Coming Together

BLUE GRASS, Va. There was something in the smoke, as Ivan Puffenbarger’s sugarhouse burned and the volunteer firefighters roared over the mountains trying to save it. In the ash and plastic fumes, there was a smell like molasses dripping on a stove burner.

Seven hundred gallons of maple syrup was on fire.

via The Pancake-Ready Paradise –

The fire last year could have ended  Ivan’s avocation as a maker of maple syrup. At the age of 71 no one would have questioned that outcome. Instead Ivan rebuilt. And that is the heart of this story…Because the community did what mountain communities always have, they came together and helped to make it happen.

High-schoolers from the Future Farmers of America chapter cleared out the ashes, and some came back to put siding on the building that began rising in the old sugar camp’s place. Other people, 25 to 30 in total, poured concrete, framed walls and raised the roof. In some cases, Puffenbarger said, the bill for their work was heavily discounted.

In others, the bill never came at all.

“Around here, it’s different,” said Sean Duff, 18, the son of another syrupmaker who was part of the FFA contingent. “It’s just what you do, because next weekend you could be in the same boat.”

via The Pancake-Ready Paradise –

“It’s just what you do”…Did you ever think that maybe, just maybe, that’s what this country is missing as we roll into this economic crisis? The attitude that you do the right thing because it’s what you do seems to have become so rare in the business comunity that we can all see the outcome.

Reading the story, you also find that the climate is not working in Highland County’s favor. In one man’s lifetime the sap harvest has changed from a March 1st start date to a February 1st start date. Climate change is worrying Vermont syrupmakers…Making syrup this far south is even more endangered by changing weather patterns.

More Links:

  • 51st Annual Highland Maple FestivalMarch 14 – 15 & 21 – 22, 2009

    Take a step back in time to Highland County, “Virginia’s Switzerland.” Travel back roads and mountain byways to the annual Highland Maple Festival. Held on the 2nd and 3rd weekends of March, the Maple Festival has been an annual event in Highland County, Virginia, since 1958.

    Each year, thousands of visitors are drawn to this unspoiled, rural region of Virginia to celebrate the “opening” of the trees and observe the process of maple syrup-making. Sugar camp tours provide a unique and educational experience that portrays a rapidly vanishing way of American life.
    via Highland County Chamber of Commerce, Monterey VA.

  • Highland County Fair; September 2 – 5, 2009

    An old-time country fair steeped in tradition! Having celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2001, the Highland County Fair opens with a hometown parade that winds its way through the streets of historic Monterey on the Wednesday preceding Labor Day.
    via Highland County Chamber of Commerce, Monterey VA.

  • Hands & Harvest Festival; October 10 & 11, 2009 (Second weekend in October)

    Celebrate the beauty of Autumn at Highland County’s annual Hands & Harvest Fall Foliage Festival. Held on the second weekend in October on Columbus Day weekend, this event offers two full days of activity and entertainment. Come and observe for yourself the mountain forests of Virginia’s Western Highlands transformed into a rich palette of russet, gold, and scarlet.

    Seasonal foods, including apple dumplings, barbecues, Allegheny Mountain Trout, and homemade baked goods will be available in the historic districts of Monterey and McDowell. Take time to explore the back roads and one of Highland County’s Scenic Driving Tours.
    via Highland County Chamber of Commerce, Monterey VA.

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