April 1, 2010
By Stephanie Choate
Sixty years ago, St. Albans resident Tiboy Langevin, then 17, used horse-drawn carts to collect sap from metal buckets, boiling it all night to make maple syrup.
“It’s come a long way since I was doing this,” Langevin said Saturday, surveying the plastic tap lines outside the Comeau Family Sugarhouse.
Langevin, along with his wife, joined the hundreds of visitors who came out to three Williston sugarhouses during the ninth annual Maple Open House Weekend.
“We loved it,” said his wife, Annette, who was carrying an assortment of maple products purchased at the sugarhouse. “It’s a wonderful idea having open houses.”
Nearly 80 sugarhouses throughout the state were open to visitors, offering syrup samples and a chance to see the inner workings of Vermont’s sugaring industry.
Mike Isham, who owns Isham Family Farm, said about 300 to 400 people, mostly families, visited his sugarhouse.
“It went really well,” Isham said. “We had good steady business all weekend.”
Isham said the open house gives the farm a lot of exposure. The farm also sells berries, sweet corn and pumpkins.
Sugartree Maple Farm, located on Bradley Lane, began boiling its own syrup for the first time this year, though owners Amy and Mark Yandow have been selling sap to the Comeaus for years. This was also their first open house.
“We thought it was awesome. It went really, really well,” Amy Yandow said. “I don’t think I was able to sit down from 8:30 a.m. to about 5, so I thought it was really successful.”
Yandow estimated that 150 people visited on Saturday and Sunday.
Sugarhouse owners say they made a lot of A-grade syrup this year, although there was less of it due to an early warm spell and sap with lower sugar content.
“It’s been an excellent year,” said Ann Comeau, who runs the sugarhouse with her husband, Bernie. “The flavor of the syrup has been outstanding.”
Comeau said the sap’s sugar content this year is approximately 1.3 percent, compared to the average 2 percent. The Comeaus have made a little less syrup as a result — about 700 gallons instead of their target of 1,000 gallons. Isham said he produced about 75 percent of what he expected to make.
Syrup makers say the season is winding down, as warmer temperatures melt the frost in the ground and buds begin to emerge on the trees.
Once buds begin to come out on the trees, the syrup doesn’t taste as good, Comeau said. The Comeaus were only boiling commercial grade syrup over the weekend, which will go toward maple-flavored products such as maple sausage.
Visitors may have gotten their samples just in time. Comeau, Yandow and Isham said this weekend might be the last of the season.
Jennifer Sieg and Matt Smith of Burlington brought their 18-month-old daughter, Violet Smith, to the Comeau Family Sugarhouse on Saturday.
“She loves maple syrup,” Sieg said as Violet downed a sample.
Sieg and Smith moved to Vermont about five years ago from Kansas, and said Saturday’s visit was their first time in a sugarhouse.
“It’s a good idea,” Sieg said of the open house weekend. “It seems to be a big business around here, so it’s fun to get to see it.”
TAPPING INTO GOODWILL
A sugarhouse in Lincoln raised more than $3,000 during Open House Weekend to benefit the family of a 2-year-old Williston girl who has cancer.
Maria Luise Vaughan was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain and spinal cancer three weeks ago.
Maria’s grandparents, Paul and Luise Greco, sold syrup, baked goods and T-shirts at their sugarhouse, Two Old Saps. Many people also gave donations, Luise Greco said.
For more information, visit http://tinyurl.com/HelpingMariaLuise.
— Stephanie Choate, Observer staff