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Sugarmakers celebrate the art of boiling sap

TIM HESCOCK, SUGARMAKER at Shoreham’s Vermont Trade Winds Farm, prepares to toss another log into the firebox of the evaporator, where he said temperatures can reach 1,000 degrees.
Independent photo/Steve James

VERMONT — The snow is melting, the sap is rising and sugarmakers are working overtime to boil down Vermont’s sweetest agricultural product — maple syrup.

After taking two years off because of the pandemic, the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers’ Association has brought back its popular maple open house weekend events.

In fact, this year they’re doubling the fun, hosting two weekends instead of one.

Mark your calendars for March 19-20 and March 26-27, when sugarhouses all over the state will offer special events featuring tours, tastings and other activities.

The association expanded its open house offerings at the request of producers, said VMSMA Communications Director Cory Ayotte — not because they wanted to make up for time they lost during the pandemic.

“They had been asking for this for a couple of years pre-COVID,” Ayotte explained. “First, they figured we were already spending all this money on marketing, why not add another weekend and see what happens?”

Second: As small as Vermont is, it has a lot of microclimates that affect production cycles in different ways.

“Some producers were boiling during open house weekend, but others were just getting started, while others were maybe closer to the end of their seasons,” Ayotte said.

Adding a second weekend gives those producers more flexibility. They can participate in the first or the second or both.

It also gives Vermonters more chances to get out and visit their local sugarmakers.

The VMSMA is compiling a list — and map — of this year’s participating producers. To learn more, see the map and find out what sugarhouses were added for the second weekend, head online to vermontmaple.org/mohw.

As of Wednesday morning the following Addison County operations were listed as participants:

Bread Loaf View Farm, 486 Cider Mill Rd., Cornwall; Saturdays and Sundays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

  • sample fresh maple syrup hot from the pan.
  • buy a jug and bottle your own.
  • enjoy coffee, maple cream donuts and other products.
  • take sugarbush tours and a museum featuring maple artifacts and hands-on demonstrations.

KENN HASTINGS, WHO manages the maple operation at Bread Loaf View Farm in Cornwall, monitors the production process earlier this week. Bread Loaf will host visitors during the annual Maple Open House this year, which has been expanded to two weekends.
Independent photo/Steve James

Irish Hill Maple Products, 99 Swinton Rd., Bridport; Saturdays and Sundays 1-4 p.m.

  • sugarhouse tours.
  • fried bread dough with maple syrup.

Solar Sweet Maple Farm, 3841 South Lincoln Rd., Lincoln.

Sunset Sugar Shack, 18 Shoreham Depot Rd., Orwell; Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

  • tours, sampling and visiting.

Other producers may also be participating or hosting their own events. The VMSMA encourages Vermonters to call their favorite sugarmakers to see if they’re open to having guests — even if they’re not during the open house weekends.

Vermont Trade Winds Farm (884 Rt. 74 E, Shoreham) will host its annual pancake breakfast during the second open house weekend—on Saturday, March 26.

The “Ol’ Time Maple Sap Boiling & Maple Pancake Breakfast” runs from 8 a.m. to noon, with all-you-can-eat pancakes, fresh maple syrup, sausage, homemade fries, coffee and juice. $9 for adults, $7 for children.

Horse-drawn wagon rides will be available from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. the same day.

The sugaring season at Vermont Trade Winds Farm got off to a slow start this year because of the cold weather, but to date sugarmaker Tim Hescock has produced about one-third of the operation’s output, said Loraine Hescock on Wednesday.

Acknowledging the unpredictability of the ongoing pandemic, the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers’ Association is keeping tabs on local public health conditions.

GOSHEN BEEKEEPER, SUGARMAKER and co-founder of the Republic of Vermont sustainable agriculture business Ethan West turns his attention from honey to organic maple syrup production this time of year.
Independent photo/Steve James

“Like everything else these last two years, we’re remaining flexible in our plans and open to the idea that we might need to cancel activities that invite visitors to inside spaces,” the associate said on its website.

If you’re wondering what to do with the gallon or three of maple syrup you end up purchasing this year, check out the VMSMA’s online recipe page for some great ideas: vermontmaple.org/recipes.

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