When I texted my friend Sarah Hansen, of Kearsarge Gore Farm, last week to see if I could come learn about maple sugaring and take some pictures of the process, her response was enthusiastic: “Yes! The weather is A+++ next week.” When we arrived at the farm in Warner, everyone was busy, busy, busy. “It’s like we’re coming out of hibernation”, said Sam Bower, who runs the farm with his parents, Bob Bower and Jennifer Ohler.
The weather was beautiful on Friday. The kids were thrilled with all the mud and puddles (the Prius was not). The air was crisp and the sun was warm. As we got closer to the sap house, we could smell the sweet syrup and see the big cloud of smoke rising from the chimney. “At night, you can see hundreds of little sparks rising up into the air… it’s really beautiful,” Sam told me. Luckily he was able to take a brief break to chat and show me around while my husband took the kids over to see the lambs (in case you’re wondering, yes, my children now want their own sheep).
While we talked, I admired the giant woodpile (at least 50 cords), which is arguably larger than the sap house itself. They clearly hadn’t been hibernating all winter! The farm has somewhere around 2,500 taps in 2,000 plus trees with miles and miles of tubing connecting them to a giant collection tank. A few years ago, they were able to get a super-efficient evaporator, known as the Vortex, through a New Hampshire energy efficiency grant (“I think everyone else who got the grant got solar panels and we got an evaporator!”). The new evaporator, run on wood harvested from their own land, helps cut down on the inherent inefficiencies of syrup production. The pump system is still run on a diesel generator, even though everything else on the farm – the house, packing house, and barn – are solar-powered. They’d love to get rid of the generator, Sam says, but for now it’s the only thing powerful enough to do the job.
Inside the sap house, it is hot and loud and smells amazing. I watched as Sam tested the syrup – “Perfect!” The syrup – my family calls it liquid gold – is luminescent. I can’t wait to pick mine up (we always buy the biggest containers we can because we use syrup for most of our sweetening needs). All the products from Kearsarge Gore Farm are certified organic, including their syrup. “Once a year someone comes and looks over everything we do here. Non-organic farms don’t have that oversight. I like customers to know we are doing things right.”
On my way out – after saying hi to the lambs myself – I pass the trays and tray of tiny seedling in the mini-greenhouse and the high tunnels, where they have already planted spinach, arugala, radishes and salad greens. “The garlic is already up!” Sam tells me. My kids are jealous because our garlic is still covered in snow. Soon we’ll be able to pick up greens from Kearsarge Gore Farm along with garlic scapes. It’s beginning to feel like Spring.
If you’d like to see the sap boiling and pick up some delicious syrup, the farm will be open Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 3pm. Or, if you’re going to skip the farm, you can always get Kearsarge Gore syrup at Warner Public Market, Sweet Beet Market, Portsmouth Health Food, NAME, or at the Warner, Concord, and Henniker Farmer’s Markets.
I highly suggest a visit to see this age-old (and tasty) tradition at work.