The Story of Appalachian Magazine: A Story of Mountain Passion

Photo: Community talk at the local fair, Sept. 1936. Photographer:  Mydans, Carl, Resettlement Administration.
Photo: Community talk at the local fair, Sept. 1936. Photographer: Mydans, Carl, Resettlement Administration.

You probably don’t know my name, but chances are you are familiar with some of my writings. I am Jeremy Farley and I am the founder and primary writer of Appalachian Magazine.

Unlike most people who work in media, I have never spent a single hour in a journalism class and know very little about the finer points of writing… Yes, I am probably the least likely candidate to have created our region’s fastest growing publication, but I sure am grateful that I get to do what I do each day!

The story of Appalachian Magazine can be traced back to 2013, when my family was traveling from our home in Southwest Virginia to the coalfields of Mingo County, West Virginia, each weekend visiting my ailing great-grandfather.

“The Old Man”, as we always called him, was a gritty West Virginia mining man whose foul mouth, mountain wisdom and tougher than nails demeanor probably made him a lot like your grandfather.  While other family members attended to his physical needs, I often found myself simply being the person seated next to him as he would recall growing up in the Great Depression, life in the Civilian Conservation Corps, stories of coal mining wars and disasters, and tales that often seemed to outlandish to believe of his home — a place so prone to violence, writers called it “Bloody Mingo”.

After a few months of visiting with him regularly, I found myself overtaken by a passion to preserve his legacy and the memories of countless Americans just like him.

Knowing he would soon die, I launched a blog highlighting Mingo County’s history and the many stories he shared with me and to my astonishment, other people were also interested.

The first day, we picked up fifty followers, then by the end of the first week, we had 500.  Soon there were a thousand and the number of people who were reading the blog just kept growing.

Upon realizing there was in deed a true hunger for “The Old Man’s” stories, I made the decision to expand the blog to highlight everything about our region and from this, Appalachian Magazine was born.

Having no experience with producing a print publication or running a blog, everything about Appalachian Magazine has been accomplished by trial and error.

By the end of 2017, however, the publication had become so involved and popular, that I was able to resign from my day job and work fulltime producing and promoting the publication, offering stories such as “The History of Appalachian English”, “Old Time Superstition: Death Comes in Threes” and “The Kind of Men Who Carry Pocketknives”.

Today, Appalachian Magazine continues to be entirely owned and operated by my wife and me and to our astonishment it is the fasted growing publication in our region, enjoying more than 185,000 online subscribers and a monthly reach of more than a million people.

I’m often asked by fellow writers, entrepreneurs and people who are just plain curious about the industry as to how we have somehow managed to see the type of success we’ve been able to see — and my response is usually always the same:

“These days, it feels like you can’t read an article whose subject is Appalachia that doesn’t include one of the following words: ‘coal’, ‘Trump’, ‘poverty’, or ‘drugs’.  There’s been a relentless drumbeat of political divisiveness and negativity in Appalachia and in the media in general.  Our publication, on the other hand, is doing something few in the media are these days — bringing people together.  We’re not tackling big stories, but are instead writing about why our fathers carried pocketknives everywhere they went, why our mothers wouldn’t let us swim in creeks during the ‘Dog Days of Summer’, why our grandmothers dipped snuff, and why our grandfathers planted by the signs. We’re offering a people a temporary journey back to yesteryear and there are a lot of folks who are eager to climb aboard.”

I grew up between two worlds: The coalfields of West Virginia and the hayfields of Southwest Virginia and I am blessed to be allowed to write about the places, people and passions that define my home.

This month, is special for Appalachian Magazine as we launched our first print subscription service, allowing online readers the opportunity to purchase a year’s subscription of the print publication. Unlike most all other magazines, our black and white print publication is 100%  advertisement free, presented in book form, offering readers more than 100 pages per issue of pure, Appalachia — showcasing the region’s history, travel opportunities, tall tales and customs.

Click here to learn more about receiving a year’s subscription of the print edition of Appalachian Magazine!

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