Like many maple producers, Glenn remarks on the satisfaction of making maple syrup: “You turn water from a tree into natural sugar that’s good for your body,” he says. The Heatwoles grade their syrup so customers know exactly what they are getting, whether it is grade A Golden Delicate, Amber Rich, Dark Robust, or Very Dark Strong. In addition to syrup, the family’s maple candy, maple fudge, maple covered nuts, and even apple butter are all produced in the back of the store. Locally produced honey and horseradish is also available at the store as well a wide variety of wood crafts, rugs, pottery, homemade soaps and much more.
Sugar Tree County Farm & Store
Glenn Heatwole used to be a dairy farmer in the Shenandoah Valley, but by the early 2000s, he was ready to get out of the dairy business. When the family discovered Highland County and Sugar Tree Country Store in McDowell, they were immediately drawn to the rural area and the lifestyle. They moved in 2004, without any knowledge of making maple syrup. With the help of local producers, however, they quickly learned the ropes. The family loves the outdoors and making syrup was a natural fit.
There aren’t many maple trees in McDowell, so while the Heatwoles collect some sugar water from off of Davis Run Road, they largely rely on the water collected from sugar bushes on Monterey Mountain, the Blue Grass Valley, and Halterman Hollow. Back at the store, the sugar water is slowly turned into syrup – first with a reverse osmosis machine that concentrates the sugar water and then with an evaporator, which heats and condenses the liquid into syrup. A filter press is used at the end of the process to remove any remaining impurities.
During the Highland County Maple Festival (2nd and 3rd weekends in March) piping hot maple donuts and maple tours by Mr. Heatwole himself draw crowds to Sugar Tree Country Store. Though the Sugar Tree Country Store is managed primarily by Glenn and Fern Heatwole, their children and families provide a significant amount of support. The whole family comes in to help during Maple Festival. Stop by and see them on your next journey to McDowell!