Last month I was invited to join some researchers from Hollins University on a trip out to an Amish family operating a maple syrup farm in Highland County, VA. The invitation came from the University’s Ethnobotany teacher, Professor Huish, and the expedition was to collect data on how climate change has affected maple syrup production, the southernmost part of a study reaching as far north as Ontario, Canada. Fitting, since the family’s company name was Southernmost Maple.
I did experience a bit of a culture shock when I saw that the family was not only photogenic, but readily accepting of technology. The only other experience I’ve had with Amish culture was a vacation to Ohio as a kid, as traditional as they come. It was explained to me later that some sects of Amish tradition are more lenient than others, but I didn’t want to be the one rudely prodding about something as personal as beliefs.
I also did my share of labor, as the journey coincided with the same weekend as the region’s Maple Festival, so production was high and extra helping hands were appreciated. I also managed to successfully blend in, as the tourists wanted my picture while working the maple trees as much as I wanted theirs. I made sure they got my good angle and tagged me.
Clockwise from the top:
1-Average view of the land we were working on
2-team overlooking terrain
3-Professor Huish pours maple water into a collection barrel
4-Professor Huish and a young maple farmer on the road between collection points
5-Student Volunteers from Hollins University
6-A baby lamb that I clumsily learned how to bottle-feed
7-An Amish girl excitedly introduces me to a cow and pig who refuse to leave each others’ side
8-Young maple farmers play in an abandoned maple camp, showing off the old style equipment
9-Amish women sell maple products for the festival
10-Owner of the land, patriarch of the family, and head of Southernmost Maple Farms warns me that my camera may break as I take the photo. It didn’t, but my fingers had to spend some time recovering after his firm handshake.