What once was an unused strip mine, is now what could be West Virginia’s biggest economic gain.
Strip mines can be found across the Mountain State; they are everywhere, even in your own backyard. After coal mining companies are done with extracting the coal, they become miles and miles of unused land.
“You would never drive by here and think this was viable for anything,” Farmer, Velvie Mckenzie, said.
No one ever thought you could make something grow in soil so ruined. A company called Green Mining reclaimed an abandoned 4 mile mine in Kanawha County. By some miracle they found a crop that grew in the soil, and it grew like wildfire. That crop was lavender.
“They’re growing pretty good, I mean a year ago when I first came up here you couldn’t have fooled me and made me believe that something was going to grow on this old strip job,” Supervisor, Donnie Facemyer, said.
Green Mining’s mission is to put people back to work. Facemyer was a coal miner for Prichard Mining, until he was laid off. After a year of planting lavender, he said working for Green Mining was his saving grace.
“If someone is looking for a job there’s work here, it’s not a lot of money right at the start but once it gets going it’s going to be there,” Facemyer said.
Green Mining is hoping for the lavender to be fully grown in 3 years. Attracting people from all over the world to see the beautiful fields of purple.
“Why not West Virginia be the tourist attraction for the United States where everyone comes to see lavender fields why not?” Mckenzie said.
Once the lavender is harvested it’s sent straight to the lab at the West Virginia Regional Tech Park in Charleston. In the lab they extract the lavender to make essential oils. soaps, lotions and perfumes. There are so many products that can be made from extracting lavender, and they will all be made and exported from West Virginia. Once they start harvesting more lavender, and people catch on, West Virginia will be the one and only producer for lavender in the country. They hope to surpass Bulgaria and France in lavender production, which means a lot of money for the state. According to Persistence Market Insights the lavender oil markets are expected to reach $12.2 million between 2016 and 2024.
“This could be something that makes West Virginia not miss the coal mines so bad; which is why it’s so incredibly important is the fact that, I mean a hundred acres is a million dollars? In the farming industry that’s unheard of,” Mckenzie said.
Green Mining is training people to learn how to plant and harvest lavender. People of all ages are encouraged to take a bite of this multimillion dollar industry, and to join this mission to put West Virginia on the map.
For more information on how you can get involved you can visit http://www.gmmbp.org/