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Parmelee’s Sugar House Visited by Lt. Governor and Other Dignitaries

By Clark Judge. 

(March 18, 2022) — It was about three weeks ago, as Tim Gannon tells it, that he heard from the Connecticut State Dept. of Agriculture, notifying him of a proposed visit to Parmelee Farm. Lieutenant Gov. Susan Bysiewicz would be involved. So would Bryan Hurlburt, Commissioner of the state’s agriculture department. Maybe even state Sen. Christine Cohen and Rep. Christine Goupil, too.

Lt. Gov. Bysiewicz

And they’d arrive the morning of St. Patrick’s Day.

But they wouldn’t be there to tour the farm. Nor would they be there to celebrate the Irish. Instead, they wanted to visit its Sugar House, where Gannon and volunteers are in their last week of making maple syrup.

“I was very pleased,” said Gannon, “and I was surprised. There are a lot of bigger sugar houses to go to.”

But they didn’t choose to visit them. They chose Parmelee’s Sugar House as part of a kickoff celebration for Maple Weekend when 17 maple-syrup producers across Connecticut – including Parmelee Farm — hold open houses.

“We’re here to highlight some of the things about Connecticut,” said Bysiewicz, “because Connecticut has some of the best-tasting – no, the best tasting – maple syrup.”

She should know. She and other dignitaries attending Thursday’s event, including Killingworth First Selectwoman Nancy Gorski, were given samples of sap and demonstrations of operations before each was handed an 8-ounce bottle of syrup as a parting gift.

Consider them lucky. Parmelee maple syrup is so popular that it’s hard to find, and, no, that’s not an exaggeration. In each of the past three weekends, the syrup sold out within the first hour of the first day (Saturday). In fact, last weekend all 98 12-ounce bottles and 37 8-ounce bottles sold within the first 22 minutes – and that’s with customers limited to two bottles per.

This weekend is expected to be the last time this year the Sugar Shack is open for business, with the syrup capped and bottled Friday and sold on Saturday at 10:00 a.m.

“We’re very proud of the syrup we produce,” said Gannon. “We wouldn’t have this if it weren’t for all of our volunteers here. It’s a labor of love.”

Gannon and Gorski

The Sugar House is in its third year of operation, opening in 2019 but forced to close last year because of the COVID pandemic. Its last season was 2020 when volunteers collected 3,000 gallons of sap and produced 51 gallons of syrup. Gannon had hoped to exceed those numbers – especially with 200 taps on the Parmelee site – and he wasn’t disappointed. According to volunteer Dan O’Sullivan, a record-63 gallons of syrup were produced, and 3,600 gallons of sap collected after the Sugar House resumed operations in mid-February.

So that’s good. But getting a first-ever visit from state officials, including the Lieutenant Governor? That’s better.

“The commissioner (Hurlburt) and I were having a conversation about how every year we look forward to what sugar house we’re going to visit,” said Bysiewicz, who resides in Middletown. “And he said, ‘You know, Susan, there’s one in the Middletown area’ And I said, ‘I would know if there was one.’ But I just didn’t realize that Parmelee Farm, which I’ve had the pleasure of driving by, did this.”

Hurlburt did. As the former executive director of the Connecticut Farm Bureau, he was here two years ago when Parmelee Farm – OK, its Sugar House – hosted the Middlesex Farm Bureau. He liked what he saw, and he vowed to return. On Thursday, he did.

“I thought this would be a great way to highlight the opportunity and the public investment,” he said, “recognizing the state’s culture and heritage in agriculture. So, get out of the house and sample some of the terrific products.”

One suggestion: Don’t wait. They won’t last long.

Photos by Clark Judge. 

 

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