2021 Spring Farm News

Here in Vermont's Champlain Valley, our spring was more eventful than most years. If you missed it, we were hit by a tornado in late March. While it damaged property, the only lives lost were our bees. We've restarted our bee yard with a captured swarm and they've happily adjusted to life on the farm. Vermont maple syrup season went well for most producers. We made less than we would have liked, but still had a fine harvest.


tornado recovery

An F1 tornado with wind speeds of 110mph moved across our farm on March 26th. It took the roof off the Christmas shop, tore the doors off the front of the Shop, and pulled wreath supplies and tree balers from the attic. The barn lost its upper story and almost all of our fencing was pulled out of the ground. The animals were safe inside their stalls. The bees weren't so lucky. All five hives were picked up by the tornado.


A brown barn missing its second story.  The back section of green roof is on with exposed rafters.

We have a new appreciation for the devastation these large storms cause. News reports summarized our damage as "a nearby farm had damage to a few farm buildings." It didn't account for the lost and destroyed items in those buildings, the totaled vehicles, the 40-50 destroyed full sized Christmas trees, or the immensity of the clean-up ahead of us.


We also have a new appreciation for our community. When we put out a call for help, people showed up as soon as trees and power lines were cleared from the road. Over the next couple of weeks, we figure over a hundred people helped pick up glass, insulation, and nails from our pastures and hay fields. Neighbors dropped off meals and supplies to help us recover. Two people with drones flew the nearby area to help us recover items that were carried up to two miles away.


We've replaced the Shop roof and are in the process of fixing the barn. We expect to have everything fixed and functional again before our next Christmas season. We wouldn't be this far along in our recovery if not for the support of our friends and neighbors.

Red barn with a ladder leaning against a partially replaced silver roof.
The Christmas Shop has a shiny new roof!

maple season

Maple season started slow and steady at the end of February. By late March we had perfect weather, producing two of our best maple runs we've ever had. Then it warmed up. Without freezing nights, the sap couldn't run, and we couldn't make syrup. We'd been poised to have a record maple year. Then it looked like the season would end prematurely and we'd be short of our 200 gallons of maple syrup goal.


After a few hot days (which produced the tornado), temperatures dipped back to seasonable highs and lows. We were able to make another 30 gallons before the sugaring ended. We still finished short of our goal, with 180 gallons of syrup. At that point, we were just grateful for the harvest we got, and that we were able to boil those last few runs. (If you want more information on maple syrup grades and Vermont maple syrup, read here.)


Interested in numbers?


Sugar Maples tapped: 799

Red Maples tapped: 1

Gallons of syrup produced: 180

Season Start: February 27th

Season End: April 7th

Days Boiled: 28 (we don't boil every day during the season)

Sap buckets hang on trees. A man wearing a yellow coat carries two five gallon buckets of sap.

Want to learn about spring on the farm? Look for part II in next week's post for baby sheep, baby trees, and our environmental goals for the year.


You can find our syrup at the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op, or stop by the farm Saturdays between 1-4pm to pick some up in person (honey is available at the farm too!). Tag us @wernertreefarm to show us how you've been enjoying your maple syrup.


Until next time,

Amanda

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