put that burden entirely on the counties without also funding the program. And I distinctly recall the fear in the pit of my stomach in presenting to my new boss (a former Army general who had moved back to Kentucky after being away over 30 years and was appalled at the state of the hillsides and rivers in his childhood home, Harlan County, Ky). Fortunately, he saw the wisdom in this, as did the counties, as did the cities, the private sector and the legislature. The bill passed unanimously. Policy can and should work for us, but we have to make it so.
Personal: It’s work to appreciate this life I’ve been given, make meaning of it, to feel deeply grateful for it and to be still enough to let the joy in. Finding and rooting out my biases, blocks, preconceived notions, unhealthy patterns, while discerning what is good, what is true and what are the takeaways. Remaining open to the unlimited possibilities of the “yet to be known”, reminding myself that what I know pales in comparison to what I have yet to learn. Giving myself time to grieve the pain, the losses, the abuses and reminding myself that it’s a trick of our ego to think we are alone in our pain, that in fact everyone is in some kind of struggle and someone can always one-up your misery or joy – don’t waste your time on that useless competition. To be hopeful around my creative capacity, to be quiet, to love, be loved and to forgive.
It’s work to be human, and as such we mimic the very tension of the universe: we are here on this planet because of the state of tension in which our planet is held, enough balance to allow for life. Tension is just in our nature, and it’s uncomfortable and painful and forces us to grow. At least that’s how it appears to me at this juncture – there could be a blissful nirvana that I’ve not yet achieved that will change everything I’ve just written ;)
So like this lovely hemp plant that’s been pent up 70 years and now being released to be PART of a diverse healthy farm system, and 70 year pent up rivers released to help build Appalachian outdoor economies and river ecosystem restoration, and like many of us, pent up and wanting better for ourselves, our families, our neighbors, our communities, our world – we have to get in there! It’s complicated and it takes commitment, but what else are you going to do with your wild and beautiful life? Plant some heirloom seeds, trade with your neighbors, buy local, invest local, vote with your pocketbook, speak up, take care of yourself.
This triple bottom line of “people, place, prosperity” can only move forward if we engage in solutions and support for good businesses in the private sector, pay attention and stay active on policies that impact our lives and freedoms and attend to our personal lives. All three legs of the stool are essential to hold us up. It’s not a silver bullet, this life, it’s buckshot.

We will be in Louisville, Kentucky November 12-13. Accelerating Appalachia founder Sara Day Evans will be speaking alongside international thought leaders and local change makers at Neighborhood Economics:

We are coming together from a wide variety of sectors to look at economic development within a relational, community oriented perspective. Our goal is to change the story of the economy from empire to community.If you want to be part of amazing conversations between local change makers learning how to get it done together, and participate at the ground level of a collective learning network, then you need to join us for this unique summit of action oriented change-makers.

neighborhood economics

While in

We’re excited to be featured in a new Climate Listening Project for our work accelerating sustainable businesses in Western North Carolina, along with Riverbend Malt House and Echoview Farm, two great businesses that participated in our inaugural program, as well as Accelerating Appalachia’s sustainable business class at Warren Wilson College. Also featured are NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, The Collider and Center for Climate and Resilience, and Facebook Data Center, among others.

Watch the trailer below:

We are proud to connect and accelerate businesses, investors and networks that are creating sustainable solutions in local communities. Every community has a story, from Western North Carolina, throughout Appalachia, and beyond. This storytelling project focuses on people and place and inspires more local conversations about climate resilience.

People are invited to share their climate stories on Facebook @ Climate Listening Project.

The Climate Listening Project is produced by Dayna Reggero, with support from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Western North Carolina Alliance (WNCA).


Accelerating Appalachia is excited about making real connections throughout Appalachia.

Smiling Hara Tempeh, LLC in North Carolina is campaigning to create the first-ever Hempeh, soy-free tempeh, with hemp from Kentucky’s Growing Warriors.

From the Smiling Hara kickstarter campaign:

Sarah Yancey and Chad Oliphant started Smiling Hara (which translates to “happy belly”) in 2009 with the intention of providing an organic, non-GMO and locally sourced tempeh to customers in the Southeast. The hemp seeds and beans in Hempeh will be sourced from Growing Warriors, a working farm in Kentucky that teaches military veterans how to grow their own food. If brought to market, a portion of the profits from Hempeh will be donated back to Growing Warriors. Brothers and military veterans Mike Lewis and Fred-Curtis Lewis started Growing Warriors Project to address the needs of other veterans transitioning to civilian life.

hempehSara Day Evans of Accelerating Appalachia, with Chad Oliphant, Smiling Hara Tempeh, and Fred-Curtis Lewis of Growing Warriors.

Read more about Growing Warriors.