JEFF COREY Fairfax, VT
Jeff stands confidently next to his sugarhouse, his faithful black lab at this side. “So there I was,” he says, “25 or 26 years old, broke, but this was what I wanted to do. And I knew if I didn’t have the trees I wasn’t going to be sugaring.” You can sense both humor and pride as he talks about the early years and the time spent laying the groundwork for what is now a nearly 14,000 tap operation.
Jeff started his operation in the late 80s. Initially he rented the land he now owns. The previous landowner was so impressed with Jeff’s natural talent and success with sugaring, he offered to sell Jeff the land in hopes Jeff would continue working the forest. Jeff didn’t hesitate for a second. “I didn’t have anything to lose,” he says. “This was my dream.”
When Jeff purchased the property, it had over 7,000 taps, sometimes more than two or three taps a tree. Jeff knew the price of over tapping maple trees. Once he owned the land, he focused on dropping the tap count. In the first year, he dropped the taps down to 5,000. His efforts paid off. Before reducing the tap count, the property had been yielding 26 barrels of syrup a year. After a few years of Jeff’s fewer-taps approach, complemented by the addition of another small parcel of land, Jeff was yielding over 100 barrels a season, producing over half a gallon per tap. This is a tremendous source of pride for Jeff.
“We have to do everything we can that’s good for the forest,” says Jeff. For him, that includes spending over $60,000 on a comprehensive solar array to cover his operation’s electricity and to reduce his carbon emissions. It also means he is careful about what comes in and out of his woods. “We don’t run around on the root system with heavy equipment,” Jeff describes. “Nothing bigger than a four wheeler goes in there now. If a tree falls we don’t pull wood out. We let it rot and go back to the earth.”
Jeff believes this approach is good for both the ecosystem and for business. For Jeff, the key to good business is in the relationships he maintains with his land, the trees, and the people with whom he works. That’s why he and his wife are committed to Butternut Mountain Farm. “Every year Dave and the folks from Butternut Mountain Farm stop by while we’re sugaring just to say, ‘hey.’ And that is a great feeling. And now that Emma and Ira are involved it’s a real family operation at Butternut Mountain. And we like that.”
When asked what he’d like customers to know about his syrup he laughs and says, “Well, they are getting the best possible syrup that can be produced. And we do whatever it takes. If we have to leave the sugaring house at three in the morning after a series of good runs, then that’s what we do. That’s our job. And we love it.”
We work with over 350 sugar makers to supply maple syrup to our operation. Each one of these farmers shares a vision of forest stewardship and commitment to quality that is similar to the one that has driven our work for decades. These great folks from across Vermont, and from maple-producing regions have a story. Stories that we think you all might enjoy. We are excited to introduce our Maple Producer Spotlight series where we will share inspiring stories of sugar makers and highlight their vision and commitment to making the highest quality maple syrup found in the world.