Ned and Wade Whitney are a father-son duo making maple in Adirondacks. It’s a family affair, and during the busy maple season the whole family is involved, including Ned’s wife Jennifer, and daughters Lauren (age 12) and Avery (age 9) in collecting, boiling, and bottling the sweet nectar of maple trees to be enjoyed year-round. We talked with Jennifer Whitney about how the family makes maple in the heart of the Adirondacks.
How did your family first get involved in making maple?
My husband Ned’s family has been making maple for three generations. In the 1970s his grandfather, great grandfather, and some other family members managed small-scale maple operations. His father and cousin also had a small maple operation in high school. His family’s maple business grew for years until the ice storm of 1998. The storm damaged many maple trees and went out of production until Ned and his father Wade brought the sugarbush back into production in 2009.
Tell me about your maple production.
We have 2,250 taps on Alstead Hill in Keene, NY. Plans are in place to double that for next year. The sap is collected through a network of tubing that connects the maple trees to a storage container. We then boil the sap in the sugar house with a wood-fired evaporator and use a reverse osmosis machine. We collect sap from a combination of Red Maple trees and Sugar Maple trees which gives our syrup an amazing flavor.
What does the maple season look like for your family?
For us, maple season is about six or so weeks of long days, seven days a week. Our whole family pitches in and helps where we can. We all go out into the woods and tap the trees, check the lines periodically for leaks, as soon as the kids Lauren and Avery get home from school we run right up to the sugar house and they help their dad and grandfather. The kids help label the syrup, run the blower for the evaporator, draw and filter the syrup and clean up at the end of the night. Many nights during Maple Season, we eat meals right in the sugar house. While Ned leads on making the maple and managing the equipment, I primarily manage our stock, sales, and deliveries. The kids walk to our farm stand and collect the money and restock it each day. Family friends also help during sugar season firing the evaporator, cutting and hauling wood, and keeping us stocked with snacks and drinks. At the end of the season, we all head out into the woods to untap the trees and clean it all up.
What is your favorite thing about making maple products?
The smell of the steam, the reward of the hard work and time spent with family.
What is your favorite way to enjoy maple?
On just about anything. On waffles, in our coffee, rib recipes, salad dressing, maple cream mixed with peanut butter on toast. The Whitney family is known for a maple cake with a fluffy maple frosting.
Where do you offer your products?
We have two self-serve farm stands open 24/7, 365 days a year on the corner of Alstead Hill and Route 73 in Keene and 11646 NYS Route 9n in Keene. We also have products for sale at the Valley Grocery in Keene Valley, where you can bring in a clean jug and it have it refilled for a discount. We also sell our products at Cedar Run Bakery, the Birch Store, Craigardan, Green Goddess, Enuf Chocolates, Twins Barn Farm and the Frontier Town Gateway. Keene Central School also uses our syrup for their pancake lunches.
Learn more about Whitney’s Maple Spring Farm here.