Tribune-Courier features editor
In 1974 Mark Norris began making his own sorghum - a process involving time, hard work and multiple hands. Neighbors, friends and family would come to his farm and would all be prepared to “smell sweet and get sticky.”
It’s a process that has and is continually fading out, especially in western Kentucky. Norris joined others in 1983 and hung up his sorghum-making-hat, he thought for good.
“It really is a lot of hard work,” Norris said. He continued to explain the tedious and difficult job of cutting the leaves from the sorghum cane, cutting the cane itself, then dragging the stalks up for it to be squeezed and cooked.
He started making the syrup again last year. When asked why, he replied, “I guess I just forgot about all that hard work.”
The steps for additive-free sorghum making are the same as when Norris’ grandfather used to make it, the process has just been modernized. “We just have a different version of horse power.” Norris said.
There is no mule, or tractor being used to pull a log around to crank out the juice. Instead, Norris uses a mechanism which is attached to a truck providing the horse power. “It pumps out the juice a lot faster,” said Robin Norris, Mark’s son.
Once the near 100 gallon bucket is filled with cane juice, it is transfered and the cooking begins. “The juice goes from green to golden,” Norris explained. It slowly works its way down to the end, boiling and turning into the finished sorghum. During the process, helpers “skim” the top of the juice and take out the undesirable products floating on top.
Mark and his group of family, neighbors and friends work each Saturday during October, producing roughly 30 gallons of sorghum a day. As people pull up to the pumpkin farm, they are tickled to see the sorghum making tradition still being continued.
As Norris feeds the wood fire, he says “I just think it’s important that we add absolutely no additives. You can’t find that. It’s 100% pure sorghum,” he continued, “And you know it’s pure because it has no label.”
Norris’ Fox Valley Farm, is located on Sharpe School Road, about two miles from U.S. Hwy. 68.