Jessica Lilly, Glynis Board, Roxy Todd Published

Forest Farming, Falcons and Frozen Fungus Ice Cream? We Got It All Inside Appalachia

Michael O. Snyder

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.

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.

This episode of Inside Appalachia is all about getting outside to embrace our wild side, to shed stress, and to heal.

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

Ginseng, goldenseal, cohosh, ramps and bloodroot are all valuable, well-known plants that grow wild in the mountains of Appalachia and have been around since the earliest settlers. Today, many of them face threats because of things like overharvesting, habitat loss, and climate change.

The West Virginia Forest Farming Initiative is teaching residents how to raise these botanicals on their own forested land as a source of income and as a way to preserve the forests. Folkways reporter Heather Niday learned that the initiative’s organizers are getting help from local experts.


Credit Courtesy Yew Mountain Center
Erica Marks and Will Lewis are teaching others to grow wild plants native to W.Va. at the Yew Mountain Center, as part of the West Virginia Forest Farming Initiative.

Mental Health Benefits

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.

wvpublicnews · Forest Farming, Falcons and Frozen Fungus Ice Cream? We Got It All Inside Appalachia

Going Underground

Some areas in the mountains of Appalachia are made up of limestone rock layers. Over time, water erodes the limestone, creating caves and freshwater springs that have been naturally filtered by the rock. That is called a karst system.

In another story by Robbie Harris, we go underground with a karst expert who is studying what climate change could mean for Appalachia’s vast karst system.

Reappearing Lake

While we’re on the subject of water that flows underground, did you know there’s a lake in Appalachia that mysteriously emptied? Mountain Lake Lodge is a resort in southwest Virginia where “Dirty Dancing” was filmed, but the lake mysteriously disappeared in 2008. Geologists are still puzzled about it.


For 7,000 years, at least, hunters and birds of prey have bonded together to hunt. But not just anyone can become a practicing falconer. It is highly regulated and takes a lot of commitment.

“It’s a very hard test,” said master falconer Mick Brown, who has been practicing falconry for 18 years in Ohio and all over the U.S. He said getting licensed can be pretty intense. “I have an insurance license, investment license, real estate license. The hardest test I ever took was the falconry test, to be honest with you.”


Credit Kendra Waybright
20-year-old Collin Waybright is a falconer in Randolph County, with Copper, an American Kestrel he raised and then released back out to the wild).

In West Virginia, 31 people have falconry licenses. Roxy Todd spoke with 20-year-old Collin Waybright, who lives in Randolph County.

We had help producing Inside Appalachia this week from WVTF. Radio IQ, and the Mountain Tradition Podcast, which is directed by Michael O. Snyder and 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 Dinosaur Burps, Blue Dot Sessions, Anna and Elizabeth, Marisa Anderson, Jerry Garcia and David Grisman.

Roxy Todd is our producer. Eric Douglas is our associate producer.  Our executive producer is Andrea Billups. Glynis Board edited this episode. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. Zander Aloi also helped produce this episode.

You can find us on Twitter @InAppalachia. You can also send us an email to Inside Appalachia is a production of West Virginia Public Broadcasting.