Something for Everyone!
Put away the car keys, and enjoy a complimentary bus trip to two of our local sugarhouses. Busses leave from the Southwest Corner of Taylor Park, corner of Fairfield and Church, look for the sign.
Marc and Rachel Lebel have a high respect for the land and regard for Pure Vermont Maple. Hill Top Maple was started over 15 years ago and handed down to Marc by his late father Marcel in 2009. True craftsmen in every endeavor, Marc and operations manager Jeff Choiniere recently rededicated the enterprise to excellence with a sweeping upgrade of the sugarhouse, and the installation of over 8,000 additional taps, bringing the 210 acre farm up to nearly 18,000 taps, all on tubing with vacuum. In the sugarhouse, Vermont Maple Festival visitors arriving on the tour bus, will see a 6’ by 16’ CDL oil-fired evaporator with a pre-heater, and a new LaPierre 8 post reverse osmosis sap concentrator.
Hill Top Maple remains a family owned and operated sugarbush under the day-to-day care of manager Jeff. Regular hikes into the Hill Top woodlands ensure the taps are set and ready for the sap to flow. An early warming cycle yielded 14 barrels of syrup and put all the improvements to the test. Now the farm is ready for full 2013 production.
Although most of the syrup is sold in bulk, Hill Top Maple does craft small batches for retail sales, adhering to quality control synonymous with the Lebel name, and the stringent maple standards of the State of Vermont. The addition of a website, going live in March 2013, will ensure that Lebel Hilltop Maple products can reach table tops all over America.
CONNOR MAPLE FARM
Mike Connor quips that last year (which was not a great sugaring year for most folks) was his best year ever - he can say that because 2012 was the first year of the Connor Maple Farm operation!
It was not Mike’s first year sugaring though. He grew up working for his Howrigan relatives, aunt and uncle, Harold and Anne Howrigan, and was part of their extended family who come together annually at sugaring time to tap the trees, gather sap with horses, and deliver it to the Howrigan’s Fairfield sugarhouse.
Mike wrote an interesting bit of family history. “My mother was a member of the ‘Fairfield Teamsters Union’ before there was a teamsters union! She would drive the teams of draft horses with full tubs of sap from the woods to the dumping tank at the sugarhouse as a girl, so that her older brothers could stay in the woods filling the next tub. Our parents and extended family instilled in us at a very young age the value of a work ethic and team work. Everyone, no matter what age, had a job to do!”
Mike’s full time job is co-owner of Connor Contracting Inc., a Vermont based Commercial General Contracting Company, which he owns with his three brothers. By 2011 Mike, (a former “Fairfield teamster” himself) together with his wife Joanne, had acquired 125 acres of sugarwoods in the vicinity of their St. Albans home, enough to begin the Connor Maple Farm. They built a 2,500 square foot post and beam sugarhouse, and had it equipped and ready for the 2012 season.
Having grown up experiencing a family working together, Mike wanted the same for his children. And yes, the syrup which is sold primarily in bulk, with some packed for individual sales, may help with the college expenses of Sean, Ryan, Mark and Meghan.