One Highland County maple farm approaches syrup business scientifically

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HIGHLAND COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ7) Downtown Monterey will soon be filled with vendor stalls and the sweet smell of maple syrup, but it all begins in the trees around town.

And at one sugar camp, 38-hundred feet up, they do more than just tap the trees and hope for the best.

The trees at Laurel Fork Sapsuckers look like most you’ll see in Highland County.

“This year has been very good. We tapped the trees two weeks earlier than we ever have before, and it worked in our favor real good,” says owner Ronnie Moyers.

They’ve already made as much syrup as they did all last year, and the sap’s still flowing. But that’s no accident.

“We’re actually doing some very intense studies on our sugar trees – the health of them, what makes them work, or what we can do to make them work better,” according to Moyers.

Because his day job is as a logger, so he’s been looking at his maple trees as a forest that needs care like any other, like experimenting with thinning out one area so the trees have less competition than in this area right nearby. And it worked. The farmed trees are bigger and produce more sap.

“I haven’t totally figured out what made it happen as quick as it did," Moyers admits. "But I’m blessed that it did.”

Down at the sugar shack, where he uses 100-year-old pans to boil the syrup the old fashioned way, even using wood fires, that stronger, more sugary water makes for better syrup. And that means having enough, he hopes, for this year’s festival visitors.

“Last year we had four-thousand people that came through here,” Moyers explains.

Good thing he’s been working on those trees.