Hundreds taste and learn about sorghum at Tipton-Haynes

Published 2:00 pm Monday, September 18, 2023

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Star Correspondent

Sweet sorghum molasses, a southern staple often paired with a hot biscuit, was in the limelight this past weekend at the Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site in Johnson City.

“Today was an amazing day,” the historic site’s leadership said in a written statement late Saturday. “Cannot believe all the support that this community has for Tipton-Haynes. We even had people from several states away and overseas to come eat breakfast and see Maggie T. Mule.”

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Visitors on Saturday had the opportunity to observe sorghum cane being processed into molasses, which could also be enjoyed with a full breakfast.

Sorghum, a cereal grain originally from Africa, but now popular in the United States, is grown at Tipton-Haynes. The sorghum at the state-owned historic site is tall and has the potential to grow up to 15 feet.

To turn the sorghum into an edible syrup, the cane of the sorghum plant is then cultivated. They are crushed into a mill to obtain sorghum juice.

Guests on Saturday were able to watch Maggie, a mule, as she circled the Tipton-Haynes sorghum mill, which turned the cast iron rollers, squeezing out the delectable juices. Oscar Wagner, an expert sorghum farmer, and his crew milled the cane through the day.

Children also had a chance to ride Maggie as she walked around the mill.

After being juiced, the liquid from the sorghum is then boiled and evaporated into a molasses syrup. This process could be observed on site at the Tipton-Haynes sorghum furnace.

Inside the visitors center, Sorghum Festival guests enjoyed a breakfast of hot biscuits, sorghum, gravy, grits, bacon, sausage, eggs, oatmeal and a beverage. Volunteers from Tipton-Haynes and the Watauga Historical Association served diners.

Several vendors, including members of the Jonesborough Genealogical Society, were on hand to share local history and culture with guests. A blacksmith, musicians and historical interpreters just added to the festive activities.

“Events like these would not be possible without all our wonderful volunteers,” Tipton-Haynes leadership said. “Enough thanks can never be expressed to show our appreciation for the sorghum team, the cook team or the servers.”

Jars of sorghum molasses sold out early Saturday.

Stories from the Pumpkin Patch, which features several activities for children of all ages, is the next event at Tipton-Haynes. It begins at 3 p.m. on Oct. 14.