Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

March 16, 2014

Altamont family makes maple syrup for 30 years

Jackson Adams
Effingham Daily News

ALTAMONT — While the rapid rise and fall of temperatures throughout the area may be a problem for some, one family isn't complaining.

The conditions — a late night freeze and morning thaw — are ideal for harvesting sap from maple trees all around the Phillips family farm in Altamont. That flow of sap needs to be collected daily to boil and create the maple syrup the family has made for close to 30 years.

"In order for the sap to flow, it has to freeze at night and get to mid-40s in the morning," said 18-year-old Josie Phillips at the family's open house on Saturday. "This is just now getting going."

The family needs as much sap as possible for the syrup. About 200 maple trees all over the property have been tapped with spouts that have been hammered in 2 inches. Sap drains into large 3-gallon blue bags or into a drainage system for easier collection. Nearly 50 gallons of sap goes into every gallon of syrup, and that constant need for collection has kept the family busy.

"I've been out here since I was a kid," said Phillips, who is keeping track of harvesting and production of syrup for her FFA project. "It's something unique that we do."

The business has changed in some ways. A new evaporator has allowed for more syrup to be processed at one time and given a more consistent cooking session, tubing has allowed for quicker collection of sap and machines have allowed easier bottling and finishing of the product. Even with those advancements, collecting sap and making syrup is still time and labor intensive. The Phillips family has had to spend many hours together getting it all ready. Phillips said it's one of the things she values about the process.

"It really brings us together," she said. "It's two to four hours a day together doing all of this and getting ready. It's really fun."

Jackson Adams can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 131, or at jackson.adams@effinghamdailynews.com or via Twitter @EDNJAdams.