Southernmost Maple Open For Festival
With maple syrup season underway and the festival imminent, we spoke with one of Highland County’s producers about his operation.
“Hi, my name is Mike Puffenbarger and we’re the owners of Southernmost Maple Products in Bolar, Virginia. We’re located in the southern end of Big Valley, just a little bit north of the town of Bolar, which is a few houses and three and a half miles from Midway Service off of Route 220, there on Route 607. We’ve been where we’re at since about 1997, and been making syrup about 50 years.”
While many producers use evaporators to make syrup, Southernmost utilizes a unique “piggyback” unit.
“The piggyback is a pretty good size unit – 5 by 15, and then the piggyback’s 10 foot, and then it sets on the flu pan. What it is, it’s an inverted flu pan, and we catch the steam going off the back panel of the evaporator. It goes up and goes through channels and heats the water on top. There’s an air blower that blows fresh air into it, and splashes this water over the fins, and kind of sears it. Bottom line is, you know, we can make about 250 gallon evaporation rate an hour without it, and with it we just about double it on good days. Much more efficient and burning a couple of, like 22 gallons of diesel fuel an hour, so we need all the efficiency we can get.
“We’ve got miles of tubing, like most people, that we’ve put up and we’ve got to where, a couple places, we can leave it up year-round, like they do up north, and that saves a lot of labor. And we also hang about 1000 buckets a year.
“We’ve got some vacuum. This year we’re not using it – we’ve got some portable vacuum pumps that we do use. We’ve had some real good runs, the water is not quite as sweet as we like to see it, due to the cloudiness and rain last summer. And if we put vacuum on, it will even and drop the sugar content even more, but we’re getting pretty good flows right now like it is, so we’re gonna leave well enough alone.”
Southernmost Maple will be open for tours and activities on Friday and Saturday of both weekends.
“Our belief, the Beachy Amish belief is we don’t do on Sundays if we don’t have to. Southernmost opens up to the Festival – handicap accessible, easy to get in, no mud. So we got indoor bathrooms, indoor dining, food, all day – a variety of food and then buffet each Saturday evening from 5:00 – 8:00 pm, all-you-can-eat buffet, and of course, maple donuts.
“I’d like to clear a couple things up – we’re getting a lot of calls about donuts, we hear you’re not making doughnuts this year. Well, we’re Puffenbargers, but Ivan and Sis are Puffenbargers too, and I understand they’re not making donuts this year, and we’re sad about that, but we are making donuts, and we want to try to get some of the misunderstanding/confusion straightened up, that we’ll have donuts Friday and Saturday, both weeks. So I’d just like to invite people to come, you know, hopefully the weather will be pleasant, and have a great time.”