3/31 S’appenin’

After the scare of the 10 day forecast three weeks ago – it looked like it might be the worst sugaring year ever – its turning out to be a solid season both in production and quality.  The weather was not quite as warm as they predicted and the trees held on through it to remain very productive through some very good freeze thaw cycles that continue for the next 5 days or so!  Then maybe the quality of syrup will tail off and we’ll call it a season.
We’ve made a bit more dark syrup than usual and that seems to be the word from other producers too.  In general the sugar content of the raw sap has been very low (perhaps a result of the mild winter??) – but the flavor of the syrup is good.  My father actually said “I can understand how some people like dark syrup” after years of blasting dark syrup as inferior.  You all probably know that in my mind the Dark syrup is mostly only good for cooking, but to each his own, eh?
I can’t explain how much the sugaring industry has changed over the last 15 years – it really is a totally new beast wrapped in the same thinner and thinner veil of romanticism.  This article is an excellent look at the sugaring industry and also at branding and marketing as a whole.

http://www.localfutures.org/thank-you-vermont-a-bittersweet-tale/If you have questions or thoughts please share – I’ll try to explain a few parts of this story in my next note with the season wrap-up three weeks from now….

p.s.  If you think Hillary is going to do anything to change the gross direction of capitalist consumption, American imperialism, or anything at all to help the common human being I’d beg to differ.  The dream is thin, but perhaps still alive – Please tell all your friends who live in states that haven’t voted yet – “Bernie”

2/17 S’appenin’

Well – I have to say – I’m very excited about how many people are feeling the Bern.  Yep – Bernie Sanders – speaking the truth for years and years and finally people are sick of political bs and hope something different might be possible.  It is going to take all of us to make any sort of long term change in politics, but it seems that there are so many issues that are making people sit up, wake up, and tune in.  Hopefully more and more people feel empowered to fight for what is right and we can “make America great again”.  What the heck does that mean anyways? (No I don’t mean great just for the white rich folks.)
Seriously though – the real news is – I got the new truck!!  Refrigerated box truck!  Wow.  I’m excited and nervous to give her (name suggestions still welcome at this point) the first trip around the city.  I will have my milk handlers and meat handlers license from the state of VT soon – and I really want to bring a few more cheeses (beyond the organic goat cheese Does’ Leap makes) into my lineup.

My father and I had a great trip down to Gay, GA  – the town where they film “Walking Dead” like that is supposed to mean something – to pick up the vehicle.  We got picked up to get to the truck body manufacturer by a genial fellow who was so glad that Obama was almost out of the White House because Obama was going to take away his guns.  We did have a little political back and forth – but it was a delicate dance.   It was a special trip – to get away from the usual routine – visiting old friends of my folks for a brief moment in Asheville (they eagerly accepted two “Billionaires can’t buy Bernie” bumperstickers) and a spectacular drive up and over the mountains into Tennessee and rolling up Interstate 81 through the farms of Western Virginia.  It was all a blur – but a nice quick glimpse of life in another part of the country.

Two McDonalds in two days!! (Coffee and Internet)
We are still getting ready to tap – putting new spouts onto our lines so that once the weather turns it all happens fast.  Yesterday was a windy cold day in the woods with the temperature dropping all day.  Some walking would get the blood flowing and warm the body, but our tasks were fairly sedentary – walking from tree to tree and having to stop and work on each drop – so the heat would slowly leave us until hands were cold and numb and a little clapping, shaking and dancing brought the blood flow back!  It was a surprise to both of us to see that the thermometer read zero degrees Fahrenheit at the end of the day.  Envigorating and exhausting…
Lots more news too -but blah, blah, blah…. maybe next time!

S’appenin’ 1/27

Well – I know I promised my two cents regarding gentrification last time – but it seemed more timely to share with you all an issue that is a bit more related to both the farming community our family lives and works in and the work community that most of you are involved in too.
Undocumented workers.  The large dairy farms (Green Wind Farm is not one of these) that dominate the landscape and the agricultural economy of VT rely heavily on these people.  As does much of the food industry in NYC.   It is a serious issue with lots of layers of complexity – but in my opinion the bottom line is that these workers are oppressed and taken advantage of.  Even in the best situations, and often through no fault of their employers, it is a difficult situation.
My wife has been active with and is currently a board member for Migrant Justice – see the article below about the organization.
http://civileats.com/2015/05/11/will-ben-and-jerrys-help-improve-conditions-for-dairy-workers/

My sister has worked for many years in this community too.  She works with the University of Vermont Extension agency providing health care access and English as a second language opportunities to migrant workers.

The situation along the border with Canada in the whitest state in the union is particularly oppressive.  The boarder patrol can behave with impunity and will wait outside farms, medical clinics, etc. and will even respond alarmingly fast to phone calls that there are “brown people” at the local Walmart (one of the only places these people can go to send money back home to their families.)  These honest, gentle, kind people live in trailers or houses, or apartments built in the dairy barns with sheets blocking all the windows afraid to show their face during the day, even to walk across the lawn from where they live to where they work.

Many of these people are our friends.  They come to gatherings at our farm for birthdays, food processing parties, and Thanksgiving among other events.  In early December a good friend of ours, Josefa, lost her partner – he died in his sleep.  Her sons Jason and Aiden, are the same age as our sons almost 5 and around 2 yrs.   They were playmates.  It was hard for her to leave, but over the holidays they packed up their stuff and flew back to her family in Mexico.

I’m not sure why I’m sharing this with you all, except to promote awareness around human rights and food as we leave the holidays and get back to the grind of work.  This is a part of our life that hurts our hearts and is in dire need of change across the country.

2015! New Syrup Grades

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The syrup is the same – the words are different – as our 8 month old standing next to me says “blah, blah, blah, blah.”  Maybe you should just stop reading now and get off the internet!

Vermont syrup has always been graded based on both color and flavor. In the
past, slight regional differences in terminology existed in the maple syrup grading system. Over the next few years, all maple syrup producers – from Canada to West Virginia
and Maine to Minnesota- will phase in the new standardized grade descriptors
found above.

It’s a marketing thing.  There is concern that consumers are confused about what syrup they are going to get with the old descriptors and also that  “Grade B” means bad.   I’m not sure if these assumptions are true.  Some would say there is a growing worry that massive increases in maple production over the last decade (basically doubled in the U.S. – with little signs of slowing in the near term) is making the big packers nervous.  As such there is a pressing concern to market all this syrup, hence, a “better” grading system.

Vermont is among the first to require these new grades – beginning in 2015.  Unfortunately in our minds, an entire existing grade (Grade A Dark Amber) is split to fit into either Amber Color with Rich Taste or Dark Color with Robust Taste.  Our opinion, is that there is quite a spectrum of flavors from the lightest Amber to the darkest Dark.  To bad people can’t get something in the middle anymore – you can always buy one of each grade and dump them together I suppose!

Ha Ha – our opinion.  They had a big listening tour for sugarmakers to weigh in and in the end the deciders spit out the exact same phrases they had initially proposed years earlier as this grade consolidation concept was first in it’s concept phase.

Pumpkin Village Foods / Green Wind Farm will continue to provide you with the same excellent syrup as before – slightly different names, but, one on the light side of Amber (great for table syrup use) and one on the dark side side of Dark (great for cooking). Make sure your store carries the one you want! In the words of an old friend – “If you’re gonna bring one, bring two.”

What’s the difference between the grades?  Well – “come on in the water’s fine”  – If you like the flavor you’re getting – good for you!  Find a producer you like and stick with them. The difference in grades simply a matter of preference… find the grade/flavor you like for different usages.  Typically though the lightest grade, does not have a strong enough flavor for most people looking for maple, and the darkest flavor should not be sold except for commercial purposes.  Why it is now being called “Grade A” is beyond me.  Makes me think of an old Tommy Boy guarantee.  

Typically lighter syrup is made earlier in the season when the weather is cooler. As the weather warms up, the sap quality declines, and the darker syrup is made. The lighter the syrup the more delicate the flavor.

There is no difference in mineral content between the gradesall you master cleansers out there – use either grade!  The variation in flavor is more batch to batch, local soil differences, or the way the syrup is actually produced.

High RO syrup is often lighter in color (and lighter in flavor).  Oh what??  You like flavor?   Make sure you find some syrup that’s been produced with care.  Luckily that’s what we’ve got for you… only 7% sugar coming out of the RO here at Green Wind Farm.  What’s an RO?  See this post.

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Syrup Traceability 2013

Here’s my second attempt at a traceability page… first one including a chart, thanks to my neighbors over at Burlington Bytes!

Prior to this 2013 season, I had bought a bit of syrup to keep all my accounts stocked.  Remember 2012 was a poor production season for all producers.  This year, we made almost no Grade B, though we made a lot of very nice Grade A syrup.    See more in the 2013 season post.

If you want to know a bit more about your syrup’s path to your plate… see below.

Thanks!  Seth

code grade label name producer/barrel info. date canned
123 B Green Wind Farm GWF 34-11 and 24-12  1/25/13
193 A medium Pumpkin Village Matt Gedeon barrel 6-12 1/29/13
283 A medium Pumpkin Village Dan Branon barrel 13-13 2/18/13
383 A medium Green Wind Farm canned off the rig!  3/8/13
323 A medium Green Wind Farm canned off the rig!  3/12/13
373 A medium Green Wind Farm canned off the rig!  3/27/13
393 A medium Green Wind Farm canned off the rig!  3/29/13
413 A med – B Green Wind Farm canned off the rig!  4/1/13
453 A dark Green Wind Farm canned off the rig!  4/5/13
563 A medium Green Wind Farm GWF 9-13 5/6/13
563 B Pumpkin Village Gabe Gervais 5-13 5/6/13
623 A medium Pumpkin Village Gedeon 39-13 and GWF 12-13 6/2/13
623 B Pumpkin Village Gervais 49-13 6/2/13
713 Am Green Wind GWF 12-13 and GWF 10-13 7/1/13
713 B Pumpkin Village Gervais 83-13 7/1/13

 

I will continue to make information about your specific jar of syrup available to you carrying forward!

Syrup canning facility at GWF

Remember a few years ago when I posted those pictures of the sawyer, cutting some beams for a building? Well, after another visit from him, some excavation, insulation, site work, etc. we finally poured concrete a few weeks ago.

Now we’re wrestling with some of the dried, twisted timbers getting them to lie flat as sills in order to stand a frame at some point in the near future! Wish we’d had fresh straight timbers, and some true tie down bolts in the six inch elevated concrete we added to keep water in the canning area. Next time!

Hurricane Irene visits VT, doesn’t bring her tourist pocketbook

It’s been a wild time for some communities in Vermont since Hurricane Irene spun up off the coast and got stuck over VT and parts of upstate NY. Incomprehensible damage to many communities along waterways small and large both.

We were lucky at Green Wind Farm. We live on a rocky hillside with ledge not to far under the soil in some places so water is accustomed leaving our land to the little brook at the bottom of the hill finding its way quickly into Black Creek then the Mississquoi River which both flood multiple times a year. Our area of the state saw little damage beyond limited access to fields and woods due to wet ground and a little wind damage to trees in the woodlots.

Of all the producers I work with to get quality foods to NYC, it appears that only Catherine of Nitty Gritty had significant adversity to deal with. Closer to home, Catherine was stranded at her daughter’s house in Waitsfield, wisely turning back after attempting to drive south on Rte. 100 to her own home in Rochester. They watched the water in a creek nearby rise to unbelievable heights not knowing what to do if the water kept rising. Luckily it was all okay and 5 days later, emergency crews had worked to restore power and rudimentary road access to Rochester. Additional Nitty Gritty news is according to nephew, David, high winds blew down about 1/2 the corn on their finest cornfield.

The work repairing roads and infrastructure is just progressing well for most towns. Conversations about prudent locations of roads, and repairs are happening all across the state. Some waterways have changed and are likely to stay changed for a long time. Awareness of the tenability of locating infrastructure in many locations is prompting long-range planning. Our governor is talking about preparing for weather changes already upon us from global climate change. We’ll all recover with some hard work and community efforts. Life continues to keep us on our toes.

See some flood pictures

Pumpkin Village Product Demo Events!

Okay, Okay, due to low interest, due to poor marketing, and also a general lack of time this fall, see posts to follow on sugarhouse remodeling, life with a 5 month old, etc. There will be no demos this fall. Next fall.

I left the picture up there because well, what’s cuter than that. What you don’t like the cluttered desk?? Please feel free to come take some fancy pictures and post them for me… Ha.

I’ll admit this also… I’m a father – as of 6/26/11!

That’s right! Martha successfully and amazingly produced a baby boy, Jasper, weighing 7 lbs. 12 oz. June 26th.

We are enamoured, excited, and entrenched. Back when we were young, playing the board game Life, it never seemed that difficult to simply put another peg in the back of the family car and keep on driving. Let’s see how it works out this time!

More Photos

Thanks to all our friends and family for the wonderful support we’ve had so far.

VT Makes 41% of 2011 US syrup production

In 2011 VT made 1.1 million gallons of pure Vermont maple syrup. This is the most made in the state since 1944. It’s incredible that we made that much syrup way back then! Imagine the amount of labor and fuel involved in 1944. I doubt even the most boastful sugarmakers (of which there are few) would deny the labor is as hard as it was. The equipment is certainly much more efficient. Expect more in the future on how sugaring technology has dramatically changed production over the last few decades.