The Sweet Life at Muddy Pond Sorghum in Tennessee & a Recipe for the Best Sorghum Cookies
This is where our heart is. This is what we love. – Mark Guenther
Life is sweet in the Muddy Pond community in Tennessee. Sorghum cane planting, harvesting, and syrup-making is not just a business here. It’s a way of life. It’s a passion. It’s about family, fellowship, and community.
Traveling through the winding roads and picturesque foothills of rural Middle Tennessee, Roger and I did not know what to expect from this long anticipated trip to meet with the Guenther family of Muddy Pond Sorghum. As we turned onto Muddy Pond Road, the rolling hills were blanketed with the late summer’s shades of green with stretches of road eerily canopied with draped trees. Muddy Pond Road seemed endless as we drove past quaint general stores and long stretches of fertile farm land.
As we approached the mill, the quiet country road brought us into a bustling center of activity. It was sorghum making day and family, friends, neighbors, and guests from afar were stopping by. We could hear women singing “Down in the River to Pray” through the open windows of the building. A horse-drawn mill, set alongside today’s modern mill, was fed with cane, a 1960s-era truck was parked by the building, and the steam locomotive boiler billowed dark smoke from its chimney. We had arrived, not at a destination, but at a time gone by.
September and October are busy times in the predominately Mennonite Muddy Pond community. The sorghum cane is ready to harvest and the Guenther family opens their mill for production and welcomes the public to learn about the process of making sorghum. It is also the time to get a glimpse of a simpler life in Middle Tennessee where days are filled with family, farm, and chores.
Young children excitedly arrive on farm vehicles and in cars to help out at the mill. Friends and guests come to purchase homemade goods baked that day by women in the Guenther family and to buy freshly made sorghum that is still warm in the bottle. There is a real sense of community as the men gather to talk and strangers spoke to us telling of the good life in this part of Tennessee. With passion in their voice and a peacefulness in their demeanor, I had to believe it was true.
What a contrast it must have been after being at Muddy Pond, and then returning to the furor of business that is Atlanta! Thanks for sharing your experience, Gwen!
I have not purchased their sorghum before, but I will look for it, now, next time I’m at Whole Foods.
Yes, Atlanta seemed rather frantic after being in such a peaceful environment for a day. It really was an exceptional experience.
I only buy Muddy Pond, am member of SFA, and attend events at Blackberry Farm, as we also have property near Walland, Tennessee. A wonderful post on a special family and their business.
A wonderful article. Such an, “insider”, view of the crop and processing. We will certainly be trying to get our hands on some Muddy Pond, Sorghum. Such an important and old grain. I think it sounds good for a meat bbq sauce or glaze as you suggest. A lovely look at Muddy Pond and its families.
I am so glad to see the Guenther family getting recognition for their hard work, producing such delicious sorghum. I’ve never met a harder working family than the Guenthers! Their sorghum is wonderful in so many recipes, that it’s hard to decide which is my favorite!
Mark kindly took time out of his busy day to give me a tour of the Muddy Pond Sweet Sorghum fields and processing area a couple of years ago when I came to America for a conference.
What a delightful experience.
Mark has to be one of the nicest people on all of Planet Earth and the sweet sorghum syrup they make at Muddy Ponds is every bit as wonderful as Mark’s good nature. If everyone in the world would learn to live like the folks at Muddy Ponds, the world would be a FAR better place!
Thank you Mark and everyone at Muddy Ponds. I only wish we were able to get more of you sweet sorghum here in Australia.
Keep up the great work folks. Think of you often and fondly!
So nice of the family to share a part of them with all of us. Muddy Pond sounds like a wonderful place to be. I will definitely order some of their product and make these cookies.
I’ll have to see if our local markets carry their sorghum here in Knox, Three Rivers might. Southern Living just did a piece on sorghum this month and I was wanting to make the sorghum beef ribs in my smoker this weekend.
Excellent post, I enjoyed the read.
I loved this post Gwen. So touching and so very interesting. I have not seen their sorghum, but I will now seek it out at Whole Foods as I would like to incorporate this into some of my products. Especially interested in a Sorghum sweetened jam 🙂 Your photos really captured the heart and feel of your visit.
Gwen, this is utterly fascinating! As you say, many of us don’t know how sorghum is made, or really know much about it at all, but what I find so interesting is the whole way of life of this family and community business. Which is so much more than just a business. You were so lucky to be able to go, discover and spend time at Muddy Pond.
I’ve seen sorghum on labels but thought it was some kind of chemical additive. I’m please to know it’s a natural sweetener. I had no idea. Thanks for the education and great storytelling.
Beautifully done – Bravo, Gwen! I just went back in time…and I wish I could move there and live simply (with my tooth, I just might fit right in..lol JK!), making sorghum – no SEO..no meanies..just a simple life. Loved the video, and as usual, the photos make me feel as if I was there too. When I was in NC around the age of 13, I had a biscuit with butter and sorghum. I will never forget how amazing it was. Maybe I can recreate it with Mark and Sherry’s sorghum, soon!
So beautiful, Gwen. Thank you for sharing this special family and what they do with all of us!!
love this article,
My family is from Muddy Pond, and I know they’re proud to see it’s much like it was when they were growing up.
A group of people still willing to come together as a community.
Lets hope it stays this way forever!
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I just made the cookies you describe above using sorghum I harvested and processed this year (my first time ever!) Thanks so much for a nice article and a great recipe!
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I missed seeing you at The Museum of Appalachia this year. I always buy my sorghum there.
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This farm belonged to my grandparents. My mom grew up in the original farm house, that I am sure has been torn own by now. My brother visited the farm back in the 70’s. I am so glad to know that the farm has prospered and made a good living for these people.
PS. My mom was a Phillips, not sure if my grandfather sold them farm or his daughter’s family, the Englands
Blessings to all ~ I am ordering a jug of sorghum today!!.
I have really enjoyed this article! We just moved to west Tennessee (from WV) two years ago. One of our young ladies from church is getting married and is having cookies at the reception. She asked me to make ginger spice cookies, which I had never made. Since the recipes called for molasses (and I did not have any), I searched to see if I could use sorghum…a man from church had given me some. When I found out I could, I started searching for recipes using sorghum and found this recipe, Best Sorghum Cookies. I was so excited to find it! My father is from Crossville, TN…I am not sure where that is in relation to your location, but I thought nearby. I was raised in northern OH, but when our family returned to Crossville to visit grandparents, my dad always brought home sorghum. I made this cookie, and it is perfect! I wish my dad were here to taste them!! Thank you for article and recipe! I hope to visit sometime!
Thank you so much for your comment. I’m glad you found the article and recipe and enjoyed the cookies. They are delicious.
We live in Atlanta, but Muddy Pond Sorghum is located about 23 miles from Crossville. If you are in the area during sorghum making season, it would be worth a visit to meet the Guenther’s, see the sorghum making process, and buy a jug of sorghum while you’re there. 🙂
I enjoyed the read on Muddy Pond Sorghum. I just made the sorghum cookies and they are chewy delicious cookies. I absolutely loved cooking with an ingredient new to me (sorghum) and learning some history behind it. Recommend others trying the recipe out.
I’m glad you enjoyed the recipe and the story of Muddy Pond sorghum. Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment.