SUGARING


Maple Open House Tours in Vermont

By Larry Myott


Photos by Larry Myott.
Dave and Susan Folinos of Hillsboro Sugarworks in Starksboro were boiling with their steam generated by a 6-foot-by-8-foot evaporator. Dave is shown here with his nephew Ryan Lutton of Bristol. Folino fires his steam boiler with oil to make syrup from about 14,500 taps.
 

March is the traditional time for the heart of sugaring in Vermont and traditionally marks the most famous farm product with open houses at the sugar bush. Sugar makers in New York started the Maple Open House Weekend several years ago and many other states have followed. Vermont’s open house weekend is run by the Vermont Maple Foundation and the Vermont Maple Sugarmaker’s Association. It has been a big success since the first year. Now, fewer sugar makers actually participate in the official weekend, but more sugarhouses are open.

In 2009, the weekend was perfect weather weekend for touring on Saturday, March 28. There was bright sun, warm temperatures and the feeling that winter was finally over. Sunday wasn’t quite as encouraging as rain fell over much of the state.

I toured parts of Addison and Chittenden County while on leave from sunny Florida for a few days. I couldn’t find any sugaring in the South, so I went north for several days of vacation to personally see what was happening in Vermont.

In Huntington, at Taft’s Milk and Maple, Mary Taft said that they had a reverse osmosis for the first time and burned a lot less firewood. Their investment in the sugarhouse addition and updated equipment was paying off in efficiency with their 4,000-tap maple business. The Taft family also owns and operates a dairy farm, milking more than 200 Jerseys.

2009 production very encouraging

As of the middle of April, the largest maple producing area in the world, Quebec, was in full production. It was too early to make any projections on the size of the crop. Vermont was seeing an excellent crop, as were neighboring states. Gary Gaudette, president of Leader Evaporator, says that the marketing agencies had better be working full time, because the crop will be the largest in our current memory banks.

Sam Cutting IV of Ferrisburgh’s Dakin Farm boiled away in the steam as he welcomed hundreds of visitors over the weekend to pancake breakfasts, bluegrass music and lots of treats. Over in Huntington, the Taft Family, at Taft’s Milk and Maple, estimated that they hosted as many as 750 visitors over the two-day period. Tim Taft fired up the new wood-fired evaporator.

In mid-June, the National Agricultural Statistics Service in Concord, N.H., will release the numbers for the U.S. crop. They have been gathering the data for weeks from sugar makers across the maple belt. Sugar makers have reported their production either by a mail survey or by phone. These reports are helpful to the USDA, congress and especially sugar makers who want their industry to be understood in the world of business. 

The report will be available on their Web site, www.nass.usda.gov/nh/.

The author is a retired extension maple specialist who continues to report on maple news from around the maple world. Contact him at Larry.Myott@uvm.edu.