The ‘About Us’ page explains a few things about our company and who we are. For more details, I can give you the LinkedIn data. Eric and I are originally from the metro-New York area. We both have undergraduate and graduate degrees in fields that have very little to do with agriculture (Law, Chinese, Environmental Management, French Cuisine). We moved to Vermont in 2000 to start an organic vegetable farm and after nine years switched to producing maple syrup. The maple operation is largely Eric’s doing. In a go-big-or-go-home approach, he went from zero to being the third largest operator in the state in five years. So that is what you would get from our resumes. In order to go any deeper I would have to first describe a few things about our home and introduce some local vocabulary.
Life is different in Vermont. From my house I would have to drive about 30 miles before I encountered a traffic light. There is only one area code for the entire state. Our wealthiest resident ranks second from the bottom in comparison the other 50 states’ millionaires. On the other hand we are ranked number 5 on the list of most college degrees per capita. There are no billboards allowed along highways – they block the view of the trees – and I have noticed that no one ever honks their horn – it would be considered rude. Spread out over 9,600 square miles, the state has a population roughly equivalent to the city of Portland, Oregon (620,000) and because there are so few people, everyone knows everyone. In short, the character of Vermont is intimate and modest with a deep reverence for nature.
If you are not born here, you are considered a ‘flatlander’. It is not necessarily a derogatory term, it just means this culture of rural, northern living has not been in your bones from the get-go, preferably dating several generations back. At its most negative it implies a lack of common sense on icy, mountain roads, or perhaps poor judgment in footwear for a farm visit. Since my children were born here, they are not flatlanders but may require more time before being considered native. They will know the different breeds of dairy cows which is part of the third grade curriculum. They will know how to dress properly on a ten-below day (even if they don’t always do it). They are aware they need to pick their toys up off the lawn before the first big storm or they won’t find them again until May. And they will know all about maple syrup.
The culture of maple syrup belongs to all Vermonters. By the time they are ten, most Vermont kids have visited sugar houses multiple times. They learn that around here ‘sugar’ is a verb, as in, “You sugaring this year?” and also a synonym for maple syrup. Sugarmaker, sugarhouse and sugarbush refer to the person who makes maple syrup, the building in which the sap is boiled to syrup and the forest with a good stand of maple where the trees are tapped. Real maple syrup is a Right around here. Just ask the local IHop in Burlington that made a special request to corporate to be the only franchise of its brethren to offer real maple syrup with their pancakes. The manager was culturally aware enough to know that local customers would insist on it or go somewhere else.
We may not have Vermont roots going back eight generations, but our family has jumped in with four (eight, with the kids) feet and a total commitment to making the very best product. We have enormous respect for the history and tradition of the industry but hope we can add something to the body of knowledge and employ the very best techniques with the most efficient equipment. Now that you are familiar with the local vernacular I can put it more succinctly: we are a family of self-professed Flatlanders who live on the edge of a huge sugarbush, down the road from our sugarhouse and have fallen in love with the art of sugaring. Next lesson will be on mud season. Did I mention Vermont has five seasons?