Maple Sugaring in Johnson is a Marvin Family Tradition
March 23, 2023
Butternut Mountain is the tallest peak that falls entirely within the town of Johnson. On the mountain’s southern slope, the Marvin family owns 600 acres where they produce maple syrup for their business, Butternut Mountain Farm.
David Marvin started Butternut Mountain Farm in the early 1970s on land owned by his father, Dr. James Wallace Marvin, a botanist and the co-founder of UVM’s Proctor Maple Research Center.
When David Marvin began his sugaring operation, he worked multiple jobs as a forest consultant, bartender, and Christmas tree farmer. As sugaring technology became more sophisticated and efficient, Marvin realized his dream to become a long-time, successful maple producer.
“I knew maple syrup had the potential to be a way to make a living in Vermont. You could just go to the woods with some hard work and a little capital and come out with something you could sell,” Marvin says.
-David Marvin, center, with his children Emma and Ira. (courtesy photos)
A Way of Life in Vermont
Vermont annually produces more than 2 million gallons of syrup. The yearly number in the early 20th century was closer to 9 million gallons. Marvin surmises that sugaring was a significant part of everyday life for most Vermonters back then.
“On Butternut Mountain, I’ve counted nine old sugaring sites used by settlers. So, my assumption is that everybody sugared, everybody had maples around their house and their farm—it’s just what you did,” Marvin says. “You raised a garden and made syrup, and that’s how it was.”
Ownership of Butternut Mountain Farm—which produces and packages syrup from a network of Vermont sugar makers—was transferred to Marvin’s children, Emma and Ira, in 2020. Most days, Emma can be found at the company’s Morrisville facility, while Ira works at the sugarhouse and in the forest in Johnson.
-Butternut Mountain Farm’s sugarhouse in Johnson. (courtesy photo)
Happy Vermont Podcast
In this podcast episode of Happy Vermont, Butternut Mountain Farm’s David Marvin and his children, Emma and Ira, talk about the history of maple sugaring, how Butternut Mountain Farm came to be, and their hopes for the future.
Vermont Maple Open House Weekends
More than 75 sugarmakers around the state are opening their doors on March 25-26 and April 1-2, 2023. Vermont Maple Open House Weekends is a chance to visit sugarhouses around the state for tours, tastings, sugar-on-snow, and more. Learn more about Maple Open House Weekends at vermontmaple.org.