There were still many inches of snow on the ground on January 11, when Jason Gagne, wearing snowshoes, began tapping maple trees throughout his woods in Highgate, Vermont. In a perfect world, Gagne wouldn’t start until mid-February, when the weather is more hospitable. But, he says, “I’ve got 22,000 trees, and I wanted to be done by March 1.” That’s about when sap starts to run as freezing nights give way to mornings of thaw, commencing six weeks of boiling the sap down to syrup for sugarmakers throughout the Northeast. Fortunately, he was finished by then.Gagne is a fifth-generation farmer whose family once derived most of its income from dairy, with maple syrup a spring-season sideline. The family gave up their 80 cows in 1991after dairying became for them, as for so many others then and now, too financially precipitous. These days, the Gagnes rely entirely on organic maple syrup for their livelihood. Last year, they produced 14,000 gallons of it, most of which they sold to Coombs Family Farms in New Hampshire to distribute under Coombs’ national label. The steadier income has enabled them to keep their land and buy more from neighbors who also kicked the milk bucket…. Read full this story
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