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  • Evan Mascagni

Guest Post: Sustainability and Economic Growth in Appalachia

Nathan Hall has always had a connection to his home in Eastern Kentucky, and now he's working to create innovative opportunities for the region through Pine Mountain Remedies, an Appalachian hemp company with a focus on sustainability and local economic development. Learn more about his work at

Film by: Evan Mascagni

Cinematography by: Nick Capezzera and Evan Mascagni

Music by: Nathan Hall

Full video transcript:

Nathan Hall: So right now, we're in Corbin, Kentucky. We're here for TEDxCorbin talk, first TEDx in Eastern Kentucky that I'm aware of, and I got roped into giving one of the talks here. So here in an hour and a half or so, I'll be talking a little bit about a CBD hemp startup in Eastern Kentucky.

Speaker 1: So next up, we have Nathan Hall. Nathan Hall is a 10th generation Appalachian. He is an agricultural entrepreneur. He has co-founded a CBD hemp company called Pine Mountain Remedies. And I look forward to hearing about hemp.

Speaker 2: Let's welcome Nathan to the stage.

Nathan Hall: I'm here today to talk to you mostly about hemp, but more importantly, how hemp could help build a new agricultural economy in the coalfields of Eastern Kentucky. I don't think it's the end all be all for addressing the region's economic woes. But I think it could play a significant role. Right now, we have a mix of assets in the region that could be really productive if organized in the right way. We have good quality land, hardworking people that want to work, and a market that we're in a great position to tap into. I believe we can create an Appalachia that allows us to stay grounded and builds a new, vibrant future from the ground up. And I think CBD hemp is a great way to get that ball rolling. Thank you for your time.

My family's been in the mountains of eastern Kentucky in central Appalachia for about ten generations. For me, that means that I am tied to this place in a way that goes beyond just my lifetime. It's also a lot of other lifetimes that are part of my DNA, I guess you could say, and I feel like that's part of who I am. That's become very apparent whenever I've left this region and lived in other places. The first time I did that, I was 18 and it became very apparent very quickly that I was not a city guy. You know, I tried moving to Louisville, Kentucky. But it took me a few years, actually, to realize why I felt so not at home there. And I think it is because both directly through my lived experience in this lifetime and that whole built up ancestral experience, I just have a lot of really intense connection to this place.

I decided to work as an underground coal miner for a while in my early 20s. Really at the tail end of my time in Louisville, Kentucky. But I knew I wanted to leave Louisville. I knew I wanted to be back in the mountains, but I didn't know how I'd be able to support myself and work on some of the ideas I was really interested in. Even back then, I was already really interested in sustainable agriculture and renewable energy. I was 21, 22 at the time. And I wanted to start a goat dairy combined with a biodiesel business. I'd researched a lot. I had a general idea of how to make that happen, but I didn't have any capital, didn't know where to go to for capital. So I figured if I worked in the mines for a few years, then I could just save up my funds and make it happen on my own.

Work in the coal mines was a good experience overall. I really didn't mind the work. It was very hard work. You start out as a grunt and what they call outbuy, that really means that you're mostly hand shoveling coal and coal sludge out from underneath the conveyor belt so it doesn't build up and cause friction and then a fire. I wanted to stick around long enough to be a mine emergency technician and electrician, but I was being constantly harassed by my grandparents, especially, to get out of the mines because they grew up in a time when the mines were much, much more dangerous. And they were just convinced that I was going to lose my life in a rock fall or explosion, that I really needed to go to college and give college a chance. And so after several months working underground, I finally said, OK, you know, I don't want to stress you all out anymore. So I ended up going to Berea college in Central Kentucky.

I eventually also ended up going to Yale, both to the School of Management and the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, for a joint master's degree program. I felt like if I went to grad school, especially somewhere like Yale, that I'd be able to build up my chops to understand better how to get the financial reserves put together to do bigger scale projects in the region.

I think what's so appealing about hemp to me is the fact that it makes more sense to grow it organically than not. Other crops, corn, soy beans, etc., have had a whole industry built around them to make it easier to grow than not organically with synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, etc. But hemp, especially for flower, like we grow for CBD and CBG, you almost have to grow it organically in terms of not using any of those really harmful chemical pesticides and fertilizers. And it's really better for the plant if you only use organic fertilizers.

So when it started to become legal in Kentucky and then in other nearby states, to me it seemed like this might be our best option for building a sustainable agriculture economy in this place.

Guest post by Evan Mascagni

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