Maple sugaring time is practically a holiday for many Vermonters.
Here at Snow Farm Vineyard, maple runs through our veins. Making Vermont maple syrup has been a family affair for generations.
Here's why Vermont maple is special to us in the Champlain Islands and how you can experience all things maple!
Our Vermont Maple History
In 1987, my grandparents Fred and Gladys Lane, and my parents Dave and Julie Lane, built a sugarhouse and began making maple syrup on their land in South Hero.
It was a small operation without electricity. They had about 80 trees tapped. Growing up, I remember lots of nights spent together as my brother Alex and I fell asleep in a chair or on the woodpile, watching the sap boil over the fire.
Over the years, my brother and I joined the operation, a new sugarhouse was built (above), and we now have about 1,000 trees tapped over 40 acres. The trees are located on Fox Hill behind the vineyard. Hence, the name of our syrup and our wine Fox Hill Maple, a Seyval Blanc and sweet maple wine made with our own grapes and syrup.
In 2005, a pipeline system replaced the labor-intensive buckets when the sugarhouse was built. A vacuum pump on the pipeline moves the sap more efficiently through the tubing lines. It doesn't harm the trees at all, reduces labor, and eliminates the need to drive through the woods to pick up all the buckets. When the weather is warm enough, the sap runs through the pipe directly into centralized holding tanks.
Alex Lane and his son Chris Lane transport a holding tank of sap to the sugarhouse to be boiled.
February is when the season usually starts each year. We visit each tree to put the taps in for the season, and reconnect and repair the pipeline. At the end of the season, the taps are removed and cleaned. One of my favorite parts of making syrup is trekking through the woods to tap the trees and work on the pipeline. There's nothing like working outside in the fresh spring air!
A Family Affair
Today, sugarmaking now includes the fourth generation with the grandkids. We work as a team to get the job done from feeding the fire to checking the sugar content of the sap to canning the syrup and being professional taste testers!
Fourth-generation sugarmaker Avalea Lane helps out at the sugarhouse with her dad and grandfather.
Dave and Julie Lane bottle fresh maple syrup.
There are always good memories to be made and food to share at the sugarhouse. That's one of the best parts of making syrup together as a family.
Morning boils are special because we often get visitors to the sugarhouse. The kids watch old movies on VHS and friends and neighbors share good conversation and sample fresh syrup. Visitors are always welcome when steam is coming out of the cupola!
Alex Lane feeds the fire to boil the sap into syrup. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup.
Visit Us For a Maple Themed Hike
Every year at the end of March, for Vermont Maple Open House weekend, we host a short walking tour with the South Hero Land Trust and the sugarhouse is open to visitors, weather permitting.
Join the Guided Tour: You'll see the sugarbush in action on the short walk up Fox Hill, learn about the process of sugaring from sap to syrup, and the history of the farm. Plus, there will be fun activities for kids, where they'll get to tap a tree, do a maple-themed scavenger hunt, and more! The tour will start at Snow Farm Vineyard. If you'd like to enjoy the tour, please RSVP with the South Hero Land Trust.
Visit the Sugarhouse and Tasting Room
The sugarhouse will be open periodically throughout March and April for you to enjoy a taste of maple syrup, get a tour of the sugar-making operation (weather permitting), and see the journey of sap becoming sweet maple syrup. Sugaring is very weather dependent, and we encourage you to check our Facebook page for updates on when boiling will happen.
Find our Fox Hill maple syrup at the Snow Farm Vineyard Tasting Room or at the Champlain Islands Farmers Market.