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Forest Farming, Falcons And Frozen Fungus Ice Cream — Inside Appalachia

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Kendra Waybright
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The natural world can be a source of food and medicine along with a place to escape and unwind. There are people who know plants like they’re old friends, complete with stories and histories. These experts can also help guide us to recognize how plants can even help us in times of need.

This week, we're listening back to an encore edition of Inside Appalachia about getting outside to embrace our wild side, to shed stress and to heal. We'll hear stories about tapping into the natural world. From a recipe that uses chanterelle mushrooms to make ice cream, to the sport of falconry (the oldest form of hunting), to a new initiative that teaches people how to raise native plants, like ginseng, cohosh and wild ramps on their own forested land as a source of income and as a way to preserve the forests.

In This Episode:

Edible Mountain Series

West Virginia Public Broadcasting is producing a series of short videos called Edible Mountain. They highlight foods that can be foraged throughout central Appalachia and include tips on making sassafras tea, safely eating poisonous pokeweed, mayapples and more.

Our producer Roxy Todd interviewed the series producer, Chuck Kleine, who is a bit of a forest food expert himself. They talk about foraging foods in your backyard, harvesting ramps and even how to make ice cream from chanterelle mushrooms.

Forest Farming

Plants like ginseng, goldenseal, cohosh, ramps and bloodroot are valuable, well-known plants that grow wild. Maybe you can even identify them. But some of these plants face threats today because of things like overharvesting, habitat loss, and climate change.

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Heather Niday/ WVPB

It’s something the people at the West Virginia Forest Farming Initiative care a lot about. The organization is teaching folks how to raise these botanicals on their own forested land as a source of income and as a way to preserve the forests. As Folkways reporter Heather Niday found out, the organizers are getting help from local experts.

Since Heather originally reported that story last year, the Forest Farming Initiative has continued to grow. The group held a field day this spring that sold out and attracted people from nine different states.

Mental Health Benefits

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Michael O. Snyder
Herbalist Andrea Lay gathers wild plants on her farm in Keyser, West Virginia.

Herbalist Andrea Lay lives with her husband and their two daughters on Hidden Hollow Farm outside Keyser, West Virginia. She explains that investing time in plants and nature can do more than provide economic benefit. It can also benefit our mental health. Leah Scarpelli and Michael Snyder brought us this story as part of “The Mountain Traditions Project.”

Spring Water

Appalachia is also home to many natural springs scattered throughout the hillsides with mountain water, spurting up from miles of underground cave systems. But just how clean is this water?

In parts of Appalachia, some mountain springs contain e-coli. WVTF’s Robbi Harris reports.

Going Underground

We live in a region that’s renowned around the world for its mountain beauty and natural treasures, and so much of that’s based on water. From floating whitewater rapids, to touring natural springs, Appalachia’s hollers are dotted with creeks and waterfalls. A lot of water also runs just beneath our feet. That’s because the region is home to a lot of karst. Karst is a landscape where rock and water intersect to make features like sinkholes, sinking streams, and vast underground caves. Reporter Robbie Harris found a karst expert who guided her through some of the caves in southwestern Virginia.

Karst expert Wil Orndorff said workers building the Mountain Valley Pipeline told him about leaking water in one cave. The MVP is a 303 mile pipeline being built to transport natural gas from northern West Virginia across the mountains to southern Virginia. The project cuts through karst topography along the way. The pipeline will cost more than $6 billion — nearly twice its original estimated cost of $3.7 billion dollars. And it’s running four years behind schedule. And now it’s delayed again: state regulators in Virginia and West Virginia have until near the end of 2021 to consider permits for the pipeline to cross streams and wetlands.

 

Falconry

For our final story, we’ll take to the skies to learn from some of the wild animals here in Appalachia. We have lots of them — including birds of prey. Some folks take it to the next level and partner with these birds to hunt. This sport dates back to 5,000 B.C in Mongolia. Some historians say people may have been bonding and partnering with birds of prey even longer than that. But not just anybody can become a falconer. Master Falconer Mick Brown has been practicing falconry for 18 years in Ohio, and all over the U.S. He says getting licensed can be pretty intense.

In West Virginia, 31 people have falconry licenses. Roxy Todd spoke with 21-year-old Collin Waybright, who lives in Randolph County.

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Courtesy Marsha Waybright
Collin Waybright teaching a group of kids about falconry and introducing them to his hawk Rico.

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We had help producing Inside Appalachia this week from WVTF/Radio IQ and the Mountains Tradition Podcast, which is funded by The Community Trust Foundation. Special thanks to the West Virginia Folklife Program at the West Virginia Humanities Council.

Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by Blue Dot Sessions, Anna and Elizabeth, Marisa Anderson, Dinosaur Burps, Jerry Garcia, David Grisman.

Roxy Todd is our producer. Jade Artherhults is our associate producer. Glynis Board and Kelley Libby edited our show this week. Our executive producer is Andrea Billups. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. Zander Aloi also helped produce this episode. You can find us on Twitter @InAppalachia.

Mason Adams grew up near the Virginia/West Virginia border in Clifton Forge, Virginia. He’s covered mountain communities and the issues affecting them since 2001. His work has appeared in Southerly, Daily Yonder, 100 Days in Appalachia, Mother Jones, Huffington Post and elsewhere. He lives with his family and a small herd of goats in Floyd County, Virginia. Follow him on Twitter @MasonAtoms.
Roxy Todd joined West Virginia Public Broadcasting in 2014 and works as the producer for Inside Appalachia. She's the recipient of a National Edward R. Murrow Award for "Excellence in Video," for a story about the demands small farmers face in West Virginia. She also won a National PMJA Award For "Best Feature" for her story about the history of John Denver's song "Country Roads." You can reach her at rtodd@wvpublic.org.
Jade Artherhults is the associate producer for Inside Appalachia and is based in Pittsburgh. She can be reached at jartherhults@wvpublic.org or @JArtherhults on Twitter.