Six Generations of Maple Production
For the Branon family, producing pure Vermont maple syrup has been a way of life for six generations.
Located in the Green Mountains of Fairfield, Vermont, Tom and Cecile Branon head up the operation at Branon Family Maple Orchards. Each year, they hand-tap about 90,000 maple trees to produce the highest quality certified organic maple syrup with the help of family and friends. They keep a sample from each batch to maintain strict quality control and trace their favorites.
Conservation and sustainability are top of mind for every decision they make. Branon Family Maple Orchards has conserved more than half of their 4,800 acres of maple forests with the Vermont Land Trust to preserve the land for future generations. In addition to trees, they tap the sun to power their sugarhouses with solar panels to reduce their carbon footprint. Being certified as a “Bird Friendly Habitat” by the Vermont Audubon Society and maintaining a farm management plan with the State of Vermont guarantees the birds and habitat a safe environment for balanced health.
Tom and Cecile have grown from dairy farming as their primary focus and a few thousand maple taps – collected the old-fashioned way with metal buckets and a team of work horses – to a sophisticated network of vacuum tubing and reverse osmosis machines for maximum efficiency. This is one of the many ways they have innovated to grow and preserve their family business.
In 2020, they unveiled an industry-first with Maple to Go!, a TSA-compliant reclosable pouch, making organic maple syrup accessible for travelers and outdoor adventurers everywhere.
June 1st of 2013, we added 18 solar tracker panels to the land to produce electricity on the grid to run the operation. “Tapping the Sun” as we call it, is in full tilt and still producing generous energy from the sun still in 2020.
New Sugarhouse Construction
The end of July 2014, we decided that we were going to build a new sugarhouse! The first stick of lumber was laid on the concrete on September 1st and a new building went up. Thanks to great friends, family and our wonderful community for helping with the project along the way. It is beautiful and we enjoy having more room to work, as we had outgrown the old sugarhouse. It was our focus to make this Sugarhouse a clean and easy operational building. It is better than 10,000 square feet and meets our needs. We also open the building up to the public for tours and field trips for elementary, middle and high school students. We work along with the Vocational Forestry Group from Cold Hollow Career Center to come when we are in season and boiling for the trade school to use as an educational tool.
Oil Fired Evaporators
The building is home to two – 6 x 16 oil fired evaporators. As well as 3 Reverse Osmosis 8 membrane machines that concentrate the sap to a higher sugar content here at the main sugarhouse. In doing so, we try to conserve as much energy as we can, finding ways to continue to reduce our energy blueprint.
Cold Hollow Mountain Range
In 2016, we purchased a part of the Cold Hollow Mountain range which is just over 2000 acres from the Vermont Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy. It was a huge opportunity and task for us, our sons, and our team of employees. We have set up one part of the woods since then, although it may take us a few years to turn the entire property into a working sugarbush. With the next generation working with us and a great team of employees the task will be at hand.
We have been members with the Vermont Land Trust since 1997 in which we conserved our land in Fairfield and in 2016 we conserved over 2000 acres in Bakersfield. In 2003 we received Organic Certification with the Vermont Organic Farmers for our Maple Syrup, since then we added Maple Cream, Maple Sugar, Maple Vinegar, Maple Candy, and Maple Jelly to the organic line of products. All the products we sell are made here by us. In 2016 we were certified a “Bird Friendly” Sugar Bush by the Vermont Audubon Society. We take pride in having an exceptionally clean environment to process our products.
“The best part of Life is when your family becomes friends and your friends become family!”
Generations of Tradition
In 1997 Tom and I, his sister Ann and Danny, a friend that was working with us at the time, were gathering sap in the woods. At that time, we were tapping about 8,000 on buckets and we had approximately 2,000 taps on a gravity pipeline system.
It was lunchtime and we stopped to grab a quick sandwich and talked about the family history of working with the team of horses gathering sap. Tom and Ann recalled having a little one-horse hitch with a sled and having so much fun with the horses. They were also recalling memories of working with their father and grandfather in the woods and sugarhouse.
We talked about a logo or a slogan for a sign at the sugarhouse or painting them on the gathering tubs that the horses drew through the woods. Something that when anyone read it they would get an idea about the family, and how for generations they have made Vermont Maple Syrup.
Vermont Maple Festival Parade
Every year we entered the team of horses in the Vermont Maple Festival Parade, which takes place here in Franklin County in the spring, we wanted to dress up the gathering tubs with something special. Well we bounced around several ideas. The word traditional or traditions was a must, and also generations.
After a few days, it was decided “Generations of Tradition” was founded. At night, after a day of gathering sap and milking cows, we got together and started to stencil and paint on the gathering tubs. It was fun and looked great! Other family members that made maple syrup on their farms wanted it painted on their gathering tubs too!
The parade was special that year with the Big Draft horses walking down the street pulling the gathering tubs carrying the kids. Something special was added and most people that know this big family of ours understood what the slogan stood for.
Anyway, that is how our slogan all came about. Four people working in the woods, loving what they were doing and thinking about how many others before them did the same thing. Making a simply beautiful, natural product – Pure Vermont Maple Syrup!