B y Bill Toscano
“I am actually surprised we had so many people,” said Grottoli, who like other local maple-syrup producers was open for breakfast and tours as part of New York Maple Weekend. “I thought people would be out doing yard work or something else. I am really happy with the turnout.”
Rathbun’s Sugar House on the Granville/Whitehall line is open for breakfast year-round, but it was especially packed Sunday. At times, there were eight or 10 names on the waiting list, but the operation is a smooth one, and the line moved quickly.
“This is what we expect for Maple Weekend. Today is a really good day,” Matt Rathbun said. Saturday, he noted, was not as busy as he would have liked.
Maple Weekend will continue next weekend, but the sap run will not.
“We finished Monday,” Grottoli said. “Usually, if we finish before the open house, I keep some sap around to boil on the weekend, but that was just too early to keep it.”
Since the winter was so mild, the season started early, with Rathbun getting taps in during the early part of February, but he too wrapped up this week, finishing his boil on Wednesday.
Rathbun said he was looking at this as an average year, figuring he might wind up with 1,500 gallons of syrup. That was down from last year’s 2,000, but many maple producers said last year was one of the best they had ever had. Grottoli said he figured he had done about 75 percent of a good year.
“It started too early, and it ended too early,” he said. That’s how it is in agriculture. You never know how big the tomatoes are going to grow.”
Among the visitors at Grottoli’s was Paul Rattigan of Averill Park, who came up with his family for a trip that was partly business.
“My brother lives in Salem, and we are putting together a sugar house for next year,” he said. “We wanted to come up and see how these people were doing.”
Grottoli’s and Rathbun’s will host open houses again this weekend. Three Salem farms — Dry Brook Sugar House, Wild Hill Maple and Mapleland Farms — will be open this weekend, as will Rascher’s Sugar House in Shushan, Highland Maple Farm in Argyle, and Sugar Mill Farm in Greenwich. Farms will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will be running tours, and several sites will be hosting pancake breakfasts.
In Vermont, maple farms statewide will hold a single-weekend open house on March 24 and 25.
Green’s Sugar House in Poultney is open, as is K&S Ruane Maple Farm in Tinmouth.
Other Rutland County maple-sugar producers taking part include the Wood Family Sugarhouse in Poultney, Baird Farm in North Chittenden, Bushee Family Maple Farm in Danby, Cross Road Sugar Co. in Ira, Krueger-Norton Sugarhouse in Shrewsbury, the New England Maple Museum in Pittsford, Papa John’s Sugar Shack in Mount Holly, Smith Maple Crest Farm in Shrewsbury, and Sugar & Spice Restaurant & Gift Shop in Mendon.
The Merck Forest & Farmland Center in Rupert (see sidebar), Mountain Valley Maple Farm in West Rupert and Havoc Hill Sugar House in East Dorset will also be open.
Other Bennington County sugar houses open for the weekend event are Mance Family Tree Farm, Maple Hill Maple and Peacock’s Pure Maple Syrup, all in Shaftsbury, and Senecal’s Sugar House in Stamford.