Maple Operation Set Back by Tornado
The Recorder, March 14, 2017, by Andy Castillo
Wind blew softly through trees just off Bardwells Ferry Road, as afternoon sunlight broke through an overcast sky onto felled trees crisscrossing the forest floor, crushing the sap lines of Dana Goodfield’s maple sugaring operation.
In total, Goodfield lost about 500 maple syrup sap spiles and hundreds of trees — almost one-third of his roughly 1,600 taps, 660 of which were added last summer — during the Feb. 25 storm that wreaked havoc on Conway.
During that storm, a tornado touched down first in Goshen, then on Main Poland Road and again on Whately Road in Pumpkin Hollow.
Based on tree damage — acres of large maple and pine trees splintered and uprooted — Goodfield said he thinks it might have touched down a fourth time.
“It’s just a mess, trees down everywhere,” Goodfield said Monday, standing inside and checking the concentration of a batch of syrup pouring from a tap. Behind him, steam drifted up out of a chimney window as sap boiled down to syrup in an evaporator. Maple leaf shaped golden glass bottles lined shelves around the interior, and the scent of syrup was strong.
He paused, then added, “not going to recoup the losses.”
At 76, Goodfield is tall with large hands and a warm smile. While working in the sugarhouse, he wore rubber boots, suspenders and a ball cap.
After retiring from the automotive business (Goodfield owned the Dana automotive franchise throughout western Mass.), he built a sugarshack across the street from his house on Bardwells Ferry Road about 10 years ago, and has been selling maple syrup to distributors ever since. Goodfield also supplements other, larger sugarhouses.
The damaged taps were scattered across about 120 acres of Goodfield’s land and about 4 acres of a neighbor’s. He estimated losses, including labor and materials, at about $18 a tap — or about $9,000. The losses aren’t covered by house insurance.
Despite the setback, Goodfield is hoping for a better season than last year, which yielded a little more than 600 gallons of syrup. As of this week, Goodfield had boiled more than 400 gallons of syrup. Each gallon is worth roughly $150.
“I wanted to make 1,000 gallons but that’s not going to happen,” he said, noting that it’s too early to know what the season will be like. “Depends on Mother Nature. My first boil was the 27th of January. And then I didn’t boil again till the 20th of February. Ask me in April — who knows.”
“I’ve gotta get through this season first, before I decide what’s going to happen next,” he said, adding that compared to others who were impacted by the storm, “we’re very, very fortunate.”
Avenues of Assistance
A notice on the town’s website announces that “the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) wishes to assess to what extent the tornado affected Conway agricultural operations. Please contact Sheila Theodore at 617-626-1733 or Sheila.Theodore@State.MA.US to report these issues.”
The notice continues, “for other types of personal loss, please feel free to forward any reports that you send to your insurance company to the town office so that our records will be as complete as possible.”
A spokeswoman for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service noted that forest land owners “with damaged forest stands could apply for financial and technical assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.”
Elsewhere, there aren’t any immediate funding sources from Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture of South Deerfield or the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. A town fundraising initiative (bit.ly/2lZcUB6) so far has raised more than $80,000, which might be used to help landowners clean up fallen trees.
Looking ahead, a few benefit events have been planned before fundraising efforts wrap up March 21.
The first, “Conway Strong,” will be held at the Grammar School Sunday, March 19 from 2 to 4 p.m. Another notice on the town’s website advertises it as “a video presentation, silent auction, and raffle of local goods and services.”
The second is a benefit pasta buffet dinner hosted by Chandler’s Restaurant, March 20, featuring live music from TJ and the Peepers. There will be two seatings, 5 and 7 p.m., and admission will be $15 for adults, $8 for children. Seating is limited, so call in advance at 413-665-1277.
You can reach Andy Castillo at: firstname.lastname@example.org