Virginia Secretary Of Agriculture To Visit Highland County


Missy Moyers-Jarrells of Laurel Fork Sapsuckers stopped by the studio last week to talk about an upcoming event on their farm. I asked her how their syrup season had gone so far.

“So far, we’ve had a really short season. We tapped our trees the same week that we made our first 25 gallons of maple syrup. And, since then we have been frozen – so no more sap flows, and no more syrup making.”

Just because the trees weren’t running didn’t mean there was no work to be done.

“We have been working all summer long on a new events/retail space. Finished, I would say no, but it is going to be usable. As a matter of fact, we’re putting windows in this week. It’s going to be great to be able to use that space and people can come in, sit down, have their lunch items inside this year. They’ll be able to shop around and not stand in line trying to get through one single door.

“Right now, we’re open for three weekends during the year which, a business here in the county, that that’s pretty hard. So we’re looking to be open more than just those few weekends – instead of seasonal, we want to be a year round event space. So the new events’ building is going to hold our workshops that we’re doing for the Acer grant – we have one of those planned for September. We’re also looking to do weddings, we have our first rehearsal dinner, also in September. We’re looking to do, just ,small events for the community, kind of like come out, build a bonfire, have a cookout- people to enjoy it that way. And we’re going to open it up for farm tours, so that people can come and spend the day and learn about the many projects that we have going on. We’re doing some projects for a migratory bird habitat, non-timber forest products, such as the black cohosh, golden seal, ginseng, and adding more ramps to the property.”

And the event she wanted to tell us about?

“This year, we are fortunate to have Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. She will be joining us on February 28th at 11:00 AM, at our sugar house, kind of as a kickoff to the 61st Highland County Maple Festival, as well as to kind of show some honor and respect to all those sugar producers that are continuing to keep the sugaring heritage alive here in our county.”

“Beginning at 11:00 AM, we’re going to have Dr. Tom Hammett from Virginia Tech. He’s going to talk about a specialty crop block grant involving maple syrup that’s taking place here in Virginia. We’re also going to have the Secretary speak about the agriculture and the maple industry within Virginia, and then she’s going to go out and she’s going to actually tap some trees. We’re going to have the local high school natural resources and FFA students there. We’re also going to have our local community college, Dabney S. Lancaster, the forestry students there as well.”

“One of the reasons that we want to have the Secretary is, not only to pay heritage to the local sugar makers, but also to recognize the volunteers in our county. They give up countless hours of their time. It is not possible for just the sugar makers to host the Maple Festival, nor is it the volunteers. We also need those crafts and vendors.”

“We are very prideful county of our Maple Festival, and one of the other reasons for bringing the Secretary is, maybe we can share that pride, and become a prideful state for our Maple Festival. It’s one of those rare oddities that the least populated county east of the Mississippi is holding the second largest Maple Festival in the country, so there’s a lot of pride involved there, and we would just like to showcase that. We also have asked the local school natural resources groups and FFA and the local forestry students to come because maple syrup is truly an agriculture and forestry crop. So we want to celebrate our local Appalachian heritage, and inspire our youth to continue in the field of forestry and agriculture.

“If you’re coming from Monterey, it’s (Route) 250 West. It’s exactly 10 miles on Route 250, and you turn left on Clay Hise Lane. We will have signs out at the end of the driveway, so you won’t be able to miss that at all.”

I know it’s a very busy time of year leading up to Maple Festival, and I also realize it’s midweek, so a lot of people cannot come – however, if you can make it, that would be fantastic. If not, the Curly Maple will be having several breakfast and lunch items featuring local maple syrup, so if you’re in town, and you can grab a bite there, that would be great also.”

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.

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