Mapletree Farm History
by Dean Wilber
Back in the 1940s, when I was 7 or 8, my parents and I often spent early spring weekends in Springfield, VT helping my great uncle Johnny gather sap and make maple syrup. At that time I was just big enough to drive the horses while the men gathered sap. Later on, I too gathered sap, lugged wood, fired the evaporator and by age fifteen I was running the evaporator at sugarhouses owned by my grandfather and cousin, and my uncle. Sugaring has been in my blood ever since.
Years later, when looking to buy some acreage during the fall of 1973, I spotted a row of crimson-leaved sugar maples on a property for sale in East Concord, NH. That property is now Mapletree Farm.
In 1975 during our first season, we put out 100-bucket taps and boiled on a 2′ x 6′ wood-fired evaporator set up outdoors. Despite the lack of a sugarhouse for shelter, 30 gallons of maple syrup were produced that first year. That first boil in March of 1975 started a neighborhood tradition, a spring ritual that has expanded to include tapping sugar maples up and down Oak Hill Road. We now tap trees belonging to ten of our neighbors. Over the years a sugarhouse has been built and expanded, and now is equipped with the latest lead-free, food grade, energy efficient equipment. We still use wood as fuel, which is cut here at the farm as part of the timber stand improvement work in our certified Tree Farm. The sugarhouse, located on Oak Hill Road, is easily accessible for all persons including handicapped individuals.
From those first 100 taps we have grown to over 1000 taps with additional taps planned for the 2017 season. Now there are only 20 taps using lead-free buckets, while the remainder of the taps are connected by over six miles of food-grade tubing to either the sugarhouse or to one of fourteen various sized roadside tanks.
In 1981-82 we converted an old apple orchard to a young maple orchard. This is perhaps the only one of its kind in New Hampshire. A total of 200 pencil-sized maple whips were planted so that future generations may continue to enjoy this springtime tradition. Some of those maples are now 18″ in diameter and over 45′ tall
Our current evaporator is 2.5′ by 10′ wood fired which recycles its own steam to preheat the incoming sap. In addition to boiling sap, this evaporator makes the hot water that we use to clean our equipment. We also use a reverse osmosis unit to concentrate sap and reduce the amount of wood we burn. Water removed in the reverse osmosis process is stored for cleaning as well. In earlier years making maple syrup required a cord of wood to make every 25 gallons of syrup that we produced. Our energy efficient equipment now makes over 100 gallons of syrup with one cord of wood.
Mapletree Farm has participated in the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture Seal of Quality Program since it’s beginning. This voluntary program is the only inspection of maple syrup in the State. We consistently receive the highest marks possible on the cleanliness of our sugarhouse and the quality of our syrup. The inspection reports are always available for those who may be interested. Less than 3% of maple producers in New Hampshire volunteer for this inspection. We experienced a US Food and Drug Administration inspection of our sugarhouse in 2012. This random inspection is part of the Bioterrorism Act of 2002. We are proud to note that we passed this inspection without any objectionable conditions noted or suggestions given by the FDA inspector.
For those interested in maple artifacts we have an interesting variety in the sugarhouse. There are handmade wooden sap buckets, a large handmade wooden sap gathering tank, an English tin filter can, antique syrup hydrometers and thermometers, an interesting collection of antique sap spouts, various old syrup tins and jugs, maple candy molds, and old gathering pails. We are more than willing to show you this collection and to explain the history and process of maple sugaring.
Maple syrup production usually starts the first week of March. Prior to that we are busy putting out buckets, lines and collection tanks, and tapping trees. The time for making maple syrup varies from year to year. We have had production seasons as short as thirteen days and as long as six weeks. Mother Nature has control over how long every season will be. We are small enough so that we can pay particular attention to the details that produce the very finest of maple flavor. Our trees are tapped conservatively so that they will continue to provide sap for syrup production years from now. We monitor tree health during the entire year of every tree we tap. Our miles of tap lines are meticulously washed each season. The roadside sap storage tanks are frequently washed during the season. The sugarhouse and the syrup production and processing equipment are cleaned regularly. All of our equipment is dedicated to maple syrup production. Maple syrup is a food product and here at Mapletree Farm we follow good manufacturing practices (GMPs) to ensure that we provide you with only the very best quality.
During the maple season the sugarhouse is open for tours. At that time of year you can view the entire process from the sap dripping into buckets to the finished syrup being packaged in our high quality jug. What fun it is to see the steam rise from the evaporator, to smell the sweet aroma in the sugarhouse, and to taste the freshly made maple syrup! You may also visit the sugarhouse off-season although the evaporator will not be operating. It is best to call both during the season as well as the off-season for the best visiting time. For the most fun and memorable maple experience you should plan your visit to Mapletree Farm in mid to late March. And of course the best day is our annual Open House and Sugaring Off Party in late March (see our home page for detail).
We are proud to be starting our 42nd season of maple syrup production here on Oak Hill Road. Please visit and experience firsthand one of Nature’s finest gifts.
If you have questions about Mapletree Farm or maple syrup production you may email, write or call us and we will be happy to answer them.