Monday, March 29, 2010

Maple Syrup Production

My aunt Valerie LaFever sent along this link to the Watershed Post about this year's maple syrup production:

I'm sending it along because maple syrup used to be a big spring time activity in Bovina (and still is in a few places) and Bovina natives George and Duane LaFever (my uncle and cousin respectively) are featured in the article and on the YouTube clip. The gist of the article and the video clip is that maple syrup production was down significantly this year.

While maple syrup was never a leading money maker in Bovina, 19th century farmers did take advantage of the abundance of maple trees to satisfy whatever sugar fixes people had in those days. Until the advent of the railroads, cane sugar generally was too expensive for most households. In 1840, farmers produced 23,000 pounds of maple sugar. Production was down to 10,000 pounds by 1855 but back up to 43,000 in 1875, the last year for which I have found data for the town. In the 1870 census, over half of Bovina's farmers produced at least 50 pounds of sugar that year, including at least two of my (and George's and Duane's) ancestors. In the 20th century, my grandfather, Ben LaFever and his three sons, Howard, Charlie and George, produced syrup. The tradition continued with Howard and his sons and with George and his son Duane. For more information on Duane's Delhi based maple sugar operation, go to

Duane is carrying on something our forebears did over 150 years ago. Let's hope this downturn in production is a seasonal issue and that he'll be at full production next year.

And since I'm talking about Bovina farming, I should mention that September 5 has been set for the Bovina Farm Day. Stay tuned for more details as the date gets nearer.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Ray! Lissa Harris from the Watershed Post here. Thanks for the link. We very much enjoyed visiting your cousin's saphouse (and the tasty pancakes!), and were sorry to hear the yields are down so much this spring.

    I love your blog. There's so much amazing history tucked away up here. My family's from the area around Margaretville originally--I wish I knew more about what life was like for my great-great-grandparents.

    At the Watershed Post, we've been starting to think about how we can work with local historians to get more materials online, and we're interested in doing video/audio interviews of residents with long memories, especially in the towns that were displaced by the reservoirs. Feel free to be in touch if you have any thoughts about how we could work together.