So what does Fred Boyden, the family patriarch, the paterfamilias, do on the farm? He keeps everything running and supports all of his family’s enterprises. You can find him tinkering with tractors, mowing hay fields and doing just about anything that needs to be done. He also runs a wood-fired maple sugaring shack for about 5,000 taps.
“I started sugaring when I was so small my Aunt Ila had to help me lift a full bucket of sap from the tree. I’ve always liked to sugar,” he said. He remembers well when they had a sugaring rig on the front lawn and the neighborhood kids would show up and help gather sap with the pony. He sugared with his dad right through high school. When Fred’s own children were young, he and Diancy ran about 800 taps on the top of Cady Hill. “There was no electricity or running water at the sugar house up there,” he said. They would take the kids along with them to sugar and then return to the farm at the end of the day to do chores.
In the ’70s they joined sugaring operations with the Putnam family and expanded to 2,300 taps. Eventually, they returned sugaring operations to their own farm and in 2000 the boys convinced their dad to transform the old creamery into a sugarhouse. Between his three sugar bushes, Fred now runs about 5,000 taps and has a natural customer in his son David, who uses the family maple sugar as an ingredient in the winery’s Vermont Maple Reserve Apple Table Wine, in Gold Leaf, a rich and delicious dessert wine, and in the winery’s Vermont Ice Maple Crme Liqueur. Fred also buys sap from Mark who has about 4,500 taps in the woods and a sap gathering station across from the farm on state Route 15.
Read more: All in the family farm
What David doesn’t purchase for his winery and they don’t bottle and sell right there on the farm he sells by the barrels to Butternut Mountain Farm in Morrisville, Vermont. They have over 350 suppliers in Vermont and are the state’s largest processor of maple syrup. They are also another family-run operation that dates back to the 1940s.
David Martin, founder of Butternut Mountain Farm, knows Fred well as both of their families have been sugaring in Northern Vermont for multiple generations. He has watched the Boyden family change and adapt over time and said, “Their farm captures the beauty of a classic Vermont farming complex.” He also admires what the Boydens have achieved as a family. “In order to survive and prosper in farming here in Vermont you have to be open to all the possibilities,” he said. Martin said that the Boyden family farm is a stellar example of that ability to be open to possibilities and to pursue them with the focus and energy that it takes to make them successful.
When asked about his predictions for the maple season ahead, Fred took his time answering. He started to comment on the early warmup, and then just shook his head and said, “By the first of May, I can tell you how the season’s going to be.”