Located on a dirt road in Reading, VT, there are no signs indicating its presence. Making the turn onto Jenne Road off Rt 106, you’ll climb a short hill that opens up to a serene landscape of rolling Vermont hills. At the top of the hill there is an area to pull off on the right side of road, park your car, get out and take photos of the picturesque farm scene; cows, barns, pond and all. The farm was bought around 1790 and the current farmhouse that sits on the property was built in 1820.
It’s safe to say the family has been sugaring all along according to current family members John Morgan, Jeff Morgan and Chase Jenne, who handle daily operations and maintenance of the farm. What initially started as a boiling operation in the front yard, soon moved under the archway in the barn across the street from the house. The current sugar house was built by their great grandfather Nathaniel Jenne in 1896, and sugaring has taken place there ever since. Out of the 350 acres of farm, these days they tap about half the wooded portion of the property, roughly 100 acres.
Unlike many farms today, which use an intricate system of tubes that gather sap from the maple trees into large holding tanks by the road, the Jenne family harvest sap from individual buckets, the way their great grandfather did back in 1896. Trees are tapped and hung with buckets by hand, an intensive job when you are talking about 100 acres of woods to tap, and in a few inches of snow and mud none the less. Those same buckets are collected by hand when full, poured into a gathering tank which has been mounted to a large sled, and brought back to the sugar house.
At the sugar house, the gathering tank is emptied into a traditional steel evaporator made up of steel pans that sit above a wood firebox. The boiling process, mostly led by John Morgan who keeps the fire stoked and checks the temperature of the sap from time to time, is a waiting game. Once the sap reaches it’s ideal temperature, it's drawn, filtered, graded and bottled.
Speaking with Chase Jenne, this year was the earliest they have tapped the trees that he can remember, with sugaring operations beginning the last week in February. A long maple season for the farm as most years they begin sugaring the second week in March.
This past weekend they completed their last boil, lending to a total of 465 gallons of sweet maple syrup, a good year for the farm. On average their maple sugar crop any given year is about 450 gallons, anything less is sub par and anything more, a victory. The farms best year to date was back in 1977, when they made 1,050 gallons of syrup. But it’s all relative given they had 3,000 taps back then and are down to only 2,000 taps this year.
With John, Jeff and Chase overseeing the sugar season, it takes a lot of extra hands on deck to have a successful one. They luckily have a group of friends who come by and help throughout the season, gathering full buckets from the properties’ storied maple trees and exchanging stories late into the evenings as sweet maple scented smoke billows throughout the sugar house.
Out of the 465 gallons produced, the majority this year was fancy syrup, a golden color and delicate in taste. Perfect for drizzling over pancakes, waffles, ice cream, or adding to a morning latte. A small portion produced was Medium A, an amber color with rich flavor, best for cooking rather than drizzling.
The farm sells their syrup right out of the farmhouse, as long as someone is home. Gallons are $45, half gallons $25, quarts are $15 and pints are $10.
A true labor of love, the end product couldn’t be sweeter. So stop by the house, pick up a gallon of syrup and know it was made with love - love for the farm, love for the process, love for the land, love for tradition.