Nestled away in the rolling hills of Wellsburg’s countryside sits Family Roots Farm, a 250-year-old homestead that specializes in sweets. Homesteaded by Henry Hervey in the 1770s, the Brooke County farm has been passed through the Hervey family for eight generations. Today, the farm is owned by Fred Hervey and operated by his daughter, Britney. Together, they work to churn out tasty treats all year long.
Beginning in the cold, frigid first few months of the year, the family works to produce its maple syrup. “This sweet wintertime family tradition is our favorite season of the year, filled with family stories and more than one family meal shared in the sugar shack as we all work together to tap, collect, and boil,” according to their website.
In addition to the family’s famous maple syrup, they also produce maple sugar, maple cream, maple fudge, maple candy and maple granola. As spring begins to peek out from behind the mountains, Family Roots Farm turns its attention toward strawberry season. Their patch has more than 10,000 plants dotted with bright red, sweet berries. “From late May to the end of June, we welcome visitors from all over that come out to pick with us and allow us to be a part of their family’s memory making,” the family wrote.
Summertime brings with it a bounty of produce. The family begins harvesting the tomatoes from its high tunnels. “We pride ourselves in being a source of local produce from very early spring throughout the fall,” the website reads.
When fall begins – the last of the four dramatically different seasons found in this part of Appalachia – it’s time to make sorghum. “In mid-October, we begin harvesting and processing our Sweet Sorghum, a dying Appalachian tradition that we are working to expand while educating our customers on great all-natural sweetener that is grown and harvested locally,” according to the website.
These products can be found at local markets in the Ohio Valley, as well as used at Vagabond Kitchen and Barn With Inn Bed & Breakfast.
“Celebrating the seasons at Family Roots Farm allows us to carry on multiple traditions and create a sustainable small farm that is rooted in our family history as well our desire to bring fresh ingredients to our local community,” the website reads.
How Maple Syrup is Made
Currently, the team at Family Roots Farm is gearing up for maple syrup season. Tapping typically begins in late January and February, depending on the weather and they celebrate the season with a lineup of events. This year, the lineup includes farm tours, pancake and pajamas dinner, a paint and pancakes event, and a Special maple celebration dinner at the Vagabond Kitchen.
According to the Family Roots Farm’s website, there are a few things you need to get started producing maple syrup – hard work, patience and a sense of humor. Maple syrup production is very labor intensive. Here are the basic steps to their process:
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Tapping the trees: As temperatures begin to warm in February each year we start tapping the Maple trees. A small hole is drilled into a tree and a tap is inserted.
Collection of the sap water: Each tap will have a drop line that goes into a bucket or a pipeline. The pipeline feeds into one large tank to make collection easier. Buckets require at least daily dumping – during prime season we like to dump twice a day.
Boiling: Now it is time to take the sap water gathered and boil it. The boiling process removes the water and what you are left with is syrup. It takes approximately 50 gallons of sap water to produce 1 gallon of syrup. That’s a lot of sap water and a lot of boiling!
Finishing: After the syrup reaches 7 degrees above boiling point for that day, we run in through a filter. We still use a traditional wool filter rather than a press. Once filtered it is ready to bottle and ready for pancakes!
Family Roots Farm is located at 245 Hervey Lane, Wellsburg, WV 26070. You can visit their website to learn more about upcoming events and products and purchase their products online. If you prefer shopping in-store, you can find Family Roots Farm Products at the following local retailers:
Have you tried this local treat? How do you use maple syrup and other Family Roots Farm products in your kitchen?
• Candace Nelson, a native of Wellsburg, West Virginia, is a marketing professional working in the nonprofit sector. Prior to her current role, she served as the Digital Marketing Coordinator for the West Virginia Tourism Office, the Social Media Editor for West Virginia University and as a journalist for the Charleston Daily Mail. She has earned her B.S. in journalism, B.A. in English and M.S. in journalism from West Virginia University. She has published a book, “The West Virginia Pepperoni Roll,” and spends her free time teaching at the University of Charleston, writing a food column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail, serving on local community boards and blogging at CandaceLately.com. Connect with Candace at Candace127@gmail.com.