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Alabama ministry’s sugar cane syrup-making program teaches some sweet lessons

Crossover syrup (C/o Andalusia Star-News)
Crossover syrup (C/o Andalusia Star-News)

By Michele Gerlach
Andalusia Star-News

Persistent attention and removing impurities to get to the sweet stuff can describe both the syrup-making and the life-changing taking place with a Covington County program.

Even in the cooler temperatures of early fall, it is hot near a syrup kettle.

But quality syrup requires constant skimming to remove impurities.

In learning the process of making cane syrup, clients of Crossover Ministry are living an object lesson, said men’s director the Rev. Red Coleman.

“It’s kind of like living as a Christian,” Coleman said. “You’re constantly cleaning up your heart. If you slow down and don’t focus, it will catch you.”

Clients in the addiction recovery ministry learn object lessons at the farm where they grow the cane for the syrup, Crossover Ministry Executive Director Todd Sasser said.

Crossover Ministry is a faith-based, six-month, residential addiction recovery program in Opp. It operates programs for men and women.

Crossover became involved in syrup making several years ago under the tutelage of Robert McClelland.

“Most of the time when you see syrup-making, it’s an old log operation,” Sasser said. “Ours is driven by electricity. It handles more cane and speeds up the process.”

After much prayer, Sasser said, the ministry decided to purchase equipment for the process. McClelland donated the kettle, which was installed in a shed at Sasser’s home.

“We don’t own the property where the Crossover garden is,” Sasser said. “If the Lord blesses us one day with property we own, we can move this to another place.”

Meanwhile, the men cut cane; grind it and stand stirring in the heat until it’s ready to bottle.

Sasser hopes to expand the syrup-making process by hosting a family field day for the children of Crossover clients. He wants them to witness biscuits prepared in a wood stove, and enjoy them with cane syrup.

“We minister to the men and women in the program, but also to their children,” Sasser said. “Lots of kids around here have fathers in prison. We have started trying to minister to them.”

For now, there’s cane to be cut and pressed; juice to be cooked. It takes between 500 and 520 stalks to get 60 gallons of juice, which renders six gallons of syrup.

“We can sell it anywhere,” Sasser said. “We have no additives. We will sell syrup, juice or stalks.”

Currently, the syrup, which is $8 a pint, is available at Babbie Quick Stop, Dallas Henderson’s Store, Tiger Quick Stop, Crossover Farms, the Opp Farmers Co-Op and the Andalusia Star-News.

Crossover will also deliver larger orders. To order, call 334-493-1030.

Republished with permission of the Andalusia Star-News