HADLEY- As steam billows out and over the top of the evaporating room at the North Hadley Sugar Shack, brothers Joe and John Boisvert begin the process of producing pure maple syrup for hungry customers in their adjacent breakfast restaurant as well as those looking to buy it all across the country.
“My brother John and I started this maple sugaring operation when were about 11 years old in my parents back yard boiling out of a single pot,” said Joe Boisvert.
After buying the farm from their grandparents in 1995 to begin their sugaring endeavors, the brothers opened the North Hadley Sugar Shack a year later to serve pancakes to their visitors featuring their maple syrup. After additions such as and animal village, vegetable crops and even hardy mums, the brothers have always embraced growth and advancements in their business because they still love doing what they do after all these years.
“Its all these ups and downs and unknowns that keep us here sugaring year after year,” said Joe, “ Its definitely a tough business.”
Though the sugaring season traditionally starts at the beginning of March, the brothers have to watch the weather patterns for the winter season to determine when they should start tapping the trees.
Stuck with a mild winter and a few freezing nights, the brother had to make a choice and start tapping their trees before the season technically started or wait until it did.
“It was like flipping a quarter,” said Joe, “We could have lost, we could have got burnt…but we didn’t and I’m glad we gambled because we made a lot of syrup.”
Joe attributes their success to their embrace of change.
“We tapped early because the weather was telling us to,” said Joe, ”We weren’t stubborn and old fashioned and said ‘no we are going to wait till March first because that’s sugaring season, we are not starting a day early.”
According to Joe, the gamble paid off because they were able to collect from almost three-fourths of the property.
“Here at our maple sugar farm, we have no complaints. Made a lot of good quality syrup,” He said.
One aspect of farming the brothers do not gamble on is their produce crops.
Many of the vegetables the brothers grow, like butternut squash, are already contracted out to specific buys before they are even planted.
“You don’t just want to jump right into something and not know where goes the finished product,” said Joe.
Some of the vegetables that grown on the farm are shipped to Connecticut, where they are distributed to multiple grocery stores in Connecticut and New York.
In a unpredictable business that continues to grown and branch out through new products and new buyers, its mother nature’s sweet gift that keeps Joe and his brother John coming back year after year to tap and create maple syrup.
“I think we are half crazy for doing it,” he said.