The 2021 sugaring season has been fast and furious, according to Katie Blackman, who co-owns Killington-based First Chair Syrup with her husband Colton. The couple is hard at work, making the most of the short window of time when the weather cycle is just right for maple-syrup making—freezing nights coupled with warm, sunny days.
We’re proud to have some of First Chair’s first crop of 2021 maple syrup at the Market. But the season isn’t over yet! Here’s an update from Katie, who graciously took the time to answer a few questions during their busiest time of year in the sugarbush.
Q. Can you tell us a little bit about the history of First Chair?
A. We started First Chair Syrup six years ago as a way to grow our passion for making pure Vermont maple syrup and to offer the product in the local community. Both of us first learned the process of making maple syrup in elementary school—Colton in Sherburne (Killington) and Katie in Brownsville. What began as a hobby has now grown into a local business. We’re proud to be featured in local stores, as well as having a retail presence through our website.
Q. Where are you located? Is there a family history component to your business?
A. We’re located in Killington, Vermont. Our sugarbush is located just off the Killington access road behind Charity’s 1887 Saloon restaurant. The sugarbush neighbors Sherburne Elementary School, where Colton first learned to make maple syrup! We definitely take pride in being a family-run business. We started the business ourselves, but each of our families have always enjoyed making their own maple syrup.
Q. How many trees do you tap?
A. This year, we tapped around 800 trees on a 40-acre parcel off of Killington’s access road.
Q. How many gallons of maple syrup do you produce in a typical year?
A. On average, we produce 350-400 gallons of maple syrup per year.
Q. What can you tell us about the 2021 sugaring season thus far?
A. This year has been an interesting and challenging season so far. The temperatures stayed colder through the late winter and the snowpack in Killington was above average, which delayed the start of the season. We normally would tap around mid-February, but this year we started tapping in early March. Even with the late start, it’s been a sprint for the past couple weeks with all of the warm weather that we’ve had. We definitely made up for lost time and based on the forecast, it looks like we’ll have another week or two of good sugaring weather.
Q. How does this year compare to past years?
A. This year is shaping up to be a shorter but busier season compared to previous years. In the past, the sap has run earlier and there was more time between boils. This season, we had a late start and have been boiling consistently every other day. This week, we had the largest one-day sap collection that we’ve ever had!
Q. Anything else you’d like to tell us about your business?
A. As Woodstock area natives, we’re excited to produce local maple syrup that’s featured in local stores that we grew up shopping in. We’ve enjoyed growing the business to what it is today—but what we enjoy even more is sharing our maple syrup with our friends, family, and local community.