Farming Magazine - January, 2012


Producers Learn About Vacuum Systems

By Catherine Stevens

The Vermont Maple Sugar Makers' Association (VMSMA), with support from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture Specialty Crop Grant Program, offered two workshops designed for sugar makers with fewer than 1,000 taps. The workshops were held September 17 at the Shaftsbury Methodist Church in Shaftsbury, Vt., and September 24 at the Green Mountain Technology & Career Center (GMTCC) in Hardwick, Vt.

Nick Atherton, CDL USA, presented the technical information about vacuum systems to workshop attendees in the Green Mountain Technology & Career Center in Hardwick, Vt.
Photos courtesy of VMSMA.

Dave Mance, chair of the VMSMA events committee stated that the workshops were designed to "debunk common misperceptions about vacuum systems, but also paint a realistic picture of what is involved with using vacuum in terms of costs and labor."

Each workshop featured a daylong program, with part of the day spent in a classroom setting discussing vacuum pumps, releasers and maintenance of both; electric versus gas/diesel; and the theory and limitations of using vacuum. Nick Atherton of CDL USA presented the technical information at both sessions.

The field session involved looking at high-efficiency vacuum tubing installations and how they differ from gravity systems, layout, dry line/wet line, remote pump location, what to worry about, and what to expect in terms of maintenance (leaks). The field sessions in Shaftsbury, led by installer JR Flohn, took place at Mike and Kendra Gardner's 250-tap sugar bush and Dick Ogden's 700-tap high-vacuum sugar bush. The field session in Hardwick, led by Rick Marsh and Andy Derby, took place in the GMTCC's sugar bush. Students from Marc Luneau's forestry and land management technology program at the GMTCC, who help maintain the sugar bush, were in attendance. Approximately 65 people attended the two workshops.

Comments from attendees were extremely positive, and people stated that they felt they received the information they needed to add vacuum to their operations in the next season or two.

Vacuum workshop attendees toured the Green Mountain Technology & Career Center's sap house and sugar bush. Marc Luneau and students in the forestry and land management technology program maintain the sugaring operation and produce maple syrup in their sugarhouse next to Hazen Union High School.

Vermont Maple Conferences

The University of Vermont Extension, Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association and the Addison County Maple Sugarmakers Association are pleased to offer the 9th annual Vermont Maple Conferences in January and February 2012. Addison County Sugarmakers will host a maple school at Middlebury High School on January 14; University of Vermont Extension and the VMSMA will host conferences at the Lamoille Union High School in Hyde Park on January 21 and at the Bellows Falls High School on February 4. These full-day meetings, which are designed to provide education for maple producers of all levels of skill and experience, are open to the public.

Lunch is available at all three sites, and there will be time available to visit with equipment dealers and manufacturers who will be present to show off the latest tools of the trade. These annual conferences provide sugar makers with an opportunity to increase and share their knowledge, as well as a time to reconnect with fellow sugar makers.

Program details, including a description of the various presentations offered, will be available through the "Maple Mainline," which will be published by UVM Extension in early December. Information will also be available on the UVM Extension Maple page: sion/maple. Preregistration is advisable, but same-day registration will be available at all conferences.