Meet the People behind Seven Springs Sorghum
Seven Springs Sorghum Producers, LLC. started as a result of the Seven Springs Sorghum Festival, or maybe the festival was started as a result of the sorghum producers.
Here is our story, and the person telling it, is Harry “Papa 2D” Irwin.
“Papa 2D” photo by Erica Chambers
“In 2007, I purchased a farm in Metcalfe County, Kentucky, located on about a mile stretch of the beautiful Little Barren River. It is where the Little Barren River begins. The farm is about 1 mile down river from the historic little town of Sulphur Well, Kentucky (home of the world renown Light House Restaurant). Sulphur Well is on the south fork of the Little Barren River. Approximately 2 miles into Green County, the east fork of the Little Barren River crosses HWY 68 and flows west to meet the south fork at what is refereed to in these parts as “The Mouth Of The Little Barren” . The mouth is surrounded by beautiful cliffs about which is the farm. There was an old mill above The Mouth on the south fork, and this area has been a gathering place for generations, and Sulphur Well is where part of this story begins.
Luther Atwell lived at the crest of the hill above Sulphur Well for years, and for years he made “sorghum”. His mill and cooking pan occupied a permanent spot in front of his house on HWY 70. Every year his property came alive when the cane was ready for cutting and squeezing. His Horizontal Golden 27 Mill would come to life and the sorghum stove and pan would produce some of the best sorghum in South Central Kentucky. His praises are heard today at every sorghum cooking we have.
Shortly after buying my farm in Metcalfe County, I met Frankie Froggett, a life-long resident of Green and Metcalfe Counties. Frankie was cutting his cane that fall, and being from a farm background in Hardin County, I became quickly interested in his crop.
Frankie Froggett photo by Rebecca Froggett
Froggett had been growing cane all his life and taking it to Green County for processing with the “Matney’s”. Froggett’s parents had processed with the Matney’s and was continuing the family tradition. The Matney’s had been producing cane in Green County for 4 generations. Their reputation for quality sorghum was known all over Green and Metcalfe Counties.
I joined in on the “cuttin’ and cookin’ ” and was bit by the Sorghum Bug! I remembered the process from my upbringing on the family farm and wanted to be makin’ it myself on my own property. The next year I planted my own crop and started looking for a “mill and pan”. After digging through several barns and sheds, I found what I was looking for: An old Belknap #1 Sorghum Mill. Froggett came up with an old evaporator pan he had purchased years before at an auction. With the help of two more members of this story Gary, and son Derick Harlow of Center, Kentucky, we constructed a primitive shelter to house the cooking pan. Derick rebuilt the mill and devised a drive system from a hay baler, because none of us had a mule to turn the mill. We could turn the mill with an old tractor and cook over our old wood stove to make sorghum …so we thought!
Derick Harlow photo by Rebecca Froggett
The first year was trial and triumph. The pan leaked, and we had to build a “flat pan” to eventually make sorghum– or what we thought was sorghum. The first productions were too thin, the color wasn’t right, the taste was good “but nothing to write home about”. Every time we “cut cane and cooked” more people in the community who had heard what we were trying to do would show up to give advice about how they remembered Luther Attwell making it, and also tell tales about his past “cookins”. People started bringing musical instruments and staying around for the day. We would cook food after the sorghum and people would also bring dishes and desserts to share. It became an event. After a couple of weekends, and with Gary and Derick’s persistence for learning how to make a good product we hit on a batch or two that people said ” them’s pretty good sorghum’s” . So went the first year!
The next year the cane patch got bigger, there were a couple of “new” mills found and reconditioned, the one pan became three pans. We got “better wood” for heating, and the weekends became sorghum gatherings. The field would fill up with visitors, and neighbors, and the party was on.
This is where County Judge Greg Wilson comes into the picture. The Judge and his family have lived on Edwin Williams Road, in Metcalfe County for years. They were some of the first people I met after buying the farm, and the Judge being the civil minded individual that he is, approached me about turning these sorghum parties we were having into a festival which would benefit charities in the community in need of support.With only 6 weeks the Judge, and help from Gaye Shaw at the Metcalfe Chamber of Commerce pulled together a team of volunteers from the County to create and plan the 1st “Seven Springs Sorghum Festival”. And to our amazement and delight over 1500 people showed up to join the festivities, watch the production of the sorghum, and of course support support these fine charities.In 2014 we had more time to plan and grow. We added a 5K road race to the event to kick off the day. A new barn was built to house the sorghum mills and the “squeezing” equipment. We restored an old Golden 27 Horizontal Mill and purchased a 1941 Case ” hand-crank start” power unit and built a line shaft with pulleys and belts through the building to run the mills. The barn also houses a garage and shop as well as the Seven Springs Saloon ( alcohol-free of course). 2014 brought more sponsors, more vendors, more tractors and cars, and more music. The children were delighted with the addition of a huge bounce house, larger petting zoo, and hay maze.
We had continued successes in 2015 and now headed into complete several new projects in 2016 with great expectations and plans to increase the size and scope of the event.