Mr. and Mrs. Fred Feaster (Micanopy, Florida)
In the same family since 1840, Deerfield Farm has a tight grip on its people, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Feaster. Take a small tour with me and you'll see why! Otherwise, call them for an invitation to the open house that they have one day each year. (I wish to thank my mentor, Professor C. C. Black Jr., who grew up in the Micanopy/Shiloh area, for putting me onto this location.)
Mrs. Feaster stands in front of the Deerfield home (Slide 1), which is attached to the syrup shed. Note the vented roof on the latter, which doubles as a self-serve outlet for syrup and many jellies that Mrs. Feaster makes from native fruits, such as haws. Customers were asked to sign a book before one of the dogs discovered that the book was better for chewing than writing.
Slide 1 shows just a few of the many beautiful flowers she grows around the house. The flowers blend seamlessly into raised herb beds, vegetables, and fruit. Mr. and Mrs. Feaster are building the house themselves, and it was a work in progress when I visited. . . .but maybe there's no hurry as it is being built to last for the coming generations.
Slide 2 shows the cane in late May. The Feasters grow three heirloom varieties that they obtained from Professor Broadhead of Mississippi. Their cane makes a beautiful and delicious syrup the color of cherry wood.
Slides 3, 4, 5 are different views of the Feasters' Chattanooga No. 72 mill, which belonged to Mr. Feaster's grandfather. After 40 years of lying in the open, Mr. Feaster (Slide 3) recovered it in 1991, connected it to a Dayton 7.5 hp electric motor, and uses it to grind cane. (Mr. Feaster indicated that a 5-hp motor would be sufficient.)The Chattanooga No. 72 is a heavy-duty mill (See Ken's Catalog Pages) that was meant to be powered by 6-hp steam or 10-hp gasoline engine. It weighs 2100 pounds, has a 12 x 12-king roller, and provides a juice output of 1500-2000 gallons per day. Mr. Feaster usually starts it up at 5:30 am and collects 400 gallons of juice by 8:30 am.
Slide 6 shows a traditional kettle with an excellent brick furnace. As the following pictures show, the kettle has an honorary position, and an evaporator does the real work.
Slide 9 shows the bottling station. Mrs. Feaster is very particular about the quality of the syrup; she strains it twice through 8 layers of cheese cloth, and bottles it at 140º F. She is rightly proud of her product!
Postscript. Upon his return from the USAF in 1972, Jerome Feaster took photos of the mill and evaporator, which were under some live oak trees, perhaps a mulberry, too, at his grandfather's homestead. The equipment--across the road from Deerfield Farm--had not been used since the 1950s until Fred gave it a new lease on life. Enjoy these photos courtesy of Jerome: Mill01 Mill02 Evaporator and Arch