Plainfield and its Maple Trees
The town of Plainfield, Massachusetts was first settled in 1770. Plainfield is a small hill town in the scenic Berkshire Highlands with 589 residents. This may sound small, but keep in mind that over the past 20 years this little town’s population has doubled. Began as an agricultural community, it now is home to a wider range of people than in the early years, including farmers and trades people, writers and artists, singers and musicians, loggers and welders, teachers and students, builders and homemakers. The landscape in Plainfield is a mix of high sweeping fields and mixed hardwood forests. In abundance are moose, bear, deer and the usual New England wildlife.
It’s safe to say that the maple trees in Plainfield far outnumber the residents, and the Fournier Sugarhouse operation has set about 1,500 taps in the trees on and around our location on South Central. There are about two miles of tubing running the sap to the holding tanks along with 300 buckets. We are a little concerned that the moose that seem to frequent our land may end up wandering into our tap lines, but we are hopeful that Wally, our Beagle, will dissuade the moose from coming too close. Many of the trees we tap are more than 200 years old. All in all, they provide us with the best quality sap available.
A Short History on the Enterprise
The building used as Fournier’s Sugarhouse began its life in 1998 in Northfield, Massachusetts, where it was first built and operated. That operation closed and the building was still in good shape. So, true to New England ways of recycling and never throwing out what can still be used, a new home was found for the sugarhouse. It was disassembled and moved 45 miles southwest, to Plainfield, Massachusetts, where Gary Fournier, his wife Jean, daughter Kaylee, and parents, Junior and Karen, along with a crew of like-minded friends, went about reconstructing it.
Gary’s abilities as a first-rate carpenter helped tremendously in this project, as did the energy and talents of friends and family. Over the summer, trees were cut (and boards made, which were used in the assembly of the sugarhouse) and the site was prepared for the foundation to be poured. The sugarhouse was reassembled and the wood fired evaporator was readied for operation.
The main room is 16′ x 24′, and has double-wide doors on both the north and south sides so that wood can be easily brought in for feeding the firebox. There is a 16′ x 16′ woodshed on the south side, so that the wood used in firing up the evaporator can stay dry and be close at hand. The woodshed holds about 16 cords of wood. A 12′ x 10′ canning room was added so that when it is ready, the syrup won’t have far to go to be filtered, bottled and ready for sale. All in all, the new site for the old sugarhouse is just right.