About Joe Russo
“I Grew up in New Jersey and Parents purchased a retirement home in Delaware County New York when I was 13 years old. I immediately became interested in maple as there were about 500 maple trees on that property and a very small lean-to sugarhouse with a single flat pan.”
As a young teenager, I wanted to produce maple syrup, however, I was still in high school at the time. I got permission from my parents to make a presentation to the board of education of my high school and the principal of the school. After the presentation, I asked for 10 weeks off in 9 th grade to go to the small sugarhouse and make syrup for my first year. I purchased my first 2 x 4 evaporator from Vermont Evaporator Company which at that time was in Ogdensburg, New York. They delivered the evaporator, and I was in business.
I went up and started, not really having any idea what I was getting myself into. My parents would not let me stay at the farmhouse alone so I stayed at a neighbors house who also made syrup. Mr. and Mrs. John Milk took me into their home and taught me and coached me and told me all the things I should know to make syrup. Mrs. Talina Milk was a retired school teacher and she tutored me on a daily basis so I did not fall too far behind in my high school studies. She was a wonderful lady who took care of me and taught me many things. We had neighbors nearby who own a large sugaring operation and made all of the confections. They are Mr. and Mrs. August Anderson of Long Eddy, New York and Mrs. Anderson was kind enough to come over and teach me how to make fine maple sugar candies, which I sold many of.
My Dad owned an Avis Rent a Car station in New Jersey and I packaged the syrup and sold it all there in very small containers, along with the maple candies and maple cream. I sold all of the crop each year there.
On April 23, 1974, lightening struck the sugarhouse just as I was leaving for the last boil of the season. There was a huge explosion as there were several large propane tanks there all I remember was turning around and seeing a huge orange blaze and the next thing I knew I was in the hospital and Mom was at my side crying. My sugarhouse was gone and everything in it.
I went on to Delaware Valley College of Science and Agriculture in Doylestown, Pennsylvania and received a bachelors degree in Food Industry which included lots of agriculture and engineering courses. Following that, I attended the Culinary Institute of America, in Hyde Park, New York and received an A.O. S. degree in Culinary Arts. Then I went to work on board large Ocean Liners traveling the world. Shortly after I began my professional career in culinary and hospitality, I began to acquire timberland with good maple on it in Northern Vermont. I had the opportunity to meet the owner of a large sugaring operation in Lamoille County Vermont in the Town of Belvidere. Mr. Edward Buttolph and his wife Barbara owned the operation and were thinking about selling it. After meeting me and spending several years with them to prove my interest in the operation , they sold it to me and I had a large sugarbush with several hundred acres of beautiful maple trees on it. The Buttolphs and I have remained friends and Mrs. Buttolph has sailed with me several times on the ocean liners.
Using my food engineering background I have devised an evaporating system using high pressure steam which I designed and installed personally. This system is refined year after year and makes a beautiful flavored Pure Vermont Maple Syrup.
The operation was very large so I had to hire some full time year round help. A neighbor of mine Mr. Randy Dezotelle was a sugarmaker for many years. He now works here at the farm full time for me and is the manager of the operation. He was also in the logging business for many years so he is familiar with the woods and has great respect for them. He has gone from logging to full time sugarmaking and is a great asset to the organization utilizing his woods and technical skills he has developed over the years.
Randy brings along with him every day Bruce and Max, his two dogs which follow him on the snowmobile in the woods every day and assist wherever they can.
The assistant manager is Mike Lamere. He is also a neighbor and has been with us for over a year now. Mike is also a retired logger and has gone from logging to full time sugarmaking. He and Randy work side by side every day ensuring that all parts of the operation are ready for the upcoming harvest. Mike possesses tremendous woods experience and is a great lover of the outdoors and wildlife. Mike brings with him each day Lucy his dog. Lucy stays lots of the time down by the sugarhouse and guards the operation. She barks a lot but her bark is louder than her bite, usually anyway.
We are proud to have both of these men with us full time. They both understand the woods and have great knowledge and experience of the outdoors. They work 12 months in the woods from 100 degrees temperatures with flies and such in the summer to 50/70 below zero in the winter time. They are always here and always on time and very trustworthy.