Monday, March 16, 2015


We did it. We survived another season. I think this one was more
difficult than last year after having some time to digest everything.
We have an awesome following of very loyal customers – thank you to
each and every one of you. You made it in spite of bad weather
conditions, muddy soup for parking and wet festival grounds.

Also, a huge thank you to our vendors who attended the festival. We
had several new faces this year and we enjoyed everyone. We have a
great group of people and you guys feel like a part of our family
every year.

Last but not least, a big thank you to all of our staff members.
Everyone worked SO HARD this year. It isn’t an easy job and everyone
was just wonderful.

The open house was a great success!! The weather was pretty nasty on
Friday. We got a ton of rain, resulting in flash flooding in the area.
We had a river running through our Sugarhouse at 11:30pm on Friday
evening. The little ditch that runs along the east end of the
Sugarhouse jumped the banks and ran right into the dining room area.

The rain on Friday continued into Saturday morning. Our crowds were
fairly small on Saturday, but we still had several brave customers
make it out to the farm. The sun came out in the afternoon and
everything finally started drying out. You could feel spring in the
air. The flowers started blooming, the grass started turning green,
and the birds were singing.

Sunday was absolutely gorgeous. We hit 70* with sunshine all day. We
had a decent crowd. Definitely much smaller than a regular festival,
but we still filled up two fields with parked cars and had a steady
stream of customers all day. Kids were playing in the creek and
everyone was greatly enjoying soaking up the sunshine. Mason ran
around all day with my mom. I think he wore her out!!

The warm weather is beautiful, but it means an end to our season. The
trees are getting ready to bud out and without freezing temperatures
at night, our sap collection is over for the year. We still have a
little bit more sap to boil, so we will probably have one more boil
this week. We will start pulling taps and cleaning our tubing system
this weekend. We will hopefully have 3-4 crews in the woods this
weekend and get everything finished and cleaned up for the season. As
much as I love the farm, I think all of us are a little burned out
right now. Late nights and working every weekend catches up to all of
us eventually.

After we get everything cleaned up and shut down for the year, we will
probably take a little break from working at the farm. We will
obviously still be up there at least once a week to mail orders,
bottle syrup, and mow grass all summer, but now it’s time for some
family time!!

Robert, Mason and I enjoy camping all summer. We have a 27’ travel
trailer and we love exploring campgrounds in the area. We ride bikes,
go hiking, swimming, and build bonfires. Mason is already asking when
we are going camping for the first time and we need to go shopping and
get him a new bike this year. He has already decided that it has to be
a BLUE bike. I am so excited about this summer. Mason is going to have
so much fun. I’m sure it is going to be impossible to keep him inside
or wearing shoes all summer!!

Jen shows her horse all summer. Her first show is next week in Aiken,
SC. Robert, Mason and I travel with her as much as possible to attend
her local shows. Most of the show grounds also have wonderful
campsites (our favorite is the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington,
Kentucky). She has big plans for this summer so send her good luck

I’ll still update everyone with our summer outings and business
updates. We will be having several more open house weekends this year
so check back for dates when they are announced. Now, go outside and
enjoy the beautiful weather!!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A little perspective

Thank you for the kind words and comments on my last post. I’ve been a
little down for the past few days due to some negative feedback received about the Festival. Some of it was well deserved (the grounds were extremely muddy and parking was practically mud soup by the end of the weekend). I know we cannot make everyone happy and there is probably one negative complaint out of 1,000 happy customers. I
appreciate and welcome constructive criticism. If you see something that you have a good idea about improving, please let me know. I’d love to hear it.

I think a lot of people see the business as a well established, well oiled machine. While we have been making syrup on the farm for almost 30 years, this is only the second year that the business has been
owned and operated by myself, Robert, Jen and Nic. In previous years, the business was operated as a seasonal hobby by my parents. My father had a well established career, so it wasn’t detrimental if the business had a great year or a bad year. The four of us are all under the age of 32 (Robert is the old man of the family), Robert and I have
a young son, and we all work regular full time jobs in addition to running the farm. While it won’t be crisis to our families if the farm doesn’t make a profit at this time, taking a loss every year isn’t a
viable option for us.

Making syrup is a weather dependant farming activity. We have no control over how much syrup we produce each year. We can do things that improve our syrup making process (replacing our tubing system, converting to a different spile size) and make our syrup making
process more efficient (new reverse osmosis machine, log splitter last
year, tractor last year), but we can’t make the sap come out of the trees if the weather conditions aren’t exactly right. The last two years have had very unfavorable weather conditions. We need a freeze/thaw pattern. We had an extremely cold winter last year
followed by a very warm spring. Same thing is happening this year. When the weather is negative one week, followed by 60s the next week, our season is basically over.

Now that we are operating the business, and running it like a business, we have had to make several changes in order to survive. We aren’t doing things like charging for the games ($1.00 for 5 tickets, each game costs 1 or 2 tickets) to get rich and nickel and dime our
customers, we are doing it so we can break even and pay our staff members to run the Festival. For example, if we have 6 people running the game area for 4 days from 9-5am, that is 192 paid employee hours. Let’s use a nice even number at $10/hour. That means we are paying $1,920 in labor for what used to be a free activity. By charging a
very small fee ($0.20 per ticket if you buy 5), we are able to cover most of our labor costs associated with paying the 6 people to run the activity each day.

Several people complained that there was a small fee for the candle making activity, which is $1.50 per candle. The candle making activity is run by a local youth group and 100% of the profits are donated to that charity. They don’t make a huge profit, but the little bit that
they do receive goes a long way to helping young people in our

Same thing with the kitchen – our meal prices increased slightly this year (the largest increase was $1.00) and we started charging $1.00 per drink instead of including a free drink with every meal purchase. I don’t know about you, but I can’t even go to Taco Bell and feed my
family of three for under $25. Our most expensive meal option is $11.00, which is a half chicken BBQ dinner, served with three sides. Children under the age of 5 can eat breakfast at no charge. Two local
churches run our kitchen area and a very large percentage (lets just say it’s above 75%) of the kitchen profit is donated to the churches.

Lastly, one of the most often heard complaints is our parking area. We
know its muddy and it is not even remotely ideal. We get numerous
suggestions to offer paved parking. Let’s do the math on that. By my estimation and by using Google maps, I believe that we would need to pave approximately 27 acres to offer paved parking and pave the most heavily traveled festival grounds. I did a Google search on paving
costs and I’ll use $1.75 per square foot for an easy, round number. 27 acres converted into square feet is 1,176,120 square feet. So that’s $2,058,210, not including ground preparation, gravel and maintenance.

Anyone in the paving business want to weigh in on this?

So, no, we are not trying to nickel and dime our customers. We aren’t laughing all the way to the bank. We are genuinely trying to help people in our community by offering fundraising activities and share
our family farm with you. We still have to wake up and go to work 5 days a week to pay our bills. 4 months out of the year, every day after working all day at our “regular” jobs, we go to the farm and
work so we can make enough syrup to get through one more year. It’s
not easy. My tax papers showed a whopping $410.00 paid for wages I earned at the farm last year. We get cold, tired, muddy, hurt, and we miss spending precious time with our families - but we love this farm. This is where Jen and I grew up. This is where Mason will grow up. I hope that one day we can watch Mason’s family splash in mud puddles and fall in love with it like we do.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Two Down...One to Go (with update on our OPEN HOUSE plans)

If I summed up this weekends’ Festival in one word, it would be MUDDY.

photo by Jared Phillips - mud puddles!! 

The weather this week has been crazy. We had a storm come through the
area on Wednesday/Thursday and the weathermen couldn’t tell if it was
going to be rain, snow, sleet, or Godzilla. Some were calling for 24+
inches of snow or 2 inches of snow. We ended up getting 2 inches of
rain on Wednesday. After the rain came through, the temperatures
dropped to -3* and we got 5 inches of snow. After the snow came
through, the temperatures warmed back up to the mid 40s and the
temperatures will be above 60 by the end of the week. Welcome to

Due to the weather, there was mud EVERYWHERE. Parking was muddy, the
grounds were muddy, the mud was tracked into the store, even I was
muddy. The parking guys did a great job pushing/pulling everyone out
that needed assistance and I saw a lot of kids thoroughly enjoying
stomping in mud puddles.

Mason enjoyed the mud!!!

We had a hard freeze Friday night and everything was frozen solid on
Saturday morning. Parking held up fairly well until the temperatures
rose above freezing, at which time the parking lots quickly
deteriorated into a mud pit. It froze again on Saturday night, but it
only improved the parking from a mud bog to a slightly frozen mud bog.
Before....Friday evening.


Everyone always asks us why we don’t gravel or pave our farm and
parking areas. Well, first of all, it’s a farm and the fields you park
in at the festival are our hay fields in the summer. Secondly, it is
also not financially responsible to gravel or pave our entire farm for
a 4 day festival. We lay a large amount of straw, gravel the main
drive, and gravel the entrance/exit lanes in the parking area, but the
mud just consumes everything we put on the ground. Lastly, call me
crazy, but it wouldn’t be the Maple Syrup Festival without the mud. I
know it’s hard to park, but where else do you get the chance to see an
operating maple syrup farm and stomp in some mud puddles?

Future syrup farmer in the making!!

Minus the mud, the festival ran smoothly this weekend. We were up late
boiling and bottling syrup several nights, but no 1:30am trips to
Wal-Mart this weekend!! We did run out of syrup on Saturday afternoon.
We made more during the day on Saturday and overnight from
Saturday/Sunday, and quickly ran out again on Sunday afternoon. People
seemed to be fairly patient.

We are actively producing syrup this week and expect to make a large
quantity within the next 3-4 days. We do expect our season to be over
by the end of the week, unless we get a freeze at night one day this
week. Several days above freezing usually causes the trees to bud out
very quickly with all of the moisture in the ground.

Due to the crazy weather and the shortage of syrup in plastic
containers this past weekend, we are opening the farm for a third
weekend on March 14th and 15th. We will be open from 9am-5pm both
days. Our open house will feature many of our vendors, syrup available
in the store, pancakes and waffles served all day, and maple BBQ pork
available for lunch and dinner. We will have the Children’s Activity
Center open for coloring and dress up activities. Our horse drawn
wagon rides will be available on Saturday only.

We WILL NOT be offering our maple BBQ chicken, branding irons, candle
making activity, straw maze, maple tea, or running our evaporator
(unless we get a hard freeze this week, which is not expected).

We will be posting a complete list of activities later in the week
once we get everyone scheduled. Please send us an email
( or call (812-967-4491) if you have any

Thursday, March 5, 2015

One Down...Two to Go!

We are digging our way out of about 6" of snow. Some areas in the kentuckiana area have up to 18" - yikes!!!

We had some great weather on Tuesday and Wednesday and had a great sap run so we will have plenty of delicious maple syrup for our customers!!!

The festival is still on this weekend. Some of our activities will be limited due to the weather, but we will have plenty of fresh maple syrup and yummy food available. Most of our vendors are expected to attend as well.

We know that a lot of our loyal customers are snowed in, so we have made the decision to continue the festival for a third weekend on March 14 & 15. We are still working out all of the details and we will keep everyone updated as everything comes together!!

So down...two to go!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

One down....One to go!!

The first weekend is in the books….and it was an eventful weekend.
Lots of late nights, hard work, bloody fingers, and chapped lips!! I
think a majority of our customers thoroughly enjoyed attending the
festival and had a wonderful day at the farm.

I ended up taking a half day on Wednesday, and I was off all day on
Thursday and Friday. Robert was at the farm almost all week and Jen
and Nic worked as their work schedules allowed. Busy, busy, busy!!

Our first interesting debacle of the festival started earlier in the
week. We called our existing credit card service provider to turn on
our credit card machines. Since we are seasonal, we only have our
credit card machines activated for 3 weeks out of the year for our
Festival. We learned at this time that our credit card machines were
outdated and in order to use our existing service provider, we had to
purchase very pricy new machines. We started researching other
available options and decided to run all of our credit transactions
through the Square program, using tablets. We were able to purchase
tablets and download the Square program without any problems, only to
find out that our wifi-network didn’t have the range to run the
tablets in the store. We purchased a super fancy wifi booster and the
signal made it to the store. We thought we were all set up and ready
to go….until Friday evening. We attempted to connect all of the
tablets to the network, only to discover that our router wasn’t a dual
band router. We couldn’t connect multiple devices at the same time. So
Jen and I trucked it to Wal-Mart at 1:30am on Saturday morning….the
Saturday morning OF the festival. Jen and I stayed up until 3:30am
working on hooking up the new router, getting the booster and router
communicating with each other, and getting the tablets connected to
the network. With some help from Nic in the morning, we were able to
get our tablets ready. Talk about a stressful 12 hours. We were
slightly panicking that we would not be able to run cards in the
store. This would have been catastrophic. Thankfully, everything
worked out and the tablets worked all weekend in the store without a
single glitch.

Late night store work!!

Saturday turned out to be a very nice day. Yes, it was cold and there
was still snow on the ground, but our faithful fans still came out to
the farm. Everyone seemed appreciative of the changes in the store. We
had SO much more space for customers to browse around. We have a few
improvements that we will make before next weekend, namely moving the
cash registers and reconfiguring our cashier counters, but overall,
everything went extremely well in the store. We were short on our
supply of Grade B syrup due to our cold weather conditions, and we
sold out on Saturday afternoon. The weather looks promising for making
a lot of syrup this week, so keep your fingers crossed that we will
make a lot more!!

Photo credit: Wendy Gordon

Photo credit: Wendy Gordon

Parking held up as well as can be expected. The ground was frozen
solid on Saturday, but was muddy on Sunday. Our parking guys were
ready with several tractors, gravel, and straw and I think we made it
through without any major problems.

The food at the festival was being served by a new church group this
year. It was nerve wracking for everyone and there was a learning
curve, but I think the new group did an outstanding job. The tablets
were also being used in the check-out lines for the kitchen. We had a
few small issues with connectivity, but overall, nothing major. I had
waffles both days and they were delicious.

The vendors didn’t fare quite as well as everyone else. We had several
cancel due to sickness and the weather. Those who attended seemed to
be happy with the turnout on Saturday. Our new food tuck was AMAZING.
I had a calzone for lunch both days. Talk about yummy. For $8, I got a
huge calzone, large enough to feed two people. It was delicious.
Everything was made from scratch and tasted unbelievable. Russell, the
food truck owner, was a hoot and everyone enjoyed him. I got two
bottles of wine from the BEST Winery, located in the vendor cabin. I
got the Catawba and the Red Raspberry.

We are all pretty exhausted at this point, but it is totally worth it.
We got some helpful suggestions and feedback from our customers and we
will be making improvements before next weekend.

The maple tea will be available next weekend. Many were disappointed
that it was not available. Due to the extremely cold weather
conditions for the past two weeks, we finished boiling our maple sap
early on Saturday morning. The rest of the weekend we were running
water through the evaporator for demonstrating purposes only. Not very
tasty for maple tea. Jen and I had discussed putting out a sign
explaining why the maple tea would not be available this weekend, but
our 3 hours of sleep caught up to us and we didn’t get it made. Fear
not, the maple tea has not been permanently discontinued!!!

We were also informed that several GPS systems advised drivers to take
Walker Road to reach the farm. Walker Road is a gravel road which
connects several very rural farms. It was a solid sheet of ice and
completely impassable. We were not aware that GPS would even know
Walker Road existed. We will be updating our website directions
advising people not to turn onto Walker Road, as well as posting signs
on the road itself not to turn.

Seeing people enjoy our farm makes all of the blood, sweat and tears
shed totally worth it. We greatly appreciate every one of you who
brave the cold weather and share our little farm in the woods!!