Sugaring – Old or New?

What do you think of when you think of sugaring—buckets and gathering tubs, or tubing and vacuum? It is interesting that most photographs of sugaring feature the old style. If you go to Google Images and search for “maple sugaring,” you will find many pictures of buckets but not many pictures of tubing. We are nostalgic about our past. Even at Yankee Farm Credit: the back cover of our 2008 annual report features a sugaring photo that is more old than new.

But most maple sap nowadays is collected with tubing. One of the larger sugaring operations in Yankee’s territory is Joe Russo’s sugarbush in Belvidere, Vermont: The Green Mountain Maple Sugar Refining Company. Below is Joe standing under the pipelines that bring sap from more than 70,000 taps into his sugarhouse:

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Sugarmaker taps innovation, tradition

March 7, 2008
By Joel Banner Baird
Free Press Staff Writer

BELVIDERE — It sounded like a truck letting off its air brakes Thursday in the boiler room of the Green Mountain Maple Sugar Refining Company. Wrong. It was just owner Joe Russo, testing a pneumatic valve cleaner.

At the back of the complex, a big diesel engine drove a generator and rack of torso-sized, water-cooled vacuum pumps. Their combined volume made conversation impossible. But the steam evaporator was quiet; it won’t fire up for a week or so. Sap runs strong but late in Belvidere. Russo moved quickly and easily through a maze that sometimes resembled a submarine’s engine room, sometimes a dairy. He stepped outside and squinted into the brilliant March sun. Shod in snowshoes, a tapping crew of 15 tramped through maple stands, snooping for leaks in the long vacuum lines.

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A Wonderful Day!!!

After breaking his foot at the beginning of this year, Joseph Russo, owner of the Green Mountain Maple Sugar Refining Company Inc. made the best of his situation and took the time to work on his new restaurant that will be located in Belvidere. During that time, Russo was appointed as a chef instructor at the New England Culinary Institute. The People in this picture gathered together in the Hyde Park home of Virginia Bailey on Wednesday, August 10, to celebrate Russo’s appointment.

Maple Winners Already On The Table

St. Albans Messenger, Friday April 19, 1996
By Shawn Corrow, Messenger Staff Writer

St. Albans, The 29th Annual Vermont Maple Festival began at 10 a.m. today when the doors opened at festival headquarters in the American Legion Hall on Klingman Street.

As the Day continues, other events and venues were to open including the St. Albans Historical Museum on Church Street, the craft show and sale at City Hall and the carnival rides at the city parking lot off from Federal Street.

The first day of the three-day event also includes the Youth Talent Show at Bellows Free Academy at 7 p.m.

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25,000 taps make a lot of maple syrup

The Mountain Villager
Volume V, Number 16, April 17, 1997

By Stephanie M. Urie
Mountain Villager Correspondent

Waterville – The quantity, quality and caliber of maple syrup flowing out of the operation at five-year-old Green Mountain maple Sugar Refining Co. here is garnering widespread recognition and respect.

Not just another sugar maker, owner Joe Russo designed state-of-the-art equipment to process the sap from his 25,000 hillside taps. A custom-engineered steam pan evaporates the clear sap into mostly fancy and medium syrup the he sells.

One day this season found Russo tending the syrup while exuberantly narrating an educational documentary for a film crew, posing for photographs for national gourmet magazine and talking with two journalists.

Such acclaim is due to the care Russo has invested in his crop. George Cook University of Vermont Extension Service maple specialist, said, “This is probably the most modern and up-to-date sugaring operation in the area. The technology and safety features are seven steps ahead of the rest of us.”

“To make quality of a large quantity is difficult,” Russo said. “But, I’ve been able to supersede my expectations because of the speed with which the sap goes through [the process].”

Russo engineered a custom evaporator that measures 10-feet by 8-feet by 2-feet. David Albright, of Jeffersonville constructed the innards of the behemoth. The steam pan has no arch and, hence, is without a direct fire underneath. Instead, the pan is fired by a colossal oil burner that creates steam that threads its way through hundreds of feet of copper tubing – while ingesting 75 gallons of fuel an hour. “Just think, a gourmet food product from the forest without harvesting timber,” said Russo. The sap flows in plastic tubing from the trees downhill into a holding tank, then runs by 16 ultraviolet light bulbs which purify it, killing bacteria. This contributes the quality and grade of his syrup. A reverse-osmosis machine draws water away from the sap and the resulting sugar water is pre-warmed to 140 degrees.

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Sweet Business for Belvidere maple producer

The Stowe Reporter
Thursday, March 20, 2003

By Ethan Dezotelle

Joe Russo was a very happy man last Sunday. As temperatures broke into high 50’s around the state on March 16 and put an end to an unseasonably cold winter, maple syrup producers sprang into action as sap dripped into buckets and flowed down pipelines.

For Russo, who operates in Belvidere the largest sugar bush in the state, according to the Vermont Department of Agriculture, it’s a day that’s been a long time coming.

“It’s a hell of a run and a great day,” Russo said Sunday afternoon as he stood next to a series of large pipelines running from the heights of the mountain behind his sugarhouse to two gathering tanks at its base. “I want to keep up with the flow. I don’t like the sap to sit around too long.”

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Franklin County Farmer

Spring 2004 – Issue 10
By Ethan Dezotelle

Belvidere maple producer taps into new territory
Joe Russo looks ever bit the part of a traditional Vermont maple syrup producer. From the tip of his yellow toque to his durable overalls to his heavy duty winter boots, he typifies the image of a rugged sugarer, willing to take on the elements and, if necessary, defy Mother Nature to put out a crop of quality maple syrup. He also comes off as a bit of an anachronism, dressed as he is, given the backdrop of the cutting edge sugaring operation he has built over the past few years. Standing behind his sugarhouse in Belvidere, his mustache catching flakes of gently falling snow, he reaches up and places a hand on one of seven white three-inch pipes stretching down from the Belvidere mountainside and into the sugarhouse.

“People look at these things and think it’s really something,” Russo says. “They come up here to check things out and get really excited.”

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Sugaring in Belvidere

News and Citizen Volume 122, No25 No5532, March 24, 2005
by Alicia Morissette

March 18, 19 and 20 were the days in which people could tour sugarhouses across Vermont and see what sort of sugary goodies can be made from sap. Some sugarhouses were only open on Saturday and Sunday, and some were not open at all.

The Green Mountain Maple Sugar Refining Co., Inc. (GMMSR) was not open to the public, but is a large operation. GMMSR is at the top of Boarding House Hill Road in Belvidere, and is owned by Joe Russo, who has a unique way of sugaring and is concerned with conserving Vermont’s natural resources.

After founding GMMSR on November 12, 1991, Russo has been creating new equipment that has helped sugarmakers and the environment. His newest invention, the Russo Economizer, was tried for the first time on Monday, March 21, and will “decrease the time and energy used in maple syrup production,” said Russo. He also added that his invention will be patented soon.

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