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Mountain Talk

Conversations about what matters to the people of Central Appalachia. In comparison to parachute reporting that paints Appalachian identity in broad strokes, Mountain Talk features locally-produced stories of people who are standing up, speaking out, and making change in their communities, from regional labor conditions and social movements to cultural and artistic accomplishments.

Railroad Workers in Appalachia
  • January 26, 2023
  • 22:25

On this Mountain Talk, WMMT intern Rowan Roudebush dives into the stories of two Appalachian railroad workers, some of their struggles on the job, their participation in union organizing, and their opinions on the near-mass railroad strike that occurred in December. In this piece you'll hear from Penny Nunes and William Woodring, both rank-and-file railroad workers. Music is "Railroad Man" by Bill Withers.

Farming After Disaster in Eastern kentucky
  • December 19, 2022
  • 26:23

The catastrophic flood of summer 2022 destroyed not only homes, but livelihoods. In particular, farmers were hard hit. Many lost their summer crops, their high tunnels, and their tools; fields were left covered in silty, toxic flood mud.

But thanks to a massive mobilization of resources nd support in the agriculture community, many farmers are on track to begin growing produce again next year. In this episode of Mountain Talk, hear from Mike Eldridge and Timothy Breeding of Rocket Farms in Letcher County, as well as Chris McKenzie of Grow Appalachia and Valerie Horn of CANE Kitchen and the Letcher County Farmers' Market. Music featured in this episode is "Cabin in Gloryland," performed by Phyllis Boyens.

WMMT reporter Rowan Roudebush contributed to this episode.

WMMT would also like to acknowledge other organizations currently assisting farmers in this time, including:

Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky
Community Farm Alliance
Community Agriculture Nutrition Enterprises (CANE)
Cowan Creek Community Center
North Fork Local Foods
Hindman Settlement School
Kentucky Horticulture Council
University of Kentucky
Cooperative Extension and The Food Connection
Kentucky State University Cooperative Extension
Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development
Organic Association of Kentucky
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, and National Institute for Food and Agriculture
Kentucky Dept. of Agriculture and the Kentucky Agriculture Development Fund
Funders of Grow Appalachia and many of the organizations above.

This Is Home: Memories of Raleigh County, WV
  • October 20, 2022
  • 52:40

A radio documentary produced by high school students from Raleigh County, West Virginia. Each interviewed a family member, recording stories of how this place used to be, and how it’s changed over time. 

Produced by Addie Butcher and Lexie Brinson, with Benny Becker. 

This production was made possible thanks to funding from the National Coalfield Heritage Area, a project of the National Park Service, and the state of West Virginia. Support also came from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and from WMMT listeners like you. 

Thanks also to Melanie Cooper, Cyndi Massie, Vickie Webb, Raleigh County HSTA, and all the many staff, volunteers, listeners, and supporters of WMMT and Appalshop.

In Recovery, Helping Communities Rebuild After Flooding
  • September 28, 2022
  • 29:12

On July 28, record flooding killed 40 and left perhaps thousands homeless in Eastern Kentucky. The day after was an uncertain one for many, but it was deeply anxiety-inducing for residents who've spent years struggling with addiction and in rehabilitation and recovery programs. Isolation, loss of structure, financial problems, and loss of community could be deadly, and many worried they'd lose all the stability they had. At the Hemphill Community Center and Troublesome Creek Stringed Instrument Company, two flagship recovery-to-work programs decided to scrape together any money they could find to continue paying their workers for the community support & disaster relief work they were already doing.

For this Mountain Talk, we spoke to baker Jason Fields and director Gwen Johnson at the Hemphill Community Center near the town of Neon as well as director Doug Naselroad and luthiers Anthony Parsons and Jeremy Haney of Troublesome Creek Stringed Instrument Company/the Culture of Recovery program in the city of Hindman.

Music featured is "Hard Times" by Doug Naselroad.


Kentuckians seeking help for substance use can call 1-833-8KY-HELP (1-833-859-4357) toll-free to speak with a specialist about treatment options and available resources. Kentucky River Community Care can be reached at their 24 hour informational hotline, 1-800-262-7491.

Website: findhelpnowky.org/ky
Crisis Line: 1-800-854-6813

FindHelpNowKy.org provides resource listings for hundreds of addiction treatment facilities across the state, providing up-to-date and accurate information about their treatment offerings and availability. If you need help finding treatment or have questions about treatment or recovery, contact our partners at the Kentucky HELP Statewide Call Center to speak with a screening and referral specialist Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m.-10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 pm EST/EDT at 1-877-318-1871. After hours and need assistance? Call the Kentucky Opioid Assistance and Resource Hotline (KY-OAR) at 1-800-854-6813.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Treatment National Helpline
Website: ​findtreatment.samhsa.gov
Crisis line: 1-800-662-HELP (4357); TTY: 1-800-487-4889

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Treatment National Helpline, (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service), provides a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. findtreatment.samhsa.gov

Overdose Prevention
Website:​ nextdistro.org/kyresourcesyesno

For assistance in obtaining naloxone, a life-saving overdose reversal drug, visit NEXT Distro. NEXT Distro works to get naloxone to people who use drugs and the people who are the most likely to be a first responder in an opioid overdose emergency. If you encounter someone you suspect is experiencing an overdose, call 911 immediately.

This story is part of the “America Amplified” initiative. America Amplified is a national public media collaboration focused on community engagement reporting.

This reporting was also supported by the Solutions Journalism Network.

This reporting is a part of WMMT's labor series.


LGBT Pride in Eastern Kentucky, Past and Present
  • July 14, 2022
  • 1:00:36

After the reversal of Roe V. Wade, many LGBT people fear that same-sex marriage and transgender rights could be up for scrutiny on the national level. Meanwhile, state legislatures are passing restrictive laws curtailing LGBT rights.

At the same time, rural Pride celebrations have proliferated. After a COVID-19 hiatus, Pikeville Pride returned to Eastern Kentucky, accompanied by new celebrations in Harlan, Ashland, and Breaks Interstate Park, among others. For Mountain Talk, WMMT traveled to Pikeville and Breaks Interstate Park to speak with people about the tense political atmosphere in Kentucky around LGBT rights, as well as the increasing acceptance many have found in their personal lives as rural queer folks.

Interviews in Pikeville include Emma Lowe, an organizer with Pikeville Pride; Cara Ellis, who helped found Pikeville Pride in response to a neo-Nazi march in town; openly queer high schoolers Rachel Daniels and her sister Isabella; mother and ally Paige Lewis, and more. Interviews at the Breaks include organizer and musician Pierceton Hobbs, same-sex marriage officiant Debbie Counts, and her son Reece Cumbo, among others.

Music is "Move Up a Little Higher" by Earl Gilmore, from June Appal Recordings.

After that, hear sounds of a past Pride, from the Archive: Rae Garringer speaks with performers and attendants at the first-ever Pikeville Pride.

Eastern Kentucky Remembrance Project
  • June 13, 2022
  • 26:32

Content warning: This episode contains frank discussion of racial violence, including lynching.

In this episode of Mountain Talk, WMMT celebrates Memorial Day with The Eastern Kentucky Remembrance Project in Wayland Kentucky. This campaign, spearheaded by the Big Sandy chapter of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, aims to encourage learning and action for racial justice and reckon with the local history of racial terror and lynching.

Wayland, a former coal camp town, was once home to a number of Black families and coal miners. Black and White Wayland residents worked together and lived side by side, but sometimes, racist violence bubbled to the surface.

On Memorial Day, the community came together in Wayland to reckon with and reconcile these histories through a day of storytelling and community service. A cookout and speaker series was followed with the cleaning of a long-forgotten and overgrown Black cemetery in town.

Listen for words from Tiffany Pyette, a volunteer organizer with Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and member of the region's Native community; Reverend Steve Peake, a Black religious leader from Fleming-Neon; John Rosenberg, Holocaust survivor and activist, and retired lawyer with AppalalRED Legal Aid; and Emily Jones Hudson, founder and executive director of the Southeast Kentucky African American Museum and Cultural Center in Hazard. Music was performed live by Reverend Peake.

Eula Hall’s Rural Healthcare Legacy
  • April 19, 2022
  • 59:30

In this edition of WMMT's Mountain Talk, we dive into the history and legacy of radical Eastern Kentucky healthcare advocate Eula Hall. Eula was a larger-than-life presence, and over the decades, she organized and agitated around everything from black lung benefits, to food stamps, to clean water, and workers’ rights, among many other issues. But she’s perhaps best known for founding the Mud Creek Clinic in Floyd County, in 1973.

First, follow us to the field, where we visit the Mud Creek Clinic, now called the Eula Hall Health Center. Hear from clinic doctor Jeremy Parsons, Director of Strategic Planning and Development Pam Spradling, business administrator April Herald, and community health worker Jessica Atkins about the clinic's commitment to treating the uninsured, and to viewing healthcare as fully integrated with communities and their daily lives.

Then, we hear from Eula herself, through a 2010 interview with Bev May, discussing the continued urgency of healthcare, SNAP assistance, and workers' rights in rural Kentucky.

This story is part of the “America Amplified” initiative. America Amplified is a national public media collaboration focused on community engagement reporting.

This reporting is a part of WMMT's new labor series.

Building Community in Managing Diabetes in Perry County; an Interview with a Ukrainian Coal Miner
  • April 6, 2022
  • 27:53

In this edition of Mountain Talk, as part of our ongoing storytelling series Prevent Diabetes EKY, we begin with a story on the Healthy Perry Challenge, an initiative of the Perry County Diabetes Coalition last summer. The Challenge aimed to bring people in the community together around building healthier everyday habits, with the ultimate goal of helping to lower participants' A1C (a/k/a "blood sugar") levels.

Also in this episode, while Ukraine is of course a world away, it has something substantial in common with Appalachia: coal, including a long history of mining, and then having to face the thorny question of what to do after coal declines. And the hard times and instability caused by coal's decline in Ukraine have formed part of the complex backdrop for Russia's recent invasions, first in 2014 & then this year. In this piece from the WMMT archive, which first aired back in 2000, Tom Hansell interviews Ukrainian coal miner Valentin Chukalov, who describes the difficulty his country's coal industry faced in transitioning away from the Soviet system and into private enterprise.

Music in this episode was performed by the Dutch Cove String Band (from the June Appal Records release "Sycamore Tea"), Don Bikoff (“Traveling Riverside Blues”, from the Free Music Archive), and by Glenn Jones (“Bergen County Farewell", also from the Free Music Archive).

Buffalo Creek 50th Anniversary
  • March 25, 2022
  • 28:27

2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the Buffalo Creek Flood, a disaster that occurred in Logan County, West Virginia, when a coal slurry impoundment dam suddenly burst and inundated multiple small communities along the creek. Over 4,000 were left homeless, 1,127 injured, and 125 killed. Community members in Logan County gathered this February to tell stories, bear witness, and commemorate the event. Benny Becker brings you the story.

Evelyn Williams, Lowering A1C Levels in Letcher County, Earl Gilmore
  • March 25, 2022
  • 29:16

In this edition of WMMT's Mountain Talk, in honor of Black History Month, we open with a profile on a one-of-a-kind Black Appalachian: the activist Evelyn Williams. Evelyn was a unique and influential figure in the region, and the subject of an eponymous 1995 Appalshop documentary film (produced by Anne Lewis). This radio story is an adaptation of that film, and includes Evelyn's recollections of growing up Black in East Kentucky in the 1920's and 30's.

Then, as a part of our ongoing series Prevent Diabetes EKY, we hear from Letcher County's Tiffany Scott about a local program & research project, Appalachians in Control, that has been helping people in the area live better with type 2 diabetes. (For more stories of managing & preventing type 2 diabetes in East KY, check out our project website: www.preventdiabeteseky.org.)

And finally, from the Appalshop Archive, we close with a clip of the inimitable Black Southwest Virginia musician Earl Gilmore, who discusses the blues (it's like being in a fight—but with yourself, he says) and closes the show with a gospel tune.