All posts by ramarklyn

A Syrupy Sunday

DSC_0067This past weekend, for my independent field trip, I visited Crown Maple’s sugarhouse at Madava Farms. Crown Maple is a relatively new maple syrup company that began in 2010, but plans to be the largest maple syrup producer in the world in a few years. The owners, Robb and Lydia Turner, lived in New York City but grew up on farms, and wanted a more rural place for their daughters to be able to escape from city life. After purchasing the land, they realized they were sitting on a gold mine of maple trees, and began the process of tapping the trees. In order to grow the company, they also purchased over 4,000 acres in Vermont, to increase the number of trees available for tapping. In total, they had around 90,000 taps total this past year, but have the capacity to have up to 400,000 as they keep growing.

All the trees are hooked up to each other through an elaborate system of tubes, which lead to a vacuum pump in a collection house. In season, which runs during the time in DSC_0070which the days are in the 40s-50’s but the nights are freezing, there are from 1-3 spiles in each maple tree, depending on it’s size and age. After running to the collection house, the sap (which at this point is clear and liquidy, only about 2% sugar) runs through pipes underground to the sugarhouse, which is where the café and gift shop are also located. In the sugarhouse, the sap goes through a variety of steps to remove most of the water, as it is bottled at 67% sugar. Based on the time of year and temperatures outside, the syrup will come out in different forms, as “Amber,” “Dark,” or “Very Dark.” Crown Maple also produces a “Bourbon Barrel Aged” syrup, as well as maple sugar, which is made by cooking the syrup until all the water is gone. They also sometimes have a “Golden” syrup, but the temperatures have not been cold enough the past two years, so they have not gotten any of this flavor.

As part of the tour we took, we got to taste these various syrups. It is amazing how different the various syrups taste. The “Dark” was my favorite—DSC_0068it had a slightly stronger taste than the “Amber,” but did not have the weird aftertaste left by the “Very Dark.” I was not a huge fan of the one that was aged in a bourbon barrel, but I was amazed at how much it tasted like bourbon, considering there was no actual bourbon in it.

Throughout the tour, I was surprised at the efforts taken to make this intensive process more sustainable. Although extracting the sap in the first place is fairly sustainable, since it does not damage the trees and, if anything, encourages the protection of these large areas of old forests, getting the sap from it’s original 2% sugar to 67% sugar takes a lot of energy. However, Crown Maple invested in some machines not normally used in maple syrup production that make this process more efficient, such as using reverse osmosis. Additionally, they capture the steam created from the evaporating water and use it to pre-heat syrup, as well as sterilize the steel barrels they store the syrup in. Crown Maple also value keeping their production local, and try to hire workers from local communities.

Overall, it was a sweet visit to Crown Maple, and I may have to go back for more in the future.

Holy Sheep!

Glynwood Center (Eilis’s photo)

On Friday, we ventured down south to Putnam County to visit Glynwood Center. Although Putnum County is not known for its agricultural productivity because of the hilly terrain, Glynwood is thriving as a sustainable farm focused on educating young farmers.

Glynwood Center is located on the historical 225-acre Perkins estate, but today is has been transformed into a certified organic vegetable farm and transitional organic meat producer. They take advantage of the hilly environment by allowing their livestock to graze in areas that otherwise would not be used for anything. This helps their organic approach, as they are able to rotate the livestock through the fields to serve as a natural fertilizer and herbicide (by eating the weeds).

Beyond the produce and livestock, Glynwood Center is also a institute for education and agritourism. They house five apprentices at a time, focused on either livestock or vegetables, who engage in an intensive year-long program combining hands-on work in the fields with in-class instruction. Additionally, Glynwood Center has 20 guest rooms for visitors to stay in. These could be people interested in learning about local food, or just looking for a rural escape from the business of New York City.

Ken Kleinpeter and his loyal friend (Baynard’s photo)

Glynwood Center also works with nearby farmers to help them increase the value of their products. In 2010, they launched the Cider Project, an international collaboration between farmers in France and in the Hudson Valley. This project encouraged farmers to consider turning their leftover apples into hard cider to expand their economic opportunities. The Cider Project was a great success, and now they are pursuing other value-added projects, such as establishing a local charcuterie market.

Our lovely tour guide for our unexpectedly cold adventure was Ken Kleinpeter. Ken grew up in Louisiana, and has a long history of working in sustainable agriculture. He ran the first sheep dairy operation in the United States, and worked in Bosnia as a USAID consultant. In 2005, he joined Glynwood Farms as the Director of Farm and Facilities and is currently the VP of Operations.

One of our favorite moments was when Ken led us into the old bank barn on the property. This barn is strategically built on a slope, so the hay trucks could unload the hay at the top, which would fall to the bottom where the animals were waiting to feed. This barn is no longer operational for farming purposes, but it has a new function as a sought-after location for high-fashion photo-shoots. Well-known companies like Brooks Brothers, Anthropologie, and many more have yearly photo-shoots on the Glynwood property, providing another source of income for the farm.

Our favorite baby lamb standing (almost) tall and proud (Dahlia’s photo)

However, the highlight of the trip was all the animals we saw. When we stepped out of the van, Dudley, Ken’s loyal farm dog that followed us throughout our tour, greeted us enthusiastically. We briefly said hello to Ken’s horses, a mix of retired racehorses and riding horses. The tour culminated in the new barn, full of cows, lambs, and pregnant goats. Our favorite was a six-week old lamb recovering from pneumonia, who was still figuring out how to walk.

After unintentionally filming the first part of our blooper reel, it began to snow, signaling that it was time to say goodbye to Ken, Dudley, and their wonderful sustainable farm.

If you want to learn more or visit for yourself, check out their website at