Mountain State Maple Days Celebrates Appalachia’s Culinary Forest Heritage
At the end of Winter, in February and March, the forests of West Virginia begin to feel different. The days are getting longer and sunnier, but we often still have our snowiest days ahead of us. This is the time of year when maple syrupers try to get ahead of spring, and reach the maples before the leaves do. Maple syrup is a gift from that same dormant, snowy, Appalachian forest we call home. The syrup is a reminder to appreciate the sweet silence and restfulness of the winter. In West Virginia, we celebrate this delicious forest practice on the third Saturdays of February and March with Mountain State Maple Days, this year the 18th.
In the Appalachian Mountains, forest-grown edibles are an important part of our heritage and of how we celebrate the changes in the seasons. Ramps signal spring and paw paw fruit signals the fall. This isn’t surprising, because more than half of the acreage of West Virginia’s farmland is woodland. This means that a forest crop like maple syrup is more representative of Appalachian agriculture than any number of heirloom fruits and veggies.
Mountain State Maple Days are unique because it is the only state-wide, multi-weekend, festival in the Mountain State. Not all locations participate each Maple Day, but this makes sense – you don’t tap trees at the same time in Marshall County as you do in Lincoln. Future Generations University believes that part of the power of agroforestry, and especially of maple syrup, for community-led economic development lies in the function of maple syruping as a focal practice and in the eating of syrup as the center of communal celebration. Agritourism is unique in its ability for community engagement, and maple syrup is a uniquely valuable crop for agritourism.
Heasley Homestead in Bruceton Mills offers visitors tours and demonstrations of the syrup-making process. Join syrup-maker and West Virginia Maple Syrup Producers Association Treasurer Keith Heasley as he welcomes guests to his scientific and well-engineered sugar shack! Maple products are available to purchase on-site as well as from other local business partnerships.
Researchers in Pendleton County will be demonstrating a rocket stove evaporator alongside Future Generations University’s mobile sugar shack at McCoy Mill in Franklin during February’s Maple Day. This is one of the state’s only sycamore research sites where visitors can see the trees tapped and sycamore syrup being made.
Ronk Family Farm
To visit the other sycamore site in the state, swing by Ronk Family Farm in Alum Creek! Ronk Family Farm produces maple syrup as well and tours and demonstrations will also be happening onsite.
On February 21, 2023 starting at 5 pm, visit Vagabond Kitchen in Wheeling, WV for a specialty maple dinner in partnership with Family Roots Farm! Chef Matt Welsch has crafted a 5-course dinner highlighting the delicious maple syrup throughout the meal. To reserve your seat call the restaurant at (304) 905-6173. A maple themed cocktail hour will be held from 5:00 – 6:00 PM, with dinner starting promptly at 6:00 PM.
West Virginia maple producers are located all across the state. There’s nothing like the experience of visiting a sugar shack and being wrapped in the warm steam billowing off the evaporator. The smell is truly amazing and the pure maple syrup is some of the best around! The hills and hollers welcome you for a visit- it’s the sweetest time of year!
For more events happening across West Virginia and to find local syrup for sale near you visit https://maple.wvmspa.org/ .
Assistant Professor & Agroforestry Network Coordinator
Joey Aloi is Assistant Professor & Agroforestry Network Coordinator for Future Generations University’s Appalachian Program. His work in agroforestry builds on years of work in Appalachian foodways. His doctorate is in Philosophy from the University of North Texas, and his published academic works touch on environmental ethics, economic transition, philosophy of technology, environmental justice, agrarianism, and the role of the forest in Appalachian foodways.
Shared in Partnership with Mountain State Maple Days
The WV Maple Syrup Producers Association hosts the Mountain State Maple Days each year to celebrate the growing maple industry in our state.Learn More
This post was last updated on May 12, 2023