A Visit With Laurel Fork Sapsuckers – Part II

My visit to the Laurel Fork Sapsuckers Sugar Camp was intended to be a brief stop, to quickly get the information I needed to put together a news story on their operation, which makes maple syrup, candy, fudge and granola, serves food, and gives instructional tours to the estimated 800 – 1,000 visitors they receive each weekend of the festival. Instead, that short visit turned into an enjoyable hour long evening, filled with conversation on what it means to live in the Allegheny Highlands and Highland County. As the family finished a huge meal after a long day of boiling water, patriarch Ronnie Moyers opened up on what their venture means to the bigger picture.

“I’ve been trying to figure out, for the past six years, a maple tree – what makes them work, the days they work good, the days they don’t work. And, after six years of trying to figure out exactly how the maple tree works, I’m the same place as when I started – I don’t know.”

“We went to a maple syrup seminar in Dawson West Virginia, mid-summer, and we probably learned more taking that class that particular day, than we did in four years. They had ways to prep your lines to increase your flow by 25% more, and over the summer, we actually added a lot of the stuff on ground that we learned at that class, and I can really see where it’s worked to our advantage.

“I would like to see it grow more, like my daughter Missy said, we’re kind of getting to the max of our people – it’s a family run operation, it’s pretty much maxed out with the labor. I don’t really want to change our practice much – I still want to try to show the public the way it first got started basically 100 years ago, here in Highland with the antique equipment that we’re using, in the sugar camp.

“I’m going to have to add on – of course, any time you add on, it’s an expense, but once again, at this time, we’re not running it just for a profit. It helps absorb some of the tax that we have here in the county, on the property, and I think if we continue staying aggressive with it, the farm could actually sustain itself. Our goal is quality, not quantity – we can’t do quantity, but we can do quality to the best of our ability.

“If we can advertise Highland County, through the Maple Festival, and we can get people to come here and see what Highland offers – if one of those people would decide to buy property in Highland, become a Highland resident, that would be a plus for me because I knew that I was a part of it.

“If we were doing this just for money, I would be further ahead to be logging, which I do, but that’s not actually the reason that we do this. It’s kind of a family tradition, and as long as we can keep the tradition growing, and have the public to come look at the facilities that we have, very remote, off the grid, down over the backside of a mountain, and when I see them get excited when they come and see the way we’re doing this, that kind of gives me the encouragement to keep doing it. And it doesn’t matter how good a commodity you may have, if you don’t advertise it, and let other people know what it is and what it’s about, it doesn’t do any good. And I think Highland County is a very special place, and I think the more we can advertise it to the public, the more growth we can have.”

Story By

Scott Smith

Scott Smith is the General Manager for Allegheny Mountain Radio and Station Coordinator and News Reporter for WVLS. Scott’s family has deep roots in Highland County. While he did not grow up here, he spent as much time as possible on the family farm, and eventually moved to Highland to continue the tradition, which he still pursues with his cousin. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t pay all the bills, so he has previously taken other jobs to support his farming hobby, including pressman/writer for The Recorder, and Ag Projects Coordinator for The Highland Center. He lives in Hightown with wife Michelle and son Ethan. In his spare time, he wishes he had more spare time, especially to ride his prized Harley-Davidson motorcycle. scott@amrmail.org

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