Harlan County Spotlight: Woody Hartlove

Woody Hartlove on Harlan County Farmers Market Blender Bike

1) Who are you, and what roles do you fill in your community?
My name is Woody Hartlove. I’m not actually from Harlan, KY, I moved here back in May of 2003 to marry my wife, Sherry. Now I call these mountains my home. Our story is one of those fairy tales you hear about; we met on the internet, fell in love and are now living happily ever after.
I moved here from Virginia Beach, VA, but I grew up all over. I was a Navy Brat growing up, so we moved around a lot. After I graduated from high school, I went into the Navy and served for 9 years on active duty. I am a Combat Veteran of Desert Storm. After the Navy, I had spent the next 10 years working as a mechanic. I worked on large diesel engines on tug boats and trains, then semi trucks and finally, before moving here, I worked for a Harley-Davidson dealership.
After I moved here, I worked as a car mechanic for while and then opened my own shop working on motorcycles and ATV’s. I did that for about 8 years. I had to close the doors on the shop due to the layoffs in the coal mines. Finding a permanent job after that was tough; I worked odd jobs whenever I could find the work.
During that period, I started gardening again, a long time passion I enjoyed doing. After attending several workshops offered by our County Extension Office and the Pine Mountain Settlement School through the Grow Appalachia program, I decided to take my love for raising vegetables to the next level and start a small farm, Hartlove Farm’s. I tell people I went from being a “Grease Monkey” to a “Dirt Monkey”.
I am in my first year of building my market garden, I am leasing a ¾ of an acre plot, that my late Father-In-Law use to garden on, but I haven’t even really been able to do much with it. You see, I have dedicated most of my time over the past 10 months working with a small group of local folks getting our farmer’s market up and running. The Harlan County Farmers Market opened for the first time on June 10th of this year. We are a month old and doing great.
I am the President of the Board of Directors and the Market Manager. Trying to get everything ready and all the planning has taken up a lot of my time, and I haven’t been able to put much focus and emphasis on getting my farm up a running like I’ve wanted, but it’s been worth the sacrifice to be able to help get something we have needed for a long time going.
I am also involved in a local program called Leadership Harlan County Unite. LHCU is a training and technical assistance program that builds teams of emerging leaders from Harlan County from differing boundaries of class, ethnicity, and geography. Selection is targeted to emerging leaders-citizens who have assumed leadership roles in their communities, but may not hold established positions.
Participants in the program attend an opening session and six day-long training seminars during a seven month period. The academy curriculum weaves together topics crucial to the development of the community such as education, economic development, environment, health and social services, government, and other core components. Key leadership skills are integrated into each session. To apply their learnings throughout the program, the participants carry out practicum assignments and present their project at graduation.

2) What do you most appreciate about your community?
What I appreciate most about Harlan is the natural beauty of these mountains and rich history that is here. One of my favorite things to do is ride the back roads of the mountains on my Harley, especially Little Shepherds Trail. Riding across the top of Pine Mountain is so relaxing and peaceful; it’s the best therapy in the world.
I also like listening to the stories about how Harlan use to be. Most of them are good, but there are some bad too. It amazes how much history is here and how much of it is being forgotten. Harlan County has a rich heritage and much to offer, but for some reason, it’s getting lost. But the good thing is, there are folks out there that are trying to regain and hold on to our heritage, and I really appreciate that.
I might not have been born here or lived here most of my life, but this is where I’m from now and where I call home. When someone asks me where I’m from, I proudly say “Harlan”.

Woody and Sherry

3) What’s your vision for your community, and what’s a community project you’ve been a part of that makes strides towards that vision?
I envision Harlan County being a thriving and self sustaining community, much like it once was. To hear some of the stories from the older folks in the area and to see some of the photo’s of the past, Harlan was quite the place. The biggest project I am part of is the Harlan County Farmers Market. Back in September of 2016, myself and three others, Jeremy Williams, Preston Jones and Brandon Pennington, sat down and discussed the idea of starting another farmers market to provide the local growers a place where they could sell their produce and place where the folks of Harlan can buy fresh produce grown right here at home. Since then, big things have happened with the market.
We are a nonprofit LLC, certified with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, members of the Kentucky proud and Appalachia Proud programs. We are participating in the FARMacy Program sponsored by Mountain Comprehensive Health Care and the SNAP Kentucky Double Dollars Program. We were chosen to be part of the Local Foods, Local Places program, which is a federally sponsored program to help communities with revitalization and economic growth through local foods.

4) Who is a member of your community that you admire and why?
There are several members of the community I admire; it’s hard to choose just one, so I’m going to talk about two. The first person I admire the most is my wife, Sherry. For the past 14 years she has been my rock, my encouragement and my best friend. At times when I feel like giving up on something I am passionate about, she’s been there to encourage me and keep me focused on the end goal. She has been my biggest supporter and drive in everything I do. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for her and the encouragement, support and love she gives me every day. The Lord has truly blessed me with the best partner any one could ask for.
The other person I admire the most is Jeremy Williams, our County Extension Agent for Ag and Natural Resources. Jeremy puts in a lot of time and energy to helping our community and the individuals. He will help anyone he can, however he can. And if he doesn’t know something, he will find out who does. He has been a tremendous help with the Farmers Market and helping me with the planning of my farm business. His involvement with different projects and organizations in Harlan has played a big role in the development of our county. Not only is he an asset to the community and tremendous help on a business level, he is a good friend.
I am very grateful to have both Sherry and Jeremy as part of my life and share this journey with me. I feel that if it weren’t for the two of them, I would not be where I am today.