Old time sugar cane grinding alive and well in DeFuniak Springs

December 5, 2011

Don Harrison watches as his friends feed sugar cane into mill. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Couple share their harvest with friends and neighbors

DeFuniak Springs residents Don and Lesa Harrison enjoy sharing the bounties of their garden. And, quite a garden it is with 31 acres of vegetables, pecan trees, fruit trees and a greenhouse chock full of tropicals.

After retiring from the Air Force Research Laboratory in 2001, Don and has been busy growing a variety of hearty crops on the couple’s acreage in DeFuniak Springs. Collards, turnips, kale, Swiss chard, spinach, carrots and even beets are currently growing in a winter harvest ready to be shared with friends and family.

“When we first bought the place, it was nothing but a soybean field,” Don said with a smile.

One crop Don has success growing over the last few years is sugar cane. Of course, once you grow sugar cane, there is only one way to harvest the juice; with an old timey cane grinder. The concept of a cane mill is more than a 1,000 years old and has changed little over the years. What once turned the mill by horse, oxen or mule is now horse powered by tractor.

On Dec. 4, 2011 Don invited a few friends over to help him reap the benefits and bottle the cane juice. Although not all that tasty in its raw form, the cane juice can be boiled down into a sweet cane syrup; making it a special treat popular with many folks.