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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, December 15, 2011

A sweet deal
Mountain Winds Farm looks to expand
maple candy and cream production with community contributions

BERNE — Randy Grippen wants to take his sugarhouse at Mountain Winds Farm to new heights, and he is hoping for help from the community.

“I’m looking to add maple cream, which is like a maple butter, and also maple candies,” Grippen, 55, told The Enterprise. “But the equipment is ridiculously expensive.”

The farm, located at 12 Williamson Road in Berne, has been in Grippen’s family since his parents purchased it.

“It had belonged to the Williamson family,” Grippen said. “My parents bought it in ’60 or ’61; I was about 5 when we moved up here; and we’ve been here ever since. We moved from New Salem. My mother was a Sisson, which is the Onderdonk area; my father came out of Gallupville. I bought the place from them about 15 or 16 years ago.”

In addition to being sold locally, at venues like the Delmar farmers’ market, Grippen’s products can be purchased over the Internet, on websites managed by Knox native Sarah Gordon, who has been working in recent years to promote local farming.

“I’ve been working with Randy for about a year-and-a-half through HelderbergMarket.com and FarmieMarket.com,” Gordon said. “His eggs are a huge hit; everybody loves his chicken; and the maple has really been taking off. Recently, he’s been having maple candy and maple cream made for him, because he doesn’t have the equipment to do it, and it’s been selling really well. I have a bowl of them sitting on my countertop,” she laughed.

Grippen’s products, she said, are listed online for sale to Albany County; Schenectady County; Rensselaer County; and Saratoga County. He has also sold Christmas trees, “but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen this year,” he said, “because we planted them way up the mountain, and, with all the mud, it’s tough to go get them.”

Gordon went on about the maple products, “Customers want it more and more but, because he doesn’t have the equipment, he’s not able to keep a consistent inventory of it, and the equipment is very expensive, so he’s looking for some community support from the people who are demanding those products to help him get over the hurdle to purchase the equipment.”

Grippen began maple sugaring about five years ago.

“We’ve gone from making 20-some gallons the first year, to over 250 gallons last year,” he said. “Cooking outdoors, we had 50 pails hanging on trees, and we’ve now got about a 50,000-foot pipeline. Last year, we had about 1,200 taps; this year, we’re looking at somewhere around 1,350 or 1,400…It’s a half-hour march out into the woods to get there.”

A maple candy machine will cost about $1,600, he said; the maple cream machine, between $1,400 and $1,500 dollars; and a filter press, between $1,400 and $2,000.

Asked if this fund-raiser would be part of forming a CSA (community supported agriculture), which would involve customers purchasing shares of the business, Grippen said that he had not yet decided. Those who wish to make a donation may do so online by visiting peerbackers.com/projects/mountain-winds-farm-maple-confections-1759300525. Those who donate $35 or more will receive a bag of Grippen’s maple candy. He hopes to raise $6,000 by Jan. 15.

“The filter press I’m hoping to add on will help me to have a much cleaner product,” said Grippen. “Not that it’s dirty now, but it takes way longer than it should to filter it. We’re basically pouring through something similar to a coffee filter. With the filter press, it will just push it through a pump, and, when it comes out, it’ll be crystal clear.”

— Zach Simeone

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