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Appalachia Will Always Be Home For Many Who’ve Left

Ashley Biega
Ashley Biega with her family, Ashley is the blonde girl in front

Young people are leaving Appalachia — and they have been for years. We hear lots of stories of once-bustling boom towns in Appalachia. On this week’s episode of Inside Appalachia, we hear from people who moved away from Appalachia, share their stories about why they left and how they cope with longing for home.

Throughout the country, young adults have flocked to major cities for access to jobs and other opportunities. Since there are few major cities in Appalachia, our region continues to witness a steady out-migration of adults between the ages of 18 and 35.

But the move to the cities sometimes leaves people dissatisfied and homesick Appalachians often say that the longing for the mountains puts things in a totally new perspective. Home sometimes looks better to them once they’ve moved away.

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"As a teen I just couldn't wait to get out. I yearned for excitement, for diversity. I just felt like I didn't belong. I was bored."-Wheeling native, Ashley Biega

Just how many folks have moved away from Appalachia?  We looked up the numbers. The mass exodus from the mountains didn’t start overnight. A lot of Appalachian towns have been losing population since the 1950s.

According to the Appalachian Regional Commission, during the past generation, the U.S. population has grown at a pace nearly twice that of Appalachia’s.

West Virginia is the only state that is completely in Appalachia, and it’s losing population faster than any other in our country, with about 3,300 total residents lost from July 1, 2013 to July 1, 2014. And Appalachia’s population is aging — as more and more young people leave for the cities. Click here to see a chart of where people in West Virginia moved to, according to The New York Times.

The Revivalist Celebrates Five Year Anniversary


Appalachian culture is becoming pretty hip, says Mark Lynn Ferguson, the creator of a blog called The Revivalist: Word From the Appalachian South. In the past few years, he’s noticed that more and more chefs across the country are starting to cook what they are calling Appalachian Cuisine — yes, it is a thing. Roxy Todd caught up with him to talk about the Appalachian revival that he’s been noticing.

Credit The Revivalist: Word From the Appalachian South
Peaches and apples at the Salem Farmer's Market, from Greenwood Farms

Credit The Revivalist: Word From the Appalachian South

Credit Courtesy / The Revivalist: Word from the Appalachian South
Beans and cornbread--the quintessential Appalachian meal.

The Revivalist Blog is celebrating its fifth anniversary with a special photo contest called Appalachian Appetite. And dozens of people have submitted their photos of their favorite Appalachian food. The grand prize winner of the Revivalist’s photo contest will be rewarded with a two-night getaway at the historic Mast Farm Inn in Valley Crucis, North Carolina. Just near the Pisgah national forest, the inn’s restaurant serves North Carolina rainbow trout and grits from cornmeal that’s ground at a mill in South Carolina.

Also on the Show:

  • Death, Sex & Money in West Virginia: Anna Sale and Dwight Garner have several things in common — they live in New York City, they are media leaders and they both have roots in West Virginia. Now the host of the podcast Death Sex & Money, Anna recently traveled back to her hometown of Charleston to talk with New York Times Literary Critic Dwight Garner.
    Credit Josh Saul / West Virginia Public Broadcasting
  • Gone Home, The Stories Of Black Coal Miners In Appalachia: For WUNC’s The State of Things, Frank Stasio recently sat down with Karida Brown and her father, Richard Brown, to talk about her work collecting oral histories from eastern Kentucky. Karida’s oral history project is on exhibit through Aug. 26 at the Wilson Library at UNC Chapel Hill.

    Credit Southern Historical Collection at the Wilson Library | University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    Harlan County, Ky.

  • Recently, West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle celebrated the 23rdAnnual African American Heritage and Culture Festival in Jefferson County. Liz McCormick of West Virginia Public Broadcasting visited the festival and brings us these sounds from the event.

What's in a Name? This week, we travel to a town that will celebrate the third annual Lemonade Days Festival on Aug. 29. Bluefield, West Virginia, in southern West Virginia, is also known as “Nature’s Air Conditioned City”.

  • Last week, we heard about some favorite signature foods that Appalachians love- including, West Virginia’s unofficial state food, the pepperoni roll. We heard about store bought and even talked a little about school lunch pepperoni rolls, but what about homemade pepperoni rolls? The executive producer of Mountain Stage, Adam Harris, called his mom, Catherine Harris. On our show, we hear how she makes her ownhomemade variety of pepperoni rolls.

We’d love to hear from you. Did you move away from Appalachia? Do you look back? How do you deal with longing for home? Chat with us on Twitter @InAppalachia. You can also talk with our host, Jessica Lilly, at JessicaYLilly, and our producer, Roxy Todd, at RoxyMTodd. You can also send us an email at: feedback@wvpublic.org. Also, since many of you are podcast fanatics, don't forget on your next roadtrip to check out our sister and brother podcasts from wvpublic.org: Us and Them, The Front Porch, Mountain Stage, and WV Morning.

Music in today’s show was provided by Andy Agnew Jr., John Wyatt, Tom Breiding from his album The Unbroken Circle: Songs of the West Virginia Coalfields. Our What’s in a Name theme music is by Marteka and William.

Subscribe toInside Appalachia on iTunes.


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.
Jessica can be heard on Inside Appalachia and West Virginia Morning the station’s daily radio news program. You can reach her at jlilly@wvpublic.org