When asked what he’d say to someone who considers buying his pure maple syrup, Gene Branon answers immediately, “I’d tell them that there’s a lot of hard work and pride put into this product. It’s guaranteed to be as good as it can be. Nothing is skimped on. There’s a big family and a lot of teamwork behind that syrup.”
Gene’s family is known throughout Vermont for its maple-sugaring heritage. Decades of hard work from his father Dan, and his brothers and sisters have allowed Gene to pass the tradition along to his family. “My kids will be seventh generation maple syrup producers if they take this up. I feel really great about that,” says Gene standing in the sugarhouse that he and his father sided with lumber reclaimed from old wooden silos.
“This is home,” Gene’s father Dan says as he gestures around the sugarhouse, which includes his collection of old tools, a historical lineup of maple sugar containers, and a photograph of Gene’s great-grandfather standing with President Kennedy. “I’ve got five kids and seven grandkids, and all five of those families live right here. Having all these kids right here on the farm is a good thing.”
Dan and Gene talk about their family business with nostalgia for where they’ve been, and with pride for where they are today. Gene remembers fondly the high school nights spent on the first syrup runs. “You’d get all your friends out there in the woods with the horses and the buckets. You’d never do that today. That was crazy hard work. But it made you feel so close to everyone. And it was a ton of fun to be up all night in the woods.”
Today, Gene, Dan, and their family are one of the largest maple producers in Vermont; and Vermont is one of the largest maple regions in the world. “You just can’t do this everywhere. We are proud to produce such an incredibly pure product for the rest of the world.”
After all the years, the Branon’s still love the exciting energy of sugaring season, “When the nights are real brisk and cool, and you’ve just come off of some precipitation, and the days are suddenly sunny and warm so that the eaves and the trees are dripping with melting snow.” To Gene, “Those are the best days. Everyone works so well together on those days. And you have to literally run to keep up with the sap flowing. That is the absolute best part of what we do.”