I was born in Harlan County, KY, on March 21, 1968. My parents taught history and English; both maternal and paternal grandparents kept bees on their properties in eastern KY. All of these interests coalesce in my research and vision for a world in which there is, to quote J.R.R. Tolkien, "hope without guarantees."
When I was ten, my parents moved to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The stark Badlands and their nuanced shadows continue to serve as my aesthetic ideal when writing.
I received a B.A. from Berea College, an M.A. from Ft. Hays State, and finished a Ph.D. in Modernism at the University of Alabama in 1997. This was the same year that my grandfather introduced me to his bees. The real education began.
For three years, I taught at the University of West Alabama, returning to KY to help my grandfather with his bees. In 2000, I stayed in KY to teach at Eastern Kentucky University and in 2002, transferred to teach at Berea College.
In 2005, Bees in America: How the Honey Bee Shaped A Nation was published by the University Press of Kentucky. In 2006, I was named the NEH Chair of Appalachian Studies at Berea College. My research from that year has resulted in a pilot project focusing on the relationship between coal mine reclamation sites and honey bees.
- 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award by the Kentucky State Beekeeper Association
- 2011 Kentucky Society Daughters of American Revolution Conservation Award
- 2010 North American Pollinator Protection Campaign Advocate Award
- 2010 Jackson Taylor Education in Agriculture Award (Kiwanis Club of Richmond, Kentucky)
- 2009 Kentucky State Beekeeper of the Year Award
The following agencies have provided support for the mission of Coal Country Beeworks, i.e., landscape diversity is the key to economic diversity.