By Stephen Smoot
Once again, maple producers and sellers across the state have started gearing up for West Virginia Maple Days. This year, the West Virginia Maple Syrup Producers have selected Feb 17 and March 16 as the days to feature the entire process, from tapping the tree to plugging the product.
Though production centers around or near the South Branch and Greenbrier valleys, production takes place in every corner of the state. Producers from as far away as Wellsburg, Kenova, and Hinton will join a number of producers from Pendleton and elsewhere to showcase Mountain State maple.
Kent Leonhardt, West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture, has promoted maple syrup production throughout his tenure. He visited Future Generations University’s research facility at McCoy’s Mill near Franklin last February to learn more about work done there. He exclaimed at the time, “It’s in Pendleton County! What a great place to do it!”
Luke Taylor-Ide, vice president of engagement at Future Generations University near Franklin, told the West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture’s Market Bulletin newsletter that “I grew up in Pendleton County. Maple syrup was always on my radar.”
He added that “Mike Rechlin was our longtime dean at Future Generations. Mike’s passion and hobby was researching maple syrup.” Taylor-Ide also stated that “Mike is the one who really helped open my eyes to the fact maple syrup can be something more than just a hobby.”
The producers association chose February and March for the time to celebrate production of local maple because it takes place in the middle of the production season. Taps work best when temperatures rise above freezing during the day, but drop below 32 degrees at night. Unseasonably warm temperatures hindered production in 2023, but conditions should be much better this year.
Pendleton County lies in the center of the region’s maple producing area and offers sweet opportunities for fun and food. The Pendleton County Convention and Visitors Bureau will host a “pop up” version of the county farmers’ market.
Producers opening the doors to their operations to show off their wares include FGU’s McCoy’s Mill, M&S Maple, Bess Farms, Jack Mountain Maple (only in February) and Mountain Cajun Getaway.
Leonhardt was quoted in My Buckhannon as explaining that “despite the warmer temperatures, our maple operations still managed to produce a lot of syrup. Compare it to the maple-flavored corn syrup you find in big box stores, and I guarantee you’ll reach for pure West Virginia maple syrup every time.”
Despite the challenges, the Mountain State produced approximately 11,000 gallons of maple.
Warmer temperatures also affect the taste of the final product as well.
The West Virginia Maple Syrup Producers Association offers a statewide map of participating businesses and other organizations.