Berryville, Virginia (CNN) - Travis and Joyce Miller might have the most fragrant garage in the Shenandoah Valley.
The heady scent of hickory wood wafts from their rural home on Virginia's busy Route 7, catching the attention of hungry commuters who might expect to find a grandma tending the hearth or, even better, a pitmaster roasting a hog on the side of the road.
What's cooking, though, is something a little bit sweeter (sorry, grandma): It's Falling Bark Farm hickory syrup.
Never heard of hickory syrup? Neither had the Millers until a few years ago when a chance Internet search turned up mentions of it.
In 2011, they showed up to the farmers market in nearby Purcellville, Virginia, with 48 bottles of their new science project - "which we felt was a little bit risky," Travis says.
Read more at the all-new Eatocracy.com
The Greek yogurt industry recently made headlines after a Modern Farmer article claiming companies are “scrambling” for a solution to the “dark secret,” of a byproduct's potentially toxic effects on the environment.
The ballooning demand for Greek yogurt in the United States has created a $2 billion industry, as well as a huge surplus of acid whey. The article suggests that disposal or accidental dispersal of the byproduct could, "turn a waterway into what one expert calls a 'dead sea,' destroying aquatic life over potentially large areas."
But according to John Lucey, director of the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research, “The suggestion that acid whey is some toxic material is just plain silly.”
Let’s strain out the facts.
If I'd met Mother Nature in 2012, I would have to assume at this point in 2013 that she is bipolar. Record high temperatures last March pushed us to planting time nearly a month ahead of an average start date. At the beginning of June 2012, we did not yet know that the rain wouldn't fall for another six weeks, and temperatures would hold steady in the triple digit zone.
I asked my sister to snap a picture of me standing in the corn we planted on April 2. I was surprised at how well the crops looked without more than a few tenths of precipitation since seed met soil, and wanted to show off our earliest planted corn blowing away that old "knee high by Fourth of July" saying.
The Dekalb seed company recently shared a poster on Facebook depicting the top corn yields of 1940 and it got the gears turning in my head. For many decades, corn growers at the local, state and national level have competed in yield contests to see who can grow the most corn per acre. Bragging rights are at stake (and sometimes cash and prizes), and the 1940 yield contest winner for my home state of Indiana harvested 94.81 bushels per acre.
What about that clicks in my ag-nerd brain? The fact that in 2012, hopefully the worst drought of my farming career, saw our farm garner an average corn yield of 94.7 bushels per acre. For all intents and purposes, that's equal to the best of the best in my great grandfather’s day.
The poster shows a 102.38 bushel average for contestants over 12 states. The U.S. averaged about 123 bushels per acre following the horrendous drought of 2012. By those numbers, today’s worst is better than yesteryear’s top dogs.