Punk Rockers, Urban Farmers And More – How Appalachians Are Finding Creative Solutions To Big Problems


This week’s episode of Inside Appalachia is packed with stories from across central Appalachia, featuring creative people who are finding ways to address a wide-range of problems. We’ll hear how urban farmers in Pittsburgh are helping fight food insecurity, and how two musicians in North Carolina are finding help for people in addiction. We’ll learn why homelessness is on the rise in parts of Appalachia, and why people who have been through recent tornadoes in Kentucky need mental health assistance. We’ll also hear how climate change is changing the ski industry in Appalachia, and how ski resorts are getting creative with snow-making. And we’ll meet a West Virginia-raised punk rocker who wrote a novel that’s part thriller, part commentary on the drug epidemic.

In This Episode:

Punk Rocker, Pulp-Fiction Author Rob Rufus

Rob Rufus is a novelist and musician who grew up in Huntington, West Virginia. His newest book, “Paradise, WV,” a pulpy thriller that’s also a commentary on the drug epidemic. His first book is a 2016 memoir called “Die Young With Me.” Inside Appalachia co-host Mason Adams spoke with Rufus about punk rock, cancer, and the opioid epidemic.

If you want to learn about a recovery program in your community, please call the free and confidential treatment referral hotline (1-800-662-HELP) or visit

Two Musicians Driven To Save Peers From Overdoses

John and Cinnamon Kennedy are two musicians in North Carolina who wanted to help prevent drug overdoses. The couple began a project to distribute naloxone kits to local venues and help get the word out about recovery in their area.

John Kennedy said the overdosing issue hit close to home in 2010 when he rode in an ambulance with a brother who had overdosed. The Kennedys noticed overdoses growing in the local music community and decided to become practical activists, declaring themselves agnostic on drug use, itself. They formed a nonprofit called Musicians for Overdose Prevention, and they raise money through grants and grassroots fundraising for the naloxone kits, which can cost about $80 each.

“Among the musicians that we know, I’m pretty sure that most of them know someone who’s died and know someone who’s in danger,” Cinnamon Kennedy said. “And that’s why we’re doing this, for people who are just so worried about their friends.” Matt Peiken of BPR news has their story.

Mental Health In Kentucky

In the past year, weather events like tornadoes and floods have damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes in Kentucky, and killed dozens of people across the state. They’ve left behind survivors who are living with grief and the effects of trauma after losing homes and loved ones.

Now some rural parts of the state are seeing an increased demand for mental health services. As Corinne Boyer reports, that demand is straining some nonprofit agencies.

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A ruined home in Mayfield on Dec. 11, 2021.

Homelessness In Knoxville

Hard times are nothing new to Appalachian communities — and neither is homelessness. We often don’t talk about homelessness as an Appalachian issue, but it affects a lot of people across our region — especially in a housing market where rents are spiking and affordable houses quickly get snatched up.

A moratorium on evictions expired last year, and now even more people are facing housing instability, and that’s in the midst of the omicron surge. Heather Duncan reports on what the situation looks like for some people in Knoxville, Tennessee, in a story that aired on WUOT back in December.

Food Insecurity 

Research shows that since the pandemic began, more Americans have been living with food insecurity. Some of the people who struggle to afford food lack many options to find healthy food, too. Appalachian communities are more likely to have food deserts. And predominantly Black neighborhoods have even more limited access to supermarkets, compared to white neighborhoods.

So some groups are working to make farming more accessible to people of color, as WESA’s An-Li Herring reports.

Weird Weather And The ‘New Normal’ For Winter Sports

The warm spell at the end of last year melted much of the man made snow at ski resorts. In West Virginia, it forced three major ski resorts to temporarily close.

There’s been snowfall since then, but even so, climate change is bringing a lot of uncertainty to the winter sports industry. To understand how all this weird weather is affecting skiing in Appalachia, Inside Appalachia co-host Caitlin Tan recently spoke with Tom Price, the director of operations at Timberline Resort in Tucker County, West Virginia.

Fire In New River Gorge

Last month, the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve experienced a wildfire that took days to contain. Curtis Tate joined a group of journalists to tour the area after the fire was out and learned the importance of fire in managing a healthy forest ecosystem.

Visitors Trash Natural Area Outside Asheville

Max Patch is a grassy bald in the Pisgah National Forest just outside Asheville, North Carolina. Over the last two decades, the natural area has become popular and overrun with visitors. A photo of Max Patch went viral in 2020, which showed the area junked with trash and litter. Forest Service officials banned large groups from visiting. Have the protections helped? BPR reporter Megan Cain hiked up to Max Patch to find out.


Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by Blacklist Royals, Wes Swing, Blue Dot Sessions, Jake Schepps, and Dinosaur Burps.

Roxy Todd is our producer. Eric Douglas is our interim executive producer. Kelley Libby is our editor. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. Zander Aloi also helped produce this episode. You can find us on Twitter @InAppalachia.

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