Introducing Mill Gap Farms as The Newest Public Sugar Camp in Highland County – Part 1
There’s a new sugar camp to add to the sweetness of the Highland County Maple Festival this year. Mill Gap Farms is a small family farm owned by husband and wife duo, Kevin and Emily Conner. The couple moved from Richmond, Virginia to the Meadowdale area of the county in early 2017 with their daughter and have since had a boy. Their property has been providing farm stay opportunities and raising a variety of animals, including alpacas and Merino sheep for wool. 2019 marks the first year they will be open to the public for maple production tours, and Kevin has more on what visitors can expect.
Kevin says, “When you come to Mill Gap Farms, I think the first thing you’re gonna notice are the views. We tag our Airbnb the ‘best views in Highland,’ mainly because we feel we have some amazing views. We kinda couple that with some of the technology that we brought in for the maple, and I think folks are gonna be excited to see how maple syrup is made in Vermont and Quebec. It’s all Canadian-built equipment, and it is probably the latest and greatest equipment that’s available to us, not considering High Brix systems. Evaporation, reverse osmosis, the tanks, the lines – all of it is, we can’t say cutting edge, but it is new technology. We will have some interesting things coming in to 2020. We’re gonna be adding to the farm monitoring systems, a different post on our R.O., that sort of thing, but in the first year, I think most everybody will come up and just enjoy seeing an environment that’s a little different than most sugar camps we have in the county. Our sugar barn is a good-sized barn. It can house a good number of folks, and there, we’re gonna be giving classes every half hour on the processes of how we make maple syrup. Every thirty minutes, we’re gonna go through the process of how it comes in to the sugar camp, how we R.O. it, and how it becomes syrup, so we’ll go through the generalities of it within a thirty-minute window, and if someone were to come in and not catch the beginning, they can just stick around for the total of thirty minutes, and they’ll catch up and understand what’s goin’ on.
“And I think it’s probably important to note that we’re gonna be certified organic as well. As far as I know, there aren’t any certified organic producers of maple syrup in Virginia, and if there are, we’re not tryin’ to take anything away from them, and as far as producers go, there are some differences in our processes than with other local guys that are producing this. One of the biggest things is probably our paperwork. There is lots and lots of paperwork and records to be had. Everything has to be logged, everything you do every day. There’s some differences in our tree tapping process, and the trees that we have have to be certified as well, so there are some differences. By and large, it’s very similar syrup, no questions asked. The Brix, the amount of sugar in there is exactly the same. It’s just how you process it and the things you use, such as defoamers that are a little bit different, too.
“Our location is pretty easy to find. When you are heading west on [Rt.] 84, and you make it in to the Meadowdale area, you’d look up about your twelve o’clock, and there we are. You will not miss us. We’re the big white barn on top o’ the hill. A lot of folks know Tim Duff and Duff’s Sugar House, and we are located behind Tim Duff. If you happen to be at Duff’s house, you would look sorta northwest, and you can’t miss our barn.
“We are excited to be in the community. We think Highland is an amazing place to live, and more so, an amazing place to raise a family. We look forward to spending years raising our family, being involved in any way that God leads us. That’s really why we’re here for.”
Kevin will have more on why his family moved to Highland County in Part 2 of this story.