Notes from the Farm: Twin Maples Farm

The Story of Twin Maples Farm: How a science fair project turned a 35-year-old hobby into a thriving Finger Lakes business.

From left, Jeremy Dawson, Heather Dawson, and their daughter, Madaline, 13, at The Dawson’s Family Twin Maples Syrup Farm in Beaver Dams, NY, Wednesday, March 24, 2021. (Photos by Heather Ainsworth)

Twin Maples Farm, located in Beaver Dams, has been making small-batch syrup for over 35 years, but it took co-owners Mike and Nancy Dawson’s grandaughter’s science fair project to spark the transition from a hobby into a business. Realizing they tapped into something good, the Dawson family invested in top-of-the-line equipment, and Mike and his son Jeremy built a new sugar house which allowed the family to move into full-scale production. Twin Maples Farm became a New York State Grown and Certified Maple Producer, and they proudly bottle all of their products exclusively in glass (which isn’t common in the syrup industry). Heather Dawson, Jeremy’s wife, (both who co-own the farm) shines a light on what it takes to run their business and encourages maple syrup lovers to think beyond pancakes. (Check out some of our maple syrup-inspired recipes, such as Maple Caramel Popcorn, Caramelized Apple Cake with Fresh Maple Cream, Maple Mustard Pork Tenderloin, and Maple Ginger Snaps!)

EFL: We love how your daughter’s science fair project led to your business! Can you tell us more about how this happened?

Heather: In 2016, my daughter Madaline presented a Science Fair project on turning sap into syrup, and people were fascinated. That year we had approximately forty taps on buckets, more than we needed for personal use. We bottled the extra syrup in mason jars and posted a few “syrup for sale” listings on our personal Facebook pages, offering it to local friends and family. Much to our surprise, we sold out. It was that first sold-out season that we realized we could make a go of it, and we turned what had been a lifelong family hobby into an actual family business.

EFL: What are some of the daily tasks involved in running Twin Maples Farm this time of year?

Heather: We had a very short season this year – four weeks instead of six. Our biggest run days would start as early as 4 am, with Jeremy getting up to start running the sap through our Reverse Osmosis (RO) machine. About 2 hours later, he would fire up our evaporator – we run a Leader 2’ x 6’ Patriot raised flue on a natural draft 2’ x 6’ arch. The firebox has to be “fed” every seven minutes over the course of the day as we are making syrup. Once we hit the 10-gallon mark, we move the syrup to a finishing pan, where we make sure it meets the correct brix level for finished maple syrup. Once we hit the mark, we then run it through a filter press and bulk bottle it (we will then bottle for sale at a later date). The day ends around 10 pm after we clean up our filter press and finishing pan and get set up to do it again the next day.

Mike Dawson helps to make maple syrup at The Dawson’s Family Twin Maples Syrup Farm in Beaver Dams, NY, Sunday, March 21, 2021. (Photos by Heather Ainsworth)

EFL: Running a farm is a lot of work! What are some things at the top of your mind in operating your maple syrup farm?

Heather: We are always thinking about how we can streamline our evaporating process and reduce the amount of time spent in the sugar house. During the peak season, Jeremy and Mike can spend 12-14 hours a day ROing, boiling, pressing/finishing, and bottling syrup. We are also always looking for ways to make it easier to maintain our taps and tubing, one of our biggest yearly expenses.

EFL: What are some of the things you wish more people knew about running a maple farm?

Heather: It is a year-round process – from maintaining our land and trees, cutting firewood, bottling, delivering orders, and retaining accounts. Also, most people don’t know just how much time and work goes into making a gallon of syrup – depending on the sugar content of the sap, it can take anywhere from 50-70 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. And finally, perhaps most importantly, maple syrup isn’t just for pancakes and waffles!  It is a very versatile product.

EFL: With so much to do, how do you and Jeremy divide the work?

Heather: Jeremy’s focus is maintaining our sugar bush – we currently have our 650+ taps spread across seven separate sugar bushes. That a lot of taps, trees, and miles of line to maintain. He’s also in charge of our RO and our evaporator (with the help of his dad, Mike). I handle the front end of the business – maintaining our Facebook page, answering email inquiries, working with our various wholesale accounts. We split the duties of delivering syrup depending on our personal schedules for the week.

Jeremy Dawson throws maple water sludge onto the lawn while cleaning the syrup shed after making the season’s last maple syrup at The Dawson’s Family Twin Maples Syrup Farm in Beaver Dams, NY, Wednesday, March 24, 2021. (Photos by Heather Ainsworth)

EFL: What are you working on for the farm in 2021?

Heather: We are slowly working our way through applying for an EQIP grant through USDA so that we can increase the size of our RO, which would allow us to cut our 14-hour day in the sugar house down to a more reasonable 5-6 hours.

EFL: It’s all so delicious! Where can people find your products?

Heather: In our small retail space, we offer a variety of products — from traditional maple syrup and maple cream to infused syrups and infused maple creams and seasonal jams. Twin Maples Farm can also be found in a number of local businesses, including Seneca Sunrise Coffee, Paradiso’s Village Bakery, and Millport Landing. We have also collaborated with The Great Escape Ice Cream Parlor, P’s Macarons, Stone Cat Cafe, Rye Bar, Urbana Hill Distillery, and most recently McGillicuddy’s.

Twin Maples Farm
1671 Co Rt 10
Beaver Dams, NY 1481

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