This past week, Eric and I has the privilege of traveling to Massachusetts with the other Farmer’s Union Enterprise (FUE) Couples to the National Farmer’s Union Convention in Springfield. FUE is a project started by five mid-western states to reinvigorate the state Farmer’s Union chapters with a steady revenue from business investments. In addition to listening to a host of engaging and inspiring speakers, we had the opportunity to take a farm tour- New England Style. The location was more of a processing center for turning that sweet maple sap into the delicious syrup we all know and love.
A family operation, the farm is now in it’s fifth generation. Basically, explained our hosts, the sap is boiled down in an evaporator until the proper consistency is reached. Traditionally, this done with a wood-fire heated cauldron. New systems are now more energy efficient, like the one below, and have upgraded to using natural gas. This particular evaporator recycles the steam from the evaporating tank to pre-heat the sap waiting to be processed.
In addition to making the syrup, the Williams serve pancakes, maple doughnuts, and a dozen other homemade goodies for travelers to sample. This is a great example of how value-added farm products can increase the viability of a family farm.
Using a fairly simple collection process, tree sap is harvested at sustainable levels. When done responsibly, the trees will produce well for decades.
A far cry from a prairie river bottom in Central Montana, these wooded hills lend themselves to an entirely different type of farming. Never having visited to countryside of New England in the spring, I can only imagine how the landscape looks when the trees re-grow their leaves in the spring and become lush and green again. At the conference there was much talk of renewing ‘family farms’ and restoring a connection to where food comes from that has nearly been severed. By engaging in these conversations and observing the good work of many others, it’s plain to see that this connection is and will become even more vibrant and alive in seasons to come.