"You want to start a farm? We don't do that" ~a lender
We learned very quickly that no matter how well you've trained your ducks stay in a row, traditional lenders get squeamish when inquiring about starting a small family farm. Contrary to past experience, our combined stubbornness pleasantly surprised us when we talked with the Monroe County Farm Service Agency about Beginning Farmer Loans in 2011. While they had never worked on assisting a budding farmer break into producing this “niche market crop,” the loan officers were helpful and intrigued with maple syrup, and saw no reason we couldn’t work it out. Through the heroic effort of our friends and family, we setup our new-to-us stand of mature maple trees for collecting sap during the following winter. Bittersweet as it was, the 2012 season was the worst in recorded history, and reinforced our desire to diversify our fledgling farm while crafting the most delicious maple syrup imaginable. We sold our organic maple syrup to family, friends, as well as local restaurants and markets, and joined an organic maple syrup coop, Maple Valley, all while experimenting with how to uniquely showcase the maple flavor. Over a year has passed since our first serendipitous conversation with Central Waters Brewing Company at the Midwest Renewable Energy Associated Fair. We are now aging our certified organic maple syrup in their bourbon barrels, later to be used for aging a super secret special brew. So, here we are, your Tree Farmers.