History of Stonegate Sugarhouse


Beginnings

My first venture into the world of a sugarmaker came at the age of twelve. My operation was as basic as you could get. I think I had something in the order of six taps. Somewhere I had seen how to make spouts from sumac. The core of a sumac stick is very soft and can be easily cored out to act as a spout. For buckets I used pails that came from a bakery. They had contained pie fillings. In an effort to be somewhat authentic, I fashioned a yoke to go over my shoulders to more easily carry full buckets back to my evaporator (I use that term rather loosely). My evaporator was a sheet metal stove in the back yard with an old pot donated by my mother. My brother and I boiled and boiled after school for what seemed like an eternity until we had a pot full of dark brown liquid interlaced with ashes from the stovepipe. While it was pretty awful by today’s standards, we thought it was good stuff the Saturday morning we poured it on our pancakes. The following year we moved and that ended the sugarmaking. Fast forward to the year 2000. My wife Kathy and I purchased a farm in Conway, Massachusetts that came with an abundance of sugar maples. The first few years I sugared with my neighbor John Wholey. We tapped some of our trees, as well as John’s, that we could readily get to because we were exclusively using buckets. John is a dairy farmer and I was working long hours at my dealership. We both had time constraints. A couple of years later we put my trees on a gravity pipeline making life much easier. During this time period I was planning my own sugarhouse.

Today

In 2007 we contracted with Bear River Timber Frame to build a sugarhouse. They designed and constructed a beautiful and functional building. We had the basics, an evaporator and a filter press. A big change came in 2008 with the addition of a reverse osmosis machine. It would remove about 80% of the water from our sap greatly reducing boiling time. 2011 brought about another big improvement with the addition of vacuum in the sugarbush and a steamaway for the evaporator. Adding vacuum to the pipeline system increased sap production by 50%. The steamaway increased the efficiency of the evaporator by about 80%. All of these improvements increased the production of our relative small evaporator (30” x 6’) from 1 gallon of syrup an hour to 15. Our processes include the best and latest technology to produce an outstanding product while using the least amount of energy and creating the smallest carbon footprint.

Going Forward

We currently have 950 taps on our land and that of a neighbor. We buy sap from neighbors whenever we can. Currently we produce over 500 gallons of syrup a year. There are several sugarhouses around us that have been in operation for generations and have established a presence in the local markets. We needed to find new markets, and thus the creation of this web site. In another year we plan to expand our pipeline to the upper portion of the farm to add another 1,500 taps. There is a ready wholesale market for our product, but given the high quality of our syrup we would prefer to sell it ourselves.