Frostmore Farm began like many small family-owned businesses – as a hobby. But when you take a hobby and mix it with education and passion, it can become much more.
When Frostmore Farm owners Adam and Rachel Taylor first started to collect sap to make maple syrup, it was a fun hobby to add to their busy lives – he is an engineer at the U.S. Forest Service and she is a physicians assistant at West Virginia Community Care in Green Bank.
While their jobs have remained the same, their hobby became a full fledged corporation –thanks to a visit to the heart of maple country in New England two years ago.
One of Rachel’s dreams is to visit all 50 states and so the couple took a trip to New England to begin to fulfill the dream.
“In order to kind of keep things fun for him, too, because I was dragging him here and there, I said, ‘let’s go visit some sugar houses and maple syrup makers,” Rachel said. “We saw what people were doing, and it was stuff that we knew existed but we didn’t know anybody who was doing it. When we got home, Adam was super pumped up, saying ‘we’ve got to use our trees. We’ve got to tap more trees than we did last year.’”
Adam was excited to get started, not only because of the new-found information, but because it was a way to carry on the maple tradition of his family.
“It’s a lot of fun, and it’s tradition,” Adam said. “My family’s been doing it here since they bought the place and then there was a long period of time when they didn’t make it. So it’s kind of neat to bring it back and bring some new stuff to it.
“It’s very rewarding,” he continued. “It’s a lot of work. I know there’s people out there who think you just tap the tree and you get syrup. It’s a lot of work, but it’s very satisfying because you’re making something. It’s like growing a garden. You’re harvesting sap and you are making this product, and it tastes really good and people enjoy it a lot.”
Taking the new-found business seriously, the couple attended Cornell Maple Camp which is basically an adult summer camp dedicated to maple.
“We had maple industry experts teaching us from start to finish,” Rachel said. “ They were from the University of Vermont and Cornell, and people who have dedicated their lives to the maple industry and research in the maple industry. We were just like little sponges. We learned so much. That’s when I learned about maple cotton candy and learned how to make the maple creme. You name it, we learned about it there.”
The Taylors came home and outfitted their maple farm with high tech supplies which perfect the collection of maple tree sap. With blue vacuum pressure tubing running from tree-to-tree, the sap empties into a giant vat before it is heated to remove water. Then, it goes to the evaporator where it is heated again to become maple syrup.
While the Taylors are happy to use new technology to expedite the process, they continue to use good old-fashioned taps and galvanized tin buckets to collect sap.
“We always keep it moving,” Adam said. “There’s a gradient in the pans, so we try to be really consistent and keep it always coming in and always coming off. I think my favorite part is out in the woods, setting up the tubing and getting the sap. We’re really effective at getting sap in the tank.”
After the sap is collected and heated to their liking, the Taylors filter it with diatomaceous earth and bottle it at the perfect temperature.
“We use diatomaceous earth, and we mix it in with the hot syrup that’s ready to be filtered,” Adam said. “The syrup comes into these hollow ones and pushes the syrup through the papers. The DE gets caught in the paper and anything else in the syrup gets caught in the paper, and it comes out super fine and clear.”
The filtering system is so effective, Adam said if he poured coffee grounds and water into the system, the water would come out clear, without a scent or trace of coffee in it.
The business has grown in the past two years to include a self-serve farm stand and “value added products” like maple cotton candy, maple creme, maple tea and more.
“The farm stand is on the honor system,” Rachel said. “We have a few different sizes of syrup available there and we try to keep it stocked with candy and some different maple items. I had some maple tea in there, too.”
The stand has been successful and averages one visitor per day.
The farm is always open to visitors who are interested in seeing the maple syrup process. Visitors may also find themselves put to work if their timing is right.
“People have always stopped by,” Rachel said. “At first it was just people we knew, like friends and family that would stop and kind of help, and just shoot the bull for a little bit. That next spring, we put some signs up by the road and we got in a few stores, and we started doing fairs and festivals, and the interest grew.”
This year, the Taylors have decided to have a special event at the farm to welcome visitors. In celebration of West Virginia Maple Syrup Day, the farm is open each weekend in March for tours.
Frostmore Farm is joining syrup producers around the state to open their farms to the public.
“Different sugar houses and syrup makers across the state are opening up and doing different things,” Rachel said. “If they come to the farm, basically any weekend between now and whenever season ends, sometime in March, then they’ll be able to see the tree-to-table process.
“They’ll be able to watch the tubing in action – maybe help us gather some buckets,” she continued. “If the evaporator is running, they’ll watch the boiling process and taste hot syrup off the evaporator because there’s nothing tastier than that and then if we’re bottling or canning, or if we’re making one of our value added products, they can see that. You’ll be able to see the process from start to finish or some parts in between, weather cooperating, and we’ll definitely have samples available.”
The business is ever-growing and Rachel is finding more products to make using maple syrup.
“As soon as I can figure out how to appropriately and safely market it, we are going to unveil a maple balsamic vinaigrette and it is absolutely fantastic,” Rachel said. “I eat it all the time now on my salads. We’ve got a lot of new things up there this year. We identified our weak areas from last year. Now we have a commercial kitchen that’s getting a porch built on it and we’re hoping to be able to have some picnic tables and maybe even do a little maple breakfast or something.”
While maple syrup is seen as a sugary sweet treat to have every once in a while, Rachel said there is research showing that maple also has health benefits.
“We went to an international maple syrup conference this fall and they had a Ph.D. that studies health benefits and maple research,” she said. “When you break down maple to a molecular level, there’s a same structure as what is in tamoxifen which is a breast cancer drug. It’s in way less amounts than that molecule, but it’s exactly the same as tamoxifen. They’re just finding out all sorts of really cool stuff about maple syrup.”
Maple syrup has one of the best glycemic indexes and more than 100 percent of the manganese an individual needs in a day.
It’s obvious when speaking with the Taylors, that they are both passionate about maple syrup.
“I feel kind of silly sometimes, but I honestly feel that maple syrup is my life’s passion – at this point in my life,” Rachel said. “I love being outside in nature, and [syrup] comes out of a tree. It’s all natural. It’s delicious. If you want to talk for hours with me, just talk to me about maple syrup.”
Frostmore Farm is located on Route 92 between Dunmore and Frost.
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at email@example.com