Appalachian Botanical Company, a woman-owned business in Boone County, West Virginia, is transforming sections of a depleted strip mine into an aromatic wonderland of verdant lavender blooms and buzzing honey bees.
The Ashford, WV company was founded in 2018 by Jocelyn Sheppard on 35 acres previously used for surface mining. Surface mining consists of exposing the uppermost levels of the earth in order to expose and retrieve the underlying valuable resources. The mining depressions offer full sun with easily-draining soil, making the well-exposed reclaimed land a prime growing spot for lavender.
Once these strips are excavated from surface mining, they are not always repurposed. Although state-led environmental regulators usually require some repurposing (such as planting trees), those avenues are costly and take years to be marked as “successful.” Joceyln Sheppard’s plants, however, have a quicker growth time, allowing the reclamation checkpoints for the mine owner to be met much more quickly. It’s a win-win.
Lavender is a relatively easy to grow plant and depending on the variety, can have minimal water and attention demands, with prominent variations only requiring watering once every one to two weeks. The majority of Appalachian Botanical lavender blooms in June and July and is harvested quickly thereafter to ensure premier quality oils. Notably, the organization waits until after the “prime harvest” period to allow their honey bees to collect the nectar and pollen. Today, Appalachian Botanical boasts a wide variety of home and body products, all crafted with their own lavender and honey.
In addition to utilizing reclaimed mining land, Appalachian Botanical employs 50 full time employees during peak season. Some of these employees are former coal miners.
One Boone County native named Adam, spoke to the press about his experience as a coal miner who lost his job as a result of energy demand changes, and now is working for Appalachian Botanical. “[Boone County is] a rough part of town,” he said. “There’s not too much to do other than get in trouble. There’s not a whole lot of jobs around here so there was nothing really looking forward or bright.”
Adam’s story isn’t unique, with coal mining jobs plummeting more than 50 percent since 2011 according to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics, coal miners in a previously thriving industrial town have spoken repeatedly about struggling to find work despite some unions pivoting towards clean energy options. Adam says Appalachian Botanical relieves some of that pressure. “Appalachian Botanical is a really great company,” he notes, “As long as you show up for work, they want to help you succeed.”
Appalachian Botanical has seen great success since its founding nearly three years ago. They operate as a “zero waste company,” using all of their ingredient parts to blend outstanding products.
As the company moves forward, they hope to increase their revenues and begin to see profitability with their operations, which in turn they will use to expand with the goal of increasing sales nationwide. Part of that expansion includes increasing growth in reclaimed mining tunnels, as well as the surface outdoor mines. You can learn more about Appalachian Botanical on their website, here.