Harlow's Sugar House has reopened

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PUTNEY — Harlow's Sugar House on U.S. Route 5 has reopened after two years. In February, Todd, Brian and Frank Harlow, great-great-nephews of the farm's founder, joined the family farm and began selling maple syrup. Since then, they've been "working straight through," according to Todd, the youngest, who is working full-time on the farm.

"We spent a lot a lot of time pruning apple trees this spring, and we've spent a couple months in the blueberries, doing pruning and mowing and getting those back in shape. We have pick-your-own blueberries; we have some raspberries left, and the apples and the maple products, and next year we plan on starting to replant strawberries in the spring."

His brothers, who have other, full-time, jobs, are helping evenings and weekends.

"Frank has his own business - Harlow Trucking and Excavating," Todd explained, "and Brian is Road Foreman for the town of Putney and has also taken over Harlow and Sons Excavating after my dad was diagnosed with Lyme disease.

"My brothers have been cleaning around the farm, and we all chip in at nights, doing the painting and restoration," he continued. "We've put all new lights and a new ceiling in the gift shop, we're trying to get the whole place painted, and this winter we're planning to upgrade our cooler and our working areas. We'll be making cider this year - that will be a whole other project of mine, the mechanical stuff. I'll be doing the mechanical work."

He said that he has always been interested in how things work.

"Since I was a little boy, I was always taking things apart and fixing them," he recalled. "During high school I went to the Windham Regional Career Center automotive program, and then I went to an automotive school in Virginia Beach. Since then I've been a pipefitter for the last seven years with Southern Vermont Sprinkler, so I have knowledge of pumps and making water get to places. That comes into play with irrigation."

He noted that a network of family members and friends have also been helping.

"My uncle Doug [Harlow] has helped me out with a lot of the growing knowledge that I needed to do this," he said. "We're very fortunate to have the support of people like Green Mt. Orchards, Hidden Springs Maple, and other maple producers like Dan Crocker and Fraser Cooper-Ellis. During the sugaring season, when we need parts, they're willing to lend us stuff we need, and when we have questions, they're always there to answer our questions. Casey Darrow has been really helpful with letting us know what has to be done and how to take care of the apple orchard and the blueberries. We also had a lot of help from great friends like Roger and Linda Aiken, Tom Goddard, Jason Newton, Mark Amidon, and Mike Stetson."

He said his great-great-uncle, Frank Harlow, bought the farm in 1941.

"They used to sell from a little table next to Route 5," Todd said. "The sugar house was down in the sugar-lot, which was where 91 was put through. And then when my grandfather took it over from his uncle Frank, he moved the sugar house up to next to Route 5 with a bulldozer. My father told us, back in the day, that when the bulldozer quit, that's where the sugar house stayed."

The work area behind the gift shop at the farmstand has areas for boiling, making candy, maple cream, and there's equipment for jams.

"We will be making our own jam," Todd said. "We have all the recipes still. My grandfather did a lot of experimenting."

The boys' mother, Val Harlow, is keeping the books.

"She has probabaly over 25 years doing bookkeeping," Todd said, "so she's doing all the bookkeeping, along with my brother's girlfriend, Nicole Johnson, who is learning the books and is a huge support around the gift shop."

The farmstand is open every day from nine to five, but Todd's workday starts long before that.

"I'm usually here by 5:30, sometimes 5:00," he said. "I was really expecting a lot of hard work, so it's not really a surprise. We're really fortunate to have the support of the local community."

As for challenges, "It's all a challenge, pretty much," he said. "Finding enough daylight."

He welcomes the hard work.

"I want it to what it used to be ," he concluded. "I like coming here and working every day and seeing how much we've progressed."

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