WVU Graduate Thesis Profiles West Virginia Farms

May 28, 2015   Tags:

Rachel Yoke recently graduated from WVU with an MS in Journalism, and has released her thesis, Hope & Hard Work: Farming in the Mountain State, the product of two years exploring farming and food production in West Virginia.

Yoke focuses in on an array of topics:


While articles you read in regular newspapers might stop with the stories, Yoke’s thesis goes deeper with Voices of Farming, a collection of audio recordings where the farmers answer questions that would be applicable to all of the farms and families photographed and . . . allow subjects to offer meaningful observations about their lives as farmers.”

The questions are:

  1. What does the word farm or farming mean to you?
  2. How has your choice to farm shaped or impacted your family life?
  3. Has your feeling about farming changed over the years you’ve been doing it? If so, how?
  4. What is the most challenging thing about farming?
  5. Where do you see yourself and your farm in 10 years?


It’s truly a treat to listen to the variety of answers to these questions.

In the end, Yoke describes in simple terms what many of us working to strengthen local food in West Virginia are finding:

Small physical size, however, is not the determining factor of a successful farm. Mary Oldham and Chico Ramirez operate Mountain Harvest on only three acres, and the Samples produce their fruits, vegetables, eggs, and honey on a third of an acre. Successful farming requires long hours of hard work and a willingness to embrace the inherent financial risks of operating a farm. The farmers profiled are all facing those risks by utilizing tried and true farming strategies while also incorporating new techniques that they hope will let their farms thrive in an uncertain food and farming future.”

All photographs © Rachel Yoke and used with the permission of the photographer.



Rachel Yoke

Rachel Yoke


John Stenger


Frank and Zula Stenger

Mary harvests beets toward the end of the farm's growing season.

Mary Oldham


Grayson Samples


Glenn Hardesty