“I knew I had the resource. I was persuaded by some individuals who said this was the thing to do. So I crunched some numbers,” explained Dalen.
It was a risky move. Dalen shelled out tens of thousands of dollars to get his operation up and running by January of 2014. With 19,000 taps in place and 54 miles of tubing running from the trees to his sugar house at the bottom, Dalen was able to produce 5,000 gallons of syrup by the time the season ended in April. Eighty percent of that was shipped off in bulk to a buyer in New Hampshire. Dalen retailed what was left and sold it locally under the name Dry Fork Maple Works.
He’s not content being the state’s largest maple syrup producer. His goal is 50,000 taps. That would be larger than most operations in New Hampshire and Connecticut.
“We have better resources than you can find anywhere. Compared with New England we have better timber, better soil, more moisture, a longer growing season, good topography,” stressed Dalen. “In New England, they have to truck most of their syrup. Because we have nice mountains down here, I can make it all run downhill.”
Dalen isn’t the only one making a profit from the maple syrup industry here in West Virginia. Jack Veara owns Samara Farms.
“I can’t make enough to keep up!”
Originally from Baltimore, Veara moved his family to Morgan County 12 years ago. An avid outdoorsman, Veara asked a friend to pick him up 5 taps on a trip to New England and that was the start of his maple syrup operation.
“I got me the book ‘Backyard Sugaring.’ The next thing you know it’s me, a couple of milk jugs and I’m out there tapping trees,” said Veara “I’m out there with a crab pot, a camp fire and a blue tarp. As soon as I smelled that sweet, sickening smell, I was hooked!”
This past season, Veara, produced 20 gallons of maple syrup which he promptly sold when his wife put out the word on Facebook. He’s installed new taps for this coming season and hopes to increase his output to 200 gallons.
Agriculture commissioner Walk Helmick called it a “wonderful, wonderful opportunity” for the state of West Virginia.
“I can see this industry doubling in the near future because the interest is there,” said Helmick.