By Lynn R. Mitchell
This is the 56th year of the Maple Festival held in Highland County, a celebration of the sugar maples that are prolific throughout this serenely beautiful western-most part of Virginia. Since the weather was great, we pointed our car west on the first day of the festival which presented an opportunity to stop at a familiar place and see familiar faces.Tim Duff (pictured above) is at home in the sugar house on his Fair Lawn Farm south of Monterey.
We’ve been visiting this twenty-year Coast Guard veteran since before he became sheriff of Highland County a few years ago. There are a couple of reasons for that. First, he demonstrates how to boil down sugar water to make maple syrup the old way. And second, he enjoys educating the public about the process that’s all done with authentic equipment. The flat pan used for evaporation is 135 years old (I believe he said it’s made of English tin), and other pieces of equipment are over a century old.
Always willing to answer questions as he interacts with visitors who crowd inside his sugaring house, Tim is at ease in the familiar surroundings. In fact, he’s downright jovial. This year was no exception. He was quick to credit neighboring farms for sharing sugar water since trees have not been as productive. Neighbors helping neighbors is the way it’s done in Highland County.