2014 Local Hero Awardee: Maple Corner Farm

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Leon Ripley with granddaughters Cate and Lilie Ripley. Photo credit: Paul Shoul.

Each year, CISA presents three Local Hero Awards to farms, businesses, and/or individuals who exemplify our mission of strengthening the connection between farmers and the community. We applaud their hard work, social responsibility, and many contributions to sustaining local agriculture. Congratulations to our 2014 Local Hero Awardee, Maple Corner Farm!

Maple Corner Farm

Located in Granville above Cobble Mountain Reservoir, Maple Corner Farm is a thriving farm that has been in the Ripley family for more than 200 years. Leon and Joyce Ripley attribute the farm’s success to the family’s willingness to change with the times.

A few generations ago, Leon’s grandfather and great-grandfather raised, bought, and sold cattle and oxen. When Leon’s parents ran the farm in the 1950s and 1960s, they milked 30 to 50 cows; after losing the dairy complex to a 1974 fire, Leon and Joyce raised dairy heifers and expanded hay production.

Today Maple Corner produces hay, blueberries, and maple syrup, and offers cross-country ski trails. The Ripley family has tapped sugar maple trees on their 600-acre property since 1835. Today the process is thoroughly modernized. Though syrup is still produced in the old sugar house, recently a reverse osmosis machine was installed that concentrates the sap by removing 75% of the water. The sap is then boiled in a new energy-efficient 3’ x 12’ evaporator that requires only a third of the 40 to 50 cords of wood that used to be needed each season to produce 1,200 to 1,400 gallons of syrup.

In summer, 10,000 to 12,000 bales of hay are sold from the field directly to customers, mostly to feed horses but also sheep, goats, alpacas, and llamas. The pick-your-own blueberry operation is located on a nearby parcel of three acres and consists of 600 cultivated high bush blueberry bushes. As on many family farms, several generations share the work. The Ripleys’ oldest son David and his wife Jess attend farmers’ markets in Otis and Springfield; David, Jon, and Matt maintain equipment and harvest the crops.

The farm opened to cross-country skiing in the 1980s. Positioned at the foot of the Berkshires at an elevation of 1,400 feet, the land is usually covered in snow from December through March. During winter, Maple Corner’s 20 kilometers of groomed trails attract 100 to 200 skiers daily, who eagerly purchase the farm’s maple products as well as homemade jams, jellies, and fruit butters.

Maple Corner’s full moon events are especially popular. When fresh powder and a clear sky combine on the night of a full moon, the cross country trails are lined with lighted luminaries. Visitors enjoy a magical moonlit ski through pastures and sugar bush, then return to the lodge to warm up with hot drinks.

A leader in the Hampden County Farm Bureau for 28 years, Leon notes that many successful small farms in Massachusetts have incorporated agricultural tourism into their operations, and that, increasingly, marketing directly to consumers is critical. Maple Corner Farm’s diversification has made it profitable and sustainable, and this thriving two-century-old farm serves as an inspiration to our region. CISA is proud to honor Maple Corner Farm as a Local Hero.

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