March is for… maple syrup? The flavor of maple syrup usually conjures up thoughts of autumn, but March is when the real maple action happens in West Virginia.
There are currently more than 50 maple syrup producers across the state who are tapped into this centuries-old tradition that began with Native Americans long before Europeans settled in America.1 Native Americans would collect sap from maple trees and leave it out to freeze, which would help separate the water from the sugar.2 After discarding the frozen water, they would then boil the sap with hot stones to make syrup.3 While technology has advanced throughout the years to support larger maple syrup operations, the basic process of making maple syrup hasn’t changed much. Today, West Virginia’s maple syrup production is on the rise. In the early 2000s, West Virginia produced less than 3,000 gallons of maple syrup annually 4; in 2021, production increased to 13,000 gallons.5
Throughout the month of March, several area organizations are honoring the state’s connection to maple syrup with some special events and activities.
Maple Sugaring Day
Oglebay Institute’s annual Maple Sugaring Day takes place on Saturday, March 19 at the Schrader Environmental Education Center inside Oglebay Park. This event attracts hundreds of participants each year, who will all get the first-hand experience of collecting sap and making maple syrup. Participants will go on a hike through the woodland trails behind the Schrader Center and learn the techniques used by Native Americans and early pioneers to gather sap. There will also be an opportunity to try using old-fashion bits, braces and wooden taps, as well as more modern methods of sap collection. After collecting the sap, guests can watch as it is boiled down and transformed into fresh maple syrup. Following the tour, enjoy the maple syrup with a hot pancake breakfast.
Maple Sugaring Day tours depart every half an hour beginning at 9 a.m. The last tour leaves at 12 p.m. Pre-registration for the event is strongly encouraged, and tickets can be purchased online. Tickets are priced at $12 per person ($10 for OI members), and children three and under are free.
Family Roots Farm
Family Roots Farm, located in Wellsburg, has been producing maple syrup for over 20 years. During the month of March, they’ll be hosting weekly “Breakfast for Dinner” events each Wednesday evening. The menu consists of pancakes, French toast, sausage, bacon, yogurt parfaits, biscuits and gravy and, of course, plenty of fresh maple syrup made right on the farm.
Subscribe to Weelunk
The dinners begin each Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. and are open to guests of all ages. The cost is $20 for adults and $15 for kids. Reservations are required and can be made online.
The farm will also be hosting Mountain State Maple Days on Saturday, March 19. Guests can take a full tour of the production operation and hike through the property to see the sap pipeline and sample maple cinnamon rolls. Reservations are required, but the tour is free with a prepurchase of any item from the farm shop.
If you can’t make any of the in-person events, Family Roots Farm also has a virtual offering for maple syrup enthusiasts. Each Monday at 5 p.m., the farm’s Facebook page will broadcast “Maple Syrup is More Than Just for Pancakes.” During the event, viewers can watch the creation of maple-inspired dishes. Afterward, there will be 15 minutes of live Q&A.
If you can’t make it to any of these events, you can find Family Roots Farm maple syrup and other West Virginia-made syrups online and in-store at theWheeling Artisan Center Shop.
1 Kendra Wills, Michigan State University Extension. “Celebrating the History of Maple Syrup.” MSU Extension, January 21, 2022. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/celebrating_the_history_of_maple_syrup.
4 Sohn, Mark F. “Maple Syrup.” www.wvencyclopedia.org/. e-WV The West Virginia Encyclopedia, July 15, 2019. https://www.wvencyclopedia.org/articles/1490.
5 “2021 West Virginia Maple Syrup Production Numbers Released.” West Virginia Department of Agriculture, June 17, 2021. https://agriculture.wv.gov/2021/06/16/2021-west-virginia-maple-syrup-production-numbers-released/#:~:text=%E2%80%93%20For%20the%202021%20season%2C%20West,of%200.213%20gallon%20per%20tap.
• Wheeling native Jennifer Materkoski is a graduate of West Liberty University and Kent State University, where she earned a master’s degree in journalism and mass communications. Before beginning her current role as director of communications and employee engagement for a global business process outsourcing firm, Jennifer worked in local media and non-profit communications. She is a current board member of Generation Wheeling, also chairing the organization’s Work Committee. She lives in Wheeling with her husband, Rich, and her three children: Mason, Mercer and Miller.