Advocating for Appalachia in the Senate (with Cheri Beasley)

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Callie and Chuck talk to former Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court and Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate Cheri Beasley about reproductive rights, climate change, voting rights, and how she wants to get rid of the filibuster to make progress in a broken Senate.

ALSO, we take a stroll through the cereal aisle, discuss renaming the Webb telescope, talk about JD Vance’s broke campaign, and Callie does a site visit to a sustainable farming cooperative – Sprouting Farms!

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Intro: Sadness in the cereal aisle

Chuck Corra: Maybe you’ll relate to this. Maybe you won’t. I was in the cereal aisle the other day. Not a place I go often, but I was there and I got pissed off… And here’s why.

As I have discussed on this show many times, I was a fat kid growing up. I loved sweets – fucking loved them, I crushed Frosted flakes.

My mother rightly limited the amount that I could eat. I was always upset and I kept telling myself when I’m an adult when I have my own money, I’m gonna get all the cereal, and my dream – I kid you not – my fat kid dream was to get a big bowl and combine Count Chocula with Frankenberry and BooBerry the monster serial triumvrate.

And eat it and just enjoy my life. That was my dream. So I’m walking through the cereal aisle now, and I’m pissed because I’m an adult now, but. I cannot justify eating all that anymore because I gotta wash my weight, I gotta watch my health, my sugar. This is bullshit. It’s when you get to that point, then you can’t do it.

And it made me upset and I wanted to air my grievance on the show – apologies to our listeners. 

Callie Pruett: I feel that is a fair grievance that I cannot relate to because cereal is not something I could ever give up. I love cereal. It is if I have an indulgence in the day, if, I would rather have cereal than have dessert later on.

I love cereal. My favorites are Cocoa Puffs. Okay. And Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Love those fruit loops. Those are the top three for me. I do get upset though that if I eat cereal, it crushes the rest of my day for what I can eat.

I do try to also be healthy and try to eat things that are largely good for me, but I just can’t, I’m willing to give up a lot. I’m not willing to give up cereal. 

Chuck Corra: I’m with you. I won’t see that I’ve given it up, but I’ve limited it. I give it as a treat. And at that point I know I built this hole up if I couldn’t buy this stuff.

I ended up buying chocolate life cereal, which is surprisingly the shit. 

Name a more beautiful trio.

Callie Pruett: Okay. I’m gonna try that. Oh my gosh.

Chuck Corra: I would die. But of happiness, not of anything bad of happiness, 

Intro II: Renaming the Webb Telescope

Chuck Corra: First we have to start with an apology and a clarification, a real apology, not my fake notes app apology.

A clarification about the Georgia Guidestones

Last week we talked about the Georgia Guidestones. I will take ownership of this. I skimmed an article and a Wikipedia page to learn about them. And there are some interesting things on it, some good things, but the part that I missed was the first two parts. The first two inscriptions on the Guidestones, have been linked to eugenics.

Oof. Missed that one. Sorry. We are not a pro-eugenics podcast. Very much an anti-eugenics podcast. We do not endorse that whatsoever.

Chuck Corra: So now that we’re clear on that, let’s talk about a big ass telescope. 

What we’ve learned from the Webb Telescope

Callie Pruett: Let’s do it. I’m so excited about this. I know I say that I’m excited about a lot of stuff. I’ve noticed that about myself.

That could be my catchphrase at this point. But the Webb telescope is a big deal. 

Chuck Corra: It is. And I wanted to talk about it in the intro today because it’s first of all, a big ass telescope. The largest telescope in space and there are a lot of news stories about the images that it produced.

Big Ass Webb Telescope via BBC

Did you see them? Did you watch it? What are your thoughts? 

Callie Pruett: I did as I’ve talked about before, I used to be a science policy lobbyist. So this was up my alley all of my colleagues and friends who I made at the American Physical Society were losing their minds over this telescope. Which if is in all fairness I feel it’s a good thing to lose your mind over because the images were amazing. My cat’s name is Hubble and I was just, I was, Hubble, you’ve been outdone. You have.

Chuck Corra: I thought it was interesting because first of all, these images are incredible and it is hard to explain them, especially when you talk about light years and things that. I highly suggest going and watching the videos from our friend, the space gal, Emily Calandrelli, who is an incredible science communicator from the great state of West Virginia. She does a great job of explaining what light years mean, what all this means, and what we’re seeing in the pictures.

(We also had Emily on our show last year, which you can check out here!)

They’re incredible. It’s difficult to explain, but just so much knowledge is being gained from these images,  captured from places in the universe. We’ve never yet been able to see. 

Callie Pruett: Yeah. Yeah. It’s. Astounding. When you think about the technology that’s necessary to make this happen, a lot of the light that is collected by the Webb telescope is outside of the scope of human vision.

Native West Virginian and certified Appalachian badass Emily Calandrelli (aka The Space Gal) Image from Instagram

It’s in the infrared light, so it’s gathering all of this light. That’s been stretched basically over these thousands of light ears to where we can’t see it with our naked eye. But this telescope can pick up the infrared light from these vast, insane distances that the human mind can not even comprehend.

We’re seeing very close. To the beginning of time. And that’s the intent of the web space telescope is to see as far back into the life of the universe as we possibly can. And we’re very near that. So I think that in the coming years the coming even decades because it was only supposed to this telescope was only supposed to have a lifespan of 10 years.

But they were able to have such a successful launch that they think that it will be up there for 20 years, Incredible, truly incredible. That we’ll be able to have access to this tool for such a long time because it’s going to revolutionize what astronomers and astrophysicists can Understand about our universe.

One of the images that were the most insane to me was that they pointed this out. They were going for it. They pointed the telescope, the biggest man-made telescope in space at the biggest naturally occurring telescope in the universe that we know of. So basically five galaxies are coming together.

They’re going to end up colliding. Two of them are already colliding, which creates this. Have been in space-time. And so this warp in space amplifies the light from behind what we can see in those five galaxies. And so we are seeing through this huge telescope that we made through the lens of galaxies bending space, time, past that into the unknown universe.

It’s. Difficult to comprehend incredible science and it. Mind-boggling. 

Carina Nebula via Wikimedia

Chuck Corra: It is. This is the kind of stuff where I was the other night, I was lying awake and couldn’t sleep and thinking about how big the universe was and Googling it and just trying to comprehend how many planets there are.

There’s I don’t know, we don’t know there could be quintillions of them and it’s just mind-boggling how massive the universe is and how little and insignificant we are. And boy, you wanna wait, why awake at night and ponder reality in human existence. That’s a hell of a way to do it. 

Callie Pruett: Yeah, it sure is.

It’s difficult to wrap your head around, but it’s also one of the coolest advancements that humanity has made in this century. 

Chuck Corra: 100%. Why don’t we get into the name of the Webb telescope real quick, because you pointed something out, which I think is important.  

Why we’re thinking about renaming the Webb telescope

Callie Pruett: So I just wanted to note here that while we love the Webb space telescope, we want to acknowledge that the person that it’s named after – James Webb – was the secretary of the interior, the head of NASA during the 1960s, and a raging homophobe.

There’s a movement within particularly on the younger side.  I’ve seen a lot of my graduate students and postdocs who I worked with pushing for NASA to rename the James Webb space telescope because he was so homophobic. Actually, in a 2004 book called the Lavender Scare, LGBTQ historian, David K. Johnson mentioned that Webb worked with Truman and a Senate committee whose task was to “determine the extent of the employment of homosexuals and other sex perverts in the government.”

Chuck Corra: Jesus…

The idea behind that was to purge gay people, queer people, particularly gay men from the federal government. We wanna acknowledge that. And our suggestion – which I think is a pretty good one – is to rename this telescope after Appalachian rocketry legend, Homer Hickam. We love Homer Hickam.

He is still alive today. If you’ve ever seen October sky, that’s him. Putting it out there in the universe. Maybe the Homer Hickam-based telescope. 

Chuck Corra: And if you are from West Virginia and you haven’t seen October sky, I don’t believe you because I feel that was streamed in every single classroom, multiple times a year. By streaming I mean put on VHS, let’s be real.

I’m totally for that. So I was also Googling, I wanted to throw this out there too. Mae Jemison, the first black woman to travel into space, is from, Appalachia.

Callie Pruett: I love her. I would be so down with that!

Chuck Corra: She’s from Decatur, Alabama. 

Callie Pruett: Oh, that’s awesome. Yeah. I will be down for either of those 

Chuck Corra: I think either is a great choice for it.

Campaign Check-In: JD Vance’s campaign is broke

Chuck Corra: You know who the telescope should NOT be named after?

Callie Pruett: Oh I think I know what you’re gonna say, Chuck. And I think I agree with it

Chuck Corra: John Dammit Vance!

Yes. JD Vance. That’s right. JD Vance telescope would just be a cardboard tube floating through space. doing nothing except taking up precious time in our lives, which is what he’s doing now. I think we talked about this earlier. JD Vance, he’s running for Senate in Ohio If you’re not aware already. The millionaire grifter that wrote Hillbilly Elegy, the terrible toilet paper book that we all loath.

We had to do a campaign check-in with him this week to see what the hell’s going on because his campaign is broke from what I hear.

It turns out he’s great. When it comes to conning people out of their hard-earned money to Hawk books. But when it comes to going full Maga in an election funds run dry, his campaign announced that they had brought in more than $2.3 million in the second quarter, which is low, to begin with. But then you find out that only a million of that was contributed to him.

The rest went to his PACs, and his political action committees. So he had raised a million dollars. He spent a million dollars. His cash on hand currently is $628,000, but he owes over 882,000 in debts. So he is in the red, a quarter million dollars. What’s happened here, Callie? 

Callie Pruett: I can’t stress to you enough how abnormal this is.

It’s difficult to be this bad at fundraising when you’re a Republican it takes work and is syndicated, yeah. In a huge state  Ohio, it is not necessarily in the kind of battleground tier that it used to be, but it still is. A state that’s in play. That’s what I would say.

it’s not a battleground, but it is a state in play. The fact that he is in the red is astounding to me, it’s difficult. When I saw these numbers, it was shocking. 

Chuck Corra: Yeah, it was super surprising. Just look, JD Vance is a terrible guy, but he is a Senate candidate in a national race.  you said a state, that’s not necessarily a battleground, but not just an easy layup either for Republicans, right?

It’s a competitive race. Polling wise. So the fact that he could not even pull in more than a million dollars from his campaign, which I  to point out because we found this out through his oppo research that he paid more for his house in Cincinnati than what he made and than what he raised in the second quarter.

It’s wild and his opponent, Tim Ryan, who was on this show, goes to listen to it. Raised 9.1 million. So almost nine times the amount. 

Callie Pruett: And that’s a great raise for Tim Ryan. He has got to have been, so seeing those numbers as starkly different as they are, it’s difficult to think that JD Vance is putting in the work.

It’s difficult to think that he’s on-call time. If you’re an insider in the advance Campaign, let me know how to call time’s going for you guys. For those who don’t know, call time is when you stick a candidate in a room with somebody who can log their calls and give them phone numbers and all of that.

And they just make fundraising calls for hours and hours. So at least they’re supposed to be, this is just an example to be in the Democrat’s top red to blue listed states or districts for. This is not for the Senate. This is just for a congressional seat.

They expect that you’re doing 35 hours of call time a week. So basically a full-time job of just calling people for money. And so I cannot imagine that the expectations are less when it comes to Senate candidates. It’s difficult when you’re a Sy candidate to not pull in that money. So what it’s telling me is that JD Vance is unsurprisingly not doing the work and that Tim Ryan is hustling his ass off.

Chuck Corra: So I actually, so I thought it was interesting because I don’t think he’s doing the cold time, which is funny because he didn’t mind. Hopping on a plane and flying to the Hamptons last year. So you could suck up to a bunch of rich people to get donations which is surprising that he doesn’t have more money from that.

They must not have d him. What is most surprising to me, Kelly though, is that he isn’t flush with cash from predatory lenders, from payday lenders, because you got your biggest champion for those right there. Boy, 

Callie Pruett: That’s the truth. God, it is. It’s hard to think that just from packing money alone, come on.

JD Vance ho yourself out a little better than you’re doing right now. Yeah. Come on.  you’re a champion at showing other people out. So why don’t you just, why don’t you just flip the table, sell yourself a little bit. Pull yourself up by your boots, and straps and raise more money. 

Chuck Corra: Learn how to sell yourself out since you’re so good at selling out other people.

I don’t wanna sugarcoat it though, because JD Vance is still a heavy favorite to win this race. That’s why if you live in Ohio, you have to do everything you can to prevent that from happening, including supporting Tim Ryan, even if he’s not the perfect candidate for you, that does not matter.

(We had Tim Ryan on our show last fall)

The difference between JD Vance and Tim Ryan is somebody that does care about Ohio. He may not have the same political views as you on everything, but he does care. He’s for eliminating the filibuster, for protecting reproductive rights, for protecting the workers and allowing them to unionize, unlike JD Vance on all those things.

I don’t wanna sleep on this and I don’t want us to seem like we’re taking it lightly because – as you mentioned Callie – there is a lot of dark money.

JD Vance, according to open secrets, had $22.5 million of dark money spent on him. And that’s combined for him and against Tim Ryan in favor of JD fans. Yeah. Versus Tim Ryan had 30,000, which applaud him for. Embracing dark money in a way that JD Vance did. That’s good. That’s good for democracy, but I wanna point that out because that’s a lot of money supporting him, even though, even if people aren’t donating to his campaign.

Via OpenSecrets

Callie Pruett: Yeah, look, we’re all against dark money in general, but I have to say the rules are there. They’re taking advantage of it. If some dark money packs wanna help Tim Ryan I’m game for that, yeah. Campaign finance is so messed up. We have to use every single tool at our disposal to beat Republicans because they will not hesitate to do the same for us.

They will not hesitate to use every single loophole and tool. This is so every single loophole and tool against us. That is clearly illustrated, in these numbers. And so I agree with you, Chuck. I think we cannot get complacent about this. Tim Ryan is going to need our help continuously.

This isn’t a one-time donation type thing. If you’re gonna donate to Tim Ryan, make it a recurring donation, and make sure that you’re making calls for him. Talk to your neighbors about it because of this. A huge race that is going to determine the, it could be the determination of the future of the country.

If we can get rid of the filibuster, if we can get rid of these horrible things that right now are. Attacking democracy. And so I agree with you. It is hilarious that JD Vance is so bad at being a candidate. But yeah, we gotta help Tim Ryan, every single way we can, you 

Chuck Corra: Tim Ryan ain’t perfect. He’s not Bernie Sanders or anything, but he is leaps and bounds better than JD Vance. And he’s someone who I think on the core issues is gonna be there.

Interview with Cheri Beasley

Chuck Corra: Why don’t we get into our interview?

We’ve got a great one today. You were able to get Cheri Beasley, the democratic nominee for Senate and the great state of North Carolina on the show. We had a great discussion about a lot of issues, including Appalachia.

Callie, what were your thoughts? 

Callie Pruett: I thought she was fantastic. She was super warm, super friendly. Her team was great. Shout out to Amelia. Who’s also a Western North Carolina native for really advocating for her coming on this show. That’s her traveling press secretary. So yeah I was thrilled with it.

I thought that she was great.

Chuck Corra: Yeah, I thought it was great. It’s a relatively short interview. We had it for a little bit of time, but we covered a lot of topics and I think you all will enjoy it. So let’s hop into our interview with Cheri Beasley. 

Interview Transcript (edited for clarity)

Callie Pruett: We can just dive right in. So my first question for you, I’ve been talking to Amelia for a couple of months about how excited I was for you to be able to make a swing out to the Western part of the state.

So tell us about your trip. 

Cheri Beasley: It was a great trip. We had our united North Carolina tour, and we went to 18 counties in Western North Carolina. And I think it’s probably a misnomer to believe that because many of those counties were contiguous that they’re the same and they’re not.

The culture differs, and the people differ, but they’re beautiful people and it was just wonderful. I also was honored that people were so forthcoming about many of the challenges that they’re facing in many of how they’ve not been well served by our senators and to have those constructive conversations about what it is they wanna see in the next Senator and why this election matters so much.

Callie Pruett: Yeah. Awesome to hear. I would love to hear what you were hearing on the ground and some of your key takeaways.

Cheri Beasley: They are wonderful people – they’re hardworking and share many of the same values that I grew up with around hard work, faith, and integrity and appreciate that they’re working hard for their families, for their communities, and really wanna see the institutions and people around them doing well.

And they expect that should pay dividends in having senators work for them and really consider their needs, not just lump them in with all of North Carolina. We are a beautiful state. We’re the ninth largest in the nation, but we are a unique state with very different cultures and characteristics across the state.

They feel forgotten. So many of those counties do not have access to good quality healthcare. It’s not uncommon for people to drive an hour or an hour and a half. Or more for healthcare or to give birth. And so when you think about those kinds of basic human rights, so many people are driving an hour more each way to go to work.

And many of them earn $11 an hour which is tough to take care of a family that way. And I have to talk about reproductive health because. 26 counties out of our 100, where there is no OB-GYN. And for all of the people who would live in Western North Carolina, would have to travel quite a distance to be served with an abortion.

And so it just is unacceptable and there are lots of inequities in school systems and funding and in so much more and they do deserve more.

Reproductive Rights

Callie Pruett: Yeah it’s great to hear you bring that up. That’s something we’ve been talking about a lot on the podcast because Appalachia is going to be one of the states where the lack of reproductive healthcare is gonna be the scariest and it will have the scariest outcomes for folks.

And so what would you do if elected, to help protect women? To choose, even though it’s been pretty well unprotected right now. But what would your efforts be? 

Cheri Beasley: We just must do better. I’m very thankful that I’ve been in service to the people of this state for nearly 30 years as a public defender, a judge, and as chief justice of the Supreme court of North Carolina.

I firmly know that Roe determined over 50 years ago that women have constitutionally protected right. To make their own healthcare decisions about their reproductive health without government interference. I’m just disgusted and alarmed that my opponent, Ted Budd, says that without any exceptions, even in the case of rape or incest or a risk to the health of the mom, he wouldn’t support abortion.

And we’ve gotta be thinking about what this means.

It’s the first time in our nation’s history that a constitutional right has been taken away, which is frightening. And while I’m not hearing about this in North Carolina, we know that in other states where the right has been completely taken away, physicians are afraid to treat women who are having miscarriages because they’re afraid that their medical licenses are in jeopardy.

We are doing a real disservice to women and people in the state. And in this country, we’re doing a real disservice and we are very much setting up a scenario where maternal mortality rates will increase in North Carolina and across this country. And certainly. And Appalachian communities.

So this is dire. I hope that and I’m so sorry that it takes something like this to make people aware that elections do matter, but we must feel a sense of urgency around this issue and around so many other issues. Appalachian communities are not being well served. And it is difficult.

If a woman lives in an Appalachian community in North Carolina, she has to travel three to four hours away from where she lives. There is a 72-hour waiting period here in North Carolina. So she’s got to find somewhere to go and then to come back from the procedure and. And you’re right.

There are financial barriers and costs and logistically, and it’s just not right. And so I, as a Senator, certainly would fight very hard, number one, to protect this constitutional right. I would fight very hard to make sure that the Senate codifies or makes law Roe versus Wade.

I would also make sure that women have the truth. Not peripheral access, but where they can be in their communities and make these personal decisions for their families without government interference in a way that truly makes those family decisions.

Callie Pruett: I’m really glad that you mentioned that about Ted Budd.I think that a lot of folks are under the impression that he is some moderate middle-of-the-road, even, agreeable type of candidate. And his positions particularly on, on reproductive healthcare are truly radical caricatures of what Republicans are doing across the country.

So I’m glad that you directly called that out.

Priorities in the Senate

Chuck Corra: You mentioned that North Carolina’s a very diverse state and it very much is. You have some of the most beautiful mountains in the west and some of the best beaches in the east and so much in between. If you’re elected to represent North Carolina in the Senate, what will be your first priority?

Cheri Beasley: Chuck, there, there are a thousand priorities because we’ve just not been well served by our senators here in this state.

People across this state are as diverse as it is geographically and otherwise. Rural communities often are faced without enough resources and are feeling discounted. It’s just not right. I certainly know that part of what has to happen immediately is riding the ship.

We are headed in a place where the court can take our constitutional rights. If they can do it once, it can happen again and constitutional rights are equal. And one doesn’t override the other. And so we all should feel a sense of urgency and feel the magnitude of the selection.

I do know that I would work hard to eliminate the filibuster.

The issues that people in this state support are not being addressed. The majority of the people in North Carolina and this country support Congress addressing the climate crisis and addressing reproductive health, addressing voting rights and voter suppression.

Those are real issues to Appalachia as well in terms of access and gerrymandering and so much more. So fundamental rights matter a whole lot but we can do that continuously with the other kinds of things.

We absolutely must be working on including a strong economy and lowering prescription drug costs are. So many people are skipping doses and pill-splitting and so much more – I would fight to lower the cost and cap costs of insulin, but we just have to do so much more understanding that so many people have co-morbidities and may take several drugs that can be a real financial burden to North Carolina families.

Climate Change

Callie Pruett: You mentioned the climate crisis there, which is something that Western North Carolina has seen a lot of impacts – particularly the flooding that happened last October. We’ve had small-town mayors on the show talking about their experiences and we also know that it was incredibly difficult for those small-town mayors to make the noise necessary to get FEMA on the ground because when Madison Cawthorn was in office, he was not an ally and did not fight for the region.

But also because Senator Tillis made it to the area but it wasn’t a top priority for him. So I wanted to get your take on how that was handled and how you might handle it differently and be a champion for not only the Western part of North Carolina experiencing climate crises, but the whole state

Cheri Beasley: The climate crisis is real and the travesty of death and destruction in and around Canton, North Carolina was hard. I certainly applaud the Mayor, Zeb Vance, for really fighting hard for people in his community and making sure that even though they were working hard, not to be overlooked. He was doing everything in his power to make sure that people there had what they needed.

In the east, there are rising sea levels and often droughts across other parts of the state. And we can’t forget about our farmers, many of whom are experiencing changes in weather patterns that are impacting their livelihood. So climate change is real and we are in a crisis. We have this on our agenda, every single election cycle, but we have got to put it closer to the top.

We’ve gotta address the climate crisis aggressively, and I certainly know that reducing carbon emissions is real, but it also means that we’ve got to make sure that people take these crises are seriously, and that FEMA is responsive. We must have elected officials who respect personhood, regardless of whether they’re in Raleigh or Canton North Carolina.

So I was disappointed with the response, but I’m grateful that so many of those communities are rebounding even though it’s taking them longer because they didn’t have that immediate assistance that they needed. FEMA just has to be more responsive quicker and I certainly would fight for the people in North Carolina to make sure that happens.

Effective law-making

Chuck Corra: I appreciate that because – especially with flooding, so many parts of Appalachian and other rural parts of North Carolina face that every single year and as we know, flooding is the costliest natural disaster and also one of the most preventable with the right investments in sustainable and flood-resilient infrastructure.

I’d love to end on an interesting question. There’s a lot of cynicism around politics in general, but especially in the United States Senate – people view it as an ineffective body. In many cases it is. We’ve seen what Mitch McConnell has done to it over the years. What is your message to voters when you’re pitching yourself as a candidate for how you can still be an effective legislator in this toxic environment?

Cheri Beasley: I think it takes someone who is going to stand for what’s right, who will call out what’s wrong, and who will lead courageously. I’m running for all of North Carolina, not just the Democrats. This is a big state and we have real needs.

About one in three people here earn less than $15 an hour and the pandemic certainly made things worse for people in North Carolina, but we were having some problems before the pandemic. We need someone who will be an advocate in the Senate who has respect for the rule of law and will uphold the constitution and will fight for all of North Carolina.

That has to happen. And I want people to feel a sense of empowerment in exercising the right to vote because when people vote and when they use their rope as theirs. They do win. And I need to be running a people-powered campaign. If I am making all the decisions and not having constructive conversations with people across the state about what they need and what they desire from the next United States Senator from this state then my campaign is all for not.

So I’m excited that we’re having good conversations and that we’re encouraging people to vote and to vote for what’s. And all of these issues, none of them are partisan. If you don’t have clean air and clean water, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a Democrat or Republican. If it’s you who doesn’t have access to good quality healthcare or has prescription drug costs that are pro provincial.

And if it’s you, who’s working two or three jobs to take care of a family, it doesn’t matter whether you’re Democrat or Republican, you need assistance and you need the federal government and the Senate to work for you. And that’s why I’m asking people to hire me for this position. 

Callie Pruett: Amazing. Thank you so much for joining us. We’re happy you came on the show and that you took the time for Appalachia. Not many folks running for statewide office in these states do.

Chuck Corra: Yeah. Thank you so much. 

Cheri Beasley: Thank you, Callie and Chuck. I appreciate it. 

Under-the-Radar: Sprouting Farms in Talcott, West Virginia

Chuck Corra: That was our interview. We loved it. We appreciated her coming on the show and wished her luck and her race. And now to move on to under the radar in Appalachia you went above and beyond for this one. You did a site visit to sprouting farms in Cal, at West Virginia.

Why don’t you tell us what that is? Cause I had not heard of them before you brought them. Yeah. 

Callie Pruett: So they pitched us on this idea of doing a segment and what I just wanted to start getting on the ground with folks in these communities that we were gonna do a story about our segment about.

And so I drove to talk about it, which is funny because my family’s originally from the Hinton-Talcott area. And so I drove past my aunt’s. And a mile down the road there were sprouting farms and I got there and I’m, oh this is very close to where my family is. Do you know the Smiths and the ELs?

And they were, you mean Emily? And I was yeah, that’s my little cousin. And they were, yeah, she sells her zucchini bread in our marketplace, of course, such a small 

Chuck Corra: world. So it was west, less 

Callie Pruett: Virginia, is such a small state. I love it, such a small state. And so it was immediately street cred, which was great.

I took a tour of their amazing farm and talked to their staff and found out about the amazing work that they’re doing. Sprouting farms is an incubator farm, meaning that they have, it seems about 30 of these tunnels,  the greenhouse tunnels that you can rent.

If you’re a starting farmer if you’ve never farmed before you wanna learn you can rent one of them. And they can help you with a tool share program. They can help you with irrigation correctly and they can help you distribute EV your wares, basically, for everything that you do, they have a distribution mechanism that they can help you get into the marketplace.

The Appalachian farm collective is a part of sprouting farms and they help. Small farms distribute their produce. So I took a tour. There were a lot of volunteers. And people from the community who came in there were entire tunnels that were full of berries that were gonna be used in local breweries in brewing beer.

There were whole tunnels of experimental stuff where someone was doing a fig next to fennel next to dragon fruit. And they were just trying out a bunch of stuff. And so touring this, it. Such a diversity of what people were growing and producing. That was cool. And so I went around and took a tour.

It was all amazing. And it was very cool to see, but what I think is the even cooler piece of this is the way that they serve the community. They do things by giving 50% off of fresh produce to people who use E B T. So not only do they accept E B T, but they give you half off of fresh produce.

If you go and buy with E B T at one of their, either their mobile markets, their online store, or in person at sprouting 

Chuck Corra: farms and E B T are food stamps, right? Food stamps are commonly referred to as food stamps… 

Callie Pruett: Yes. And so they accept that if you’re a senior citizen, you get 67% off of your produce. And the best part I think is if you are a senior taking care of children, which we know is something that happens throughout Appalachian communities, really throughout communities, everywhere where if a parent is not.

Capable or able or around to take care of a child. And they’re mostly raised by grandparents. If a grandparent’s bringing in a kid to go to the market, you get 75% off of fresh produce. So not only are they allowing people to have these kinds of side hustles and begin to, they can still have a full-time job while beginning their farming career.

They also allow folks in the local community. Benefit from what the work that they’re doing there is. And it was so amazing to see them take their mobile market. pre-K where kids can, they can as they’re being picked up, kids can pick out produce. They have a pilot program right now where over six weeks they give children $30 in these wooden tokens that they can come in and buy fresh produce.

With these wooden tokens, it’s education on how to eat food and how to buy vegetables and what to look for. And so the work that they’re doing is so broad and so necessary in the community that it was just incredible to be there. 

Chuck Corra: Yeah, I am. First of all, I’m so grateful that you went, that you were able to go.

Amazing. I had never heard about them before, but this is an incredible project that they’re doing. And what you told me about just the prices to rent the equipment and things that were extremely affordable so that there’s yeah. Few barriers to entry. What were some of the prices you mentioned?

Callie Pruett: Yeah. I, so I asked the staff there. I said, if there was one takeaway from my visit that you wanted people who were listening to the podcast to know Lucas, who is the manager there, he, his answer, I thought was wonderful. He said anybody can farm and. He meant that in, a meaningful way because when I asked what it cost to become an incubator at sprouting farms, the answer stunned me.

It is a dollar a year to rent one of their tunnels. It is. $35 a year to enter their tool share program. All you pay for is the cost of the water that you use. It is truly an amazing program that folks can take advantage of. I ask. To, how far do people drive to have their incubator farms there?

They have people from as far away as an hour and a half away from talk who drive to keep their farms going. It’s really what they’re doing is so necessary because they’re not only allowing these at the these. Bare bones prices, but they have people there to help you to teach you how to become a farmer and how to sell what you are producing.

And it’s incredible. So my little cousin, Emily, grows zucchini in her backyard and she bakes zucchini bread and she can sell it there. And she is, they said that she’s doing an amazing job and that they’ve been able to help her get this little fledgling. Side hustle off the ground.

That’s incredible. And when you’re in a place in Southern West Virginia, having a side hustle that brings in maybe a couple of thousand dollars extra every summer is huge, a huge difference maker in the lives of your family and yourself. So I just, I could not have been more thrilled with having gone there and.

Just if you’re wondering, I did buy an insane amount of produce while I was there and we made a bunch of it last night. I made a cucumber and tomato salad and I fried some squash and it was all just delicious and there was an amazing homegrown flavor to it. If, homegrown tomato, a homegrown tomato.

Oh yeah. Yeah, it was awesome. I can’t speak highly enough of their staff. I met Lucas, I met Beth and I met one of their AmeriCorps volunteers as well. And they’re doing vital work and trying to distribute food throughout the region. Because I asked TA if it is a food desert.

And so making sure that there’s fresh produce available at a marketplace near folks in the region. So 

Chuck Corra: important. That this is a problem that has been persistent in Southern West Virginia for a long time. Organizations sprouting farms are doing something about it and doing it in a way that’s meaningful and sustainable.

If you teach somebody how to farm, they can grow their food. And that’s, it’s incredible. I love this. I’m so glad that you went down there. I think it’s so cool. I’m looking forward to hopefully getting down there one day. I want to, and I think anybody that’s in or around there should check it out.

Check out sprouting farms and put a link there too. Even if you wanna go online and support them. Hopefully, we’ll be doing more of these segments. This was fun. This was great. I wish I could have been there… 

Callie Pruett: Yeah, absolutely. I wish you could’ve been there too. You would’ve loved it. And I ask them what their needs are because they are on a 5 0 1 C three, they are a nonprofit farm.

And I ask them where they could use help and they need volunteers. So if you’re in the area go, and volunteer. Maybe you can learn a thing or two as well. And then the second thing is that they. A community market day on the last Saturday of every single month and what they are trying to get the word out about is that you don’t have to be a member or a farmer at sprouting farms.

Be part of this market. If you make anything, if you are an artisan or a craftsperson, you can bring what you make to their marketplace and sell it. So if you maybe you’re you make wooden chairs or maybe you crochet or knit maybe you sell and you make a few things here and there that you’d to sell.

You can do that in your local sprouting farms’ marketplace last Saturday of every month at sprouting farms and talk. Yes, I. Couldn’t speak more highly of them. I think they’re doing incredible work and I can’t wait to do more of this type of going and visiting, being part of the community.

And then leaving you guys with something that you can do. Even if you aren’t from the area, there is an online shop that you can go to and buy some of their produce from there. But yeah, I, their whole operation is amazing. So if you have the chance to stop by, you really should.

Chuck Corra: Yeah. I completely agree. And. Very excited. I’m gonna check them out too. So there, thank you for doing that. That was awesome. And I love being able to do this, to highlight important things that are happening that maybe many people don’t know about. So that’s the whole part of under the radar.

We love it. Thank you all so much for listening. It’s been our show this week and we’ll be back next week when we’re more APO latches. See ya. Love ya. And we’ll talk to you soon. 

Cheri Beasley: Bye.

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