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Sorghum-Making Demonstrations Keep Dying Art Form Alive

Posted by | 08.27.2018

By Frances Figart

It’s that time of the year when Sherry and Mark Guenther pack up and head for the Smokies. But when the owners of Muddy Pond Sorghum travel, it’s not as simple as putting a few suitcases in the car.

Mark Gunther of Muddy Pond Sorghum and his mule

“We bring our two mules and all our tools, equipment and supplies with us to set up our demonstration outside the Cades Cove Visitor Center,” Sherry says. “My husband feeds the sorghum cane into the more-than-100-year-old cane mill while one of the mules is tied to the pole and walks around the mill. This squeezes the juice out of the sorghum cane.”  

Mark then boils that freshly squeezed juice down on a wood-fired furnace until it becomes a thick, sweet sorghum syrup—the same syrup that is featured in Muddy Pond Sorghum’s famous barbecue sauce. 

“GSMA sells our sorghum and barbecue sauce at a table set up near the live demonstration,” Sherry says. “I give visitors samples to taste and talk to them about this rich mountain tradition that many people—including people who lived in the Cove during The Great Depression—still practice today.”

This year’s demonstration weekends at the Cove are:

September 1, 2 and 3 (Labor Day)

September 14, 15 and 16 

September 21 and 23

November 9, 10, 11 and 12 (Veteran’s Day)

November 16, 17 and 18 

November 23, 24 and 25

“We do these demonstrations to keep a dying art form alive,” Sherry says. “We enjoy teaching the young people and children about a part of their history and helping the older people relive a part of their childhood. Many of them remember their grandpa making sorghum syrup.”

Muddy Pond Sorghum also provides the sorghum cane for the annual Mountain Life Festival at Oconaluftee’s Mountain Farm Museum, set this year for September 15. This family-oriented event showcases the traditional activities that were a part of mountain life each fall, including hearth cooking, apple butter and apple cider making, blacksmithing, lye soap making, food preservation, broom making, quilting and chair bottoming. 

Learn more at Muddy Pond Sorghum .