by Julie Cushine-Rigg
Go to the hills of Berne, NY and you may just catch a whiff of maple sap cooking away at Mountain Winds Farm. The Grippin family there has been producing maple products since 2005. That’s when Randy Grippin set out his first 50 pails and made the syrup production a yearly practice on the farm.
Grippin didn’t have a sugar house at his farm in the beginning, so their cooking was all outdoors over the open fire. Of those first batches, he said they still tasted like maple syrup but that there was a “gritty texture to it”. Now the farm has a sugar house, 1,600 taps, 18 miles of pipeline and a reverse osmosis water system/pump house — all producing about 500 gallons of syrup every year.
The farm started cooking for this season on Feb. 24.
In addition to syrup, Grippin and his wife Sally along with their three children, Christina, Daniel and Laura, produce maple sugar candy and maple cream at the farm. They also carry mustard, hot sauce, popcorn and other local products, which they sell along with their syrup at Farmers Markets in Saratoga, Albany and Colonie.
Off-site the farm has a sparkling tree water produced for them. It’s a carbonated water made from a portion of the water from the sap they harvest.
“That is water that has come off of the reverse osmosis…up to 75-85 percent of the water out of the sap.…The water that’s squeezed off is sold to ASARASI, and they haul it out to Buffalo and filter it and then they add the carbonation to it and bottle it and sell it back to us,” Grippin said. Flavors of the water include lemon-lime and cherry-lime. He describes it as “not as heavy as a seltzer” and said it’s not heavily carbonated.
The products are all very popular and Grippin said every drop of syrup they make every year is sold.
Every maple season folks are looking to visit sugar houses and enjoy pancake breakfast, so Mountain Winds gears up for many visitors. They are the only farm producing syrup in Albany County, which is listed on mapleweekend.nysmaple.com for Maple Weekends.
“We’ve been doing that for 10 years now. Weather conducive, we’ll get 100 plus cars a day,” said Grippin of the Maple Weekends.
The farm also hosts school groups, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
Cooking on the mountain
by Julie Cushine-Rigg