WILSONS MILLS, Maine—Following a recent trend in the maple industry, another young sugarmaker has decided to go into the business in a big way.
Nick Staley, 40, of Wilsons Mills, Maine went from boiling off 100 taps on a Leader 2x4 evaporator last season, to 25,000 taps this season on a Leader 5x16 in a massive new sugarhouse and 150 miles of pipeline feeding right into it.
“We wanted to speed up the process,” Staley said during a tour for The Maple News on April 12.
Dave Fuller of Fuller’s Sugarhouse, a Leader Evaporator dealer in nearby Lancaster, N.H. and Leader consultant Dave Butler have spent the last nine months working side-by-side with Staley on getting him set up for the season.
It started last spring when Staley had a hunch that his grandfather’s land in Wilsons Mills might have some maples on it and invited Fuller to walk the woods.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a nicer sugarbush,” Fuller said. “It was loaded with maples, many of them nice big mature ones.”
In all, the team got three quarters or so tapped in time for this season. Another 5,000 to 6,000 will be tapped this spring.
Staley has been scrambling to keep up with a bumper maple season, working with four hired employees and a wife and three kids.
And Fuller, who has been making syrup himself since 1973, has been right there with him and “that gives us a comfort level,” Staley said.
“Being a new sugarmaker, there’s quite a bit of a learning curve,” he said.
There’s been a few hiccups. Flooded pumps, a couple of mechanical “oops’” here and there.
“But we haven’t burnt a pan, so that’s good,” he said.
In fact his biggest problem all season was not having enough drums and defoamer on hand. Fuller had to bring him more of both late in the season.
As of mid-April Staley had made more than 9,000 gallons.
“Not everyone has a great first year, but he has,” Fuller said.
“We’re having a good time and making lots of syrup,” Staley said.