Tell us about your business.
Having moved to a farm in the Mad River Valley, Vermont 10 years ago with my three kids and husband we immediately tapped our maple trees and produced a yield of one mason jar of syrup. At this same time I got an intimate glimpse of sugaring the Vermont way. When sugaring season arrives in March, small sugarhouses that lie quiet the rest of the year suddenly roar to life, steam billowing from the top as sugarmakers work around the clock to achieve what alchemist can't: turning water into gold. After 10 years of witnessing the magic in those woods, I decided that the plight of the sugarmaker needed to be shown to the world. In spring 2012 I launched Tonewood to preserve small-scale maple farming and to showcase the versatility of maple in all it's unique forms. Each sugaring season I drop off empty bottles to my neighbour's sugarhouses and weeks later retrieve golden, chestnut and mahogany tones of nature's nectar. Magic happens in these Vermont woods.
Tell us about your workspace, shop, or studio.
The Mad River Valley is nestled among the Green Mountains in central Vermont, just south of Lake Champlain. Combining rich soil, southern facing slopes, and high elevation, Mad River Valley provides ideal maple growing conditions, which has allowed local sugarmakers to collect sap of unparalleled quality for centuries. Our home based business is truly that. Overlooking 300 year old maple trees our garage, dining room, family room and kitchen are now overrun by maple. Our kids help out, my husband chips in when he can, and our team consists of two other mothers who are passionate about what we do. Their kids and other local students also help out when the going gets tough and are rewarded both financially and with maple treats. Neighbouring sugarmakers, the Vasseurs and Hartshorns, live higher up the mountain and that's really where the magic happens. Their majestic trees and sugarhouses have been converting sap to syrup for hundreds of years. It's nature's workshop!
What inspires you?
My source of inspiration is boundless. I'm inspired by the culture and history of neighbouring 6th generation Vermont sugarmaking families. The magic that happens in their sugarhouses and sugarbushes each spring is remarkable. I hope to educate consumers about the plight of sugarmakers, and the impact of climate change on small-scale maple farming. These days consumers want to know their food source and when they look at a bottle of maple syrup there is so much behind the glass. I want people to experience maple in a different, more intimate way. Hiking up the Lincoln Gap of the Hartshorn sugarbush, where avalanches wipe out their sap lines in the winter, or walking through the Vasseur sugar woods in any season is where my idea-inspiring energy originates. Working closely with these Vermont families and sharing a small piece of their sugaring culture helps to remind me on a daily basis to keep it simple. Keep it in the woods.
What makes your business stand out?
Maple Refined Tonewood is redefining a standard for elegance and quality in maple products. Through collaboration with expert sugarmakers, we produce pure maple syrups and other specialties. Our products are single-sourced, unblended, and free of additives. We combine this standard for excellence with sleek design and forward-thinking sustainability practices to produce gourmet products. By funding climate research, local farming efforts, and sustainable forest stewardship, we seek to preserve maple production. We’re committed to celebrating maple’s naturally sumptuous flavor and under-realized versatility. Tonewood is part food, part mission. With Vermont routinely breaking high temperature records, there is serious concern about how the maple industry will be affected. Tonewood is trying to protect US maple production, as a 1% for the Planet member, by donating 1% of sales to the University of Vermont's Proctor Maple Research Center supporting climate change research.
What advice would you give an aspiring creative entrepreneur?
Act on your passions and make sure it feels right. The day before I officially launched Tonewood - on March 17th, 2012, I felt like I was jumping into the abyss. It still feels that way, daily, before I make critical decisions. It's scary but it makes me feel alive. I didn't know how frightening running a small business would be and continues to be. I wouldn't do anything else. Keep it simple....keep it in the woods! Keep it scary...it make you fee alive!
What does American Made mean to you?
Few things are as imbedded in North American history as maple production. Native Americans were harvesting maple sap and converting it to sugar long before Europeans arrived on the continent. Unique to the northeastern United States and part of Canada, Maple trees are the world’s only self-sustaining crop. They do not deplete the soil; they do not require chemicals, pesticides, cutting, or harvesting. As a result, maple production is environmentally-friendly, organic, and sustainable. What's more American Made than maple? These sugarmaking families; their culture and history, are Vermont's gift and these 300 year old trees are nature's gift to the world. Until the 1930s, the United States produced most of the world's maple syrup. Today, Canada produces more than 80 percent of the world's maple supply. Rapid growth in Canada and the negative environmental impact of climate change have drastically affected our local maple trees. Let's keep maple an American tradition.