With the weather beginning to warm in New York, the maple production season is underway at the Tibbitts Maple, a fifth-generation maple production farm in New Hartford. 

“Five generations have made maple syrup on Tibbitts Road,” Gordon K. Tibbitts, the fourth-generation maple producer, said. 

The operation was started in the 1930s by Friend Tibbitts.

Kyle Tibbitts, 8, loads the evaporator with fresh wood. (Emily Kenny/Spectrum News 1)

Gordon L. Tibbitts, the third-generation producer of the family farm, said his uncle and father made syrup until the ‘40s but he formally began maple syrup production at the current location in 1984. He started with only 11 buckets. 

“We made a quart and a pint the first year,” he said.

The sugarhouse they are currently using was built in 1990, and the Tibbitts now have 3,500 trees tapped with tubing and a vacuum system rather than collecting buckets off each individual tap. In a typical season, they can produce roughly 1,700 gallons of syrup.

The Tibbitts family will be hosting an open house this weekend from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days as part of a statewide Maple Weekend initiative. Their facilities will be open for tours with samples of their products available.  

The Tibbitts family stand for a portrait. From left to right: Karri Tibbitts, Gordon Konner Tibbitts, Gordon K. Tibbitts (back), Kyle Tibbitts (front), and Gordon L. Tibbitts. (Emily Kenny/Spectrum News 1)

Tapping of the trees starts in January, but the season doesn’t begin until the first or second week of February.

The process of getting maple syrup onto consumers’ pancakes begins with a maple tree that is about 40 years old, Gordon L. Tibbitts said.  

“It’s about 10 inches in diameter then we drive the spile in, which is connected to a tubing system,” Tibbitts said. 

The sap is then pumped into a truck and brought to their sugarhouse where it’s put into a tank and run through a reverse osmosis machine.  

“That takes out about 75% to 80% of the water,” Tibbitts said. “We put it into the evaporator, and it’s boiled and draws off at about 219 degrees.” 

The syrup is then run through a filter press and put into a 40-gallon drum until it is ready to be bottled. 

“We take it out of the 40-gallon drum and put it in a water-jacketed canner, heat it up to 180 degrees and then put it into small jars,” Tibbitts said.

The Tibbitts family and more than 300 other retail maple producers help to make New York the second highest state for maple syrup production in the U.S., trailing only Vermont. In 2022, New York made 845,000 gallons of maple syrup, according to data from the USDA. 

A sign in front of the Tibbitts' sugarhouse. (Emily Kenny/Spectrum News 1)

“Last year we produced a little over a half a gallon per tap,” Tibbitts said.

The family is setting up the tradition to continue for years to come.

Gordon L. Tibbitts’ grandsons, Gordon Konner Tibbitts, 13, and Kyle Tibbitts, 8, have made their own business selling maple products, vegetables, Christmas trees and wreaths at their own farmstand.  

“I’ve been in the sugarhouse since I was 3 years old,” said Gordon Konner Tibbitts.

Gordon Konner draws off some sap from the evaporator. (Emily Kenny/Spectrum News 1)

The kids began selling their fruit and vegetable harvest in 2020 after they grew more than the family could eat themselves.  

“We had to sell them somehow, so we put a couple jugs of syrup out on a card table with vegetables and we were sold out in a day, so we just kept expanding,” the teen said.