Thursday April 19, 2012
For Vermonters the annual harvest of maple syrup is like liquid gold—valuable, coveted, and worth waiting all year for. But to South Burlington resident Dan LeClair, who produces syrup at his family farm in Montgomery, this year’s crop is especially precious. “We had a really short season with the early warm weather,” he explains. “We had to start syruping early, and were done by February 17th. That’s usually when we’re just getting started.”
Even though temperatures fell again later, it was too late for the trees, LeClair added. “Once a tree starts budding, it doesn’t make any more sap.”
As a result, the yield from LeClair’s Sugar Tree Farm is down this year (along with that of all Vermont maple farmers). His 5500 trees produced about 700 gallons—about half as much as he’s usually gotten in his three years of syruping experience. But the quality is good as ever, he maintains: “we’ve got mostly Grade A medium and Grade A dark.”
LeClair is no stranger to the ups and downs of running a business. He juggles syruping duties with his work as a master licensed electrician; his wife Kiki helps manage marketing and sales. The LeClairs sell their syrup out of their home in Oak Creek Village/Butler Farms, and a lot through word of mouth; currently they’re in negotiations with the International House of Pancakes (IHOP) at the University Mall to provide the pure maple syrup the chain is required to serve in all its Vermont outlets.
Despite a smaller supply, the LeClairs decided to leave their prices unchanged from last year, ranging from $45 for a gallon jug and $25 a half-gallon, to $10 a pint. They expect the syrups will sell out quickly. “Maple syrup might seem expensive because it’s costly to produce,” says Kiki LeClair, “but it’s a good value, especially when you buy directly from the farmer.”
And for many South Burlington residents, that farmer is also a neighbor.
LeClair’s Sugar Tree Farm Maple Syrup is available at 22 Fox Run Lane, South Burlington. For more information call 863-8711.
SOURCE: Joyce Hendley, Contributor