MANCHESTER — Dutton Farm Stand welcomed visitors into a sugarhouse to get a glimpse of the sugaring process and a taste of the sweet stuff.
“It’s really nice to teach people who are interested about it,” said co-owner Wendy Dutton. “That’s why they’re here. Some people come in and get a quick tour but there’s a lot of people who are interested in how everything works so it’s nice to teach them where it comes from.”
Dutton said the sugarhouse is open to the public on weekends, so many people stop in outside of the open house events. She even encounters lifelong Vermonters who haven’t been in a sugarhouse.
Over time, staff at the sugarhouse went from manually collecting buckets of sap from each maple tree a couple of times a day to using pipes connected to two 1,800-gallon tanks on the property. They also went from heating the sugarhouse with wood to oil.
Vicky Burke, a longtime employee, said this is the earliest in a year that Dutton’s started boiling. They began on Feb. 6.
With a limited time frame to make the syrup, it’s all hands on deck. When the temperature at night catches up to the temperatures during the day, Burke said, sap stops running and the season is over.
Sap is 98 percent water, Burke said. The process involves boiling off the water to get the syrup.
The Dutton family also runs farm stands in Newfane and Brattleboro. They will be running another open house at the Manchester sugarhouse next weekend.
Typically, Dutton’s makes about 1,000 gallons of maple syrup a year.
Vermont generates more than 50 percent of the U.S.’s maple syrup, more than any other state, according to the state. Last year, Vermont’s sugar makers produced a record of 2.5 million gallons.
“All that maple is processed in more than 3,000 sugarhouses statewide, from smaller family-run operations to industrial syrup producers, and ends up as part of cocktail infusions, dry rubs, hot sauces, candy, and on shelves as syrup and sugar,” states a page on vermontvacation.com. “The sugar-making process has evolved from sap buckets carried through the woods on a horse-drawn sleigh to today’s ultra-modern reverse osmosis technology, and Vermont’s sugar makers use a diverse mix in their operations.”