Highland sugar camp faces future after death of patriarch

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HIGHLAND COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ7)-- The sugar camps in Highland County say it’s a good year.

“They’re producing pretty good," said Doug Puffenbarger of Puffenbarger’s Sugar Camp. "It’s been the best year so far, it’s been in a long time.”

But it’s been a year of struggle here.

“Last year we didn’t get all the trees tapped because of Dad’s health, and my Mom broke her hip," he explained. "And I wasn’t going to open trees period, but my wife said you need to open at least a few. So I started and the neighbors came in and helped, and we didn’t get all the trees opened. So my goal was this year to get all the trees here close around the camp and most of the other ones that we lease the trees, to get open.”

“We’re doing the best we can, and we will continue," his wife, Terri, said. "And I know his Dad is watching over us and is proud of what we’re doing.”

Ivan Puffenbarger had run the camp since he took over from his father in 1959. He passed away in July.

“He was in here and would tell us things to do and what not to do," said Terri. "And now it’s up to us.”

And now, with the trees open and the evaporator boiling, they’re producing syrup just like before.

“I’m trying to keep up the tradition now,” Doug Puffenbarger said.

And it’s a big operation, with thousands of gallons of sap becoming syrup, and a three-generation tradition to uphold.

“I’m getting there," he said. "My goal is next year to have everything I could possibly have open, open. That’s my goal.”

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