310 Shaver Rd. Harpersfield, NY 13786
Open 9am - 5pm Daily. Maple Weekend participant
Shaver-Hill Farm offers maple syrup as rich as its history. In 1912, newlyweds Alvin and Alice Shaver purchased the farm, which focused on dairy, with maple production being a sweet sideline. They were direct descendants of Colonel John Harper, founder of Harpersfield. 45 years later, their son Gaylord Shaver bought the farm and hired a young Dennis Hill, whom had been looking for a summer job out of college. Once hired, Dennis never left. He found in the farm his new home, and in 1984, along with wife Barbara, they purchased the farm, created the name Shaver-Hill Farm and raised their family in the business.
DWAYNE (L), DENNIS (M) AND DAVID HILL (R) OF SHAVER-HILL MAPLE
Their children, Dwayne and David, remember carrying buckets with their father as small boys. They grew, and the business grew with them. The days were long; cows need milking every day, whether the sap ran or not. As the prices for dairy dropped and the demand for pure maple syrup increased, they made a choice.
“We decided to liquidate the dairy,” says Dwayne Hill of their 2004 decision. They became Leader Evaporator maple equipment dealers, forging full steam ahead into maple production. Now the Hill boys can be found boiling sap in the spring, along with making value-added products, packaging and shipping on a daily basis.
“We try to fill our orders the same day.” Even the grandkids, Deidra & Damian, Dwayne’s children, are involved in the family business, helping during the busy season making value-added products or selling at farmers markets and fairs. Deidra is a web designer, and built the company’s website, which goes beyond informational and allows for orders to be placed online.
For Shaver-Hill, tapping does not begin until after President’s Day Weekend in February. In recent years, tapping temperatures (nights below freezing/in the 20’s and days in the 40’s) have arrived as early as December. Do they tap at the first fickle sign of spring? No, their method is to wait. Their reward?
“Our taps will be fresher, longer,” says David Hill. He is often proven right. In 2018 their sap flowed fresh through April 23. Collection of the sap stops when the maples begin to bud, resulting in an off-tasting sap, appropriately referred to as “buddy” by David. This year, thanks to several late February and early March freezes, actual boiling is not slated to begin until the second week of March.
The operation began with the use of two wood-fired 6x16 evaporators. 21 years ago they installed the oil fueled Leader 6x16 evaporator with a Steam Away (pre-heater). Together with their reverse osmosis machine, they can boil down to about 50 gallons of syrup per hour, producing about 1500 to 2000 gallons of syrup per season from their 4,000 taps. The golden product is not only sold locally and nationwide, but has ben shipped to every continent, including the countries of South Africa, Australia, Mexico, China, India and Canada.
SHAVER-HILL ORIGINAL SAPHOUSE
As equipment dealers, I wondered if they every worried that they were supplying tools, and knowledge, to their future competitors. This was not a concern. To my surprise, they do not consider other maple producers competition.
“It’s the grocery store syrup that is our competition,” says Dwayne Hill. So syrup made out of corn, table syrup and pancake syrup made with artificial ingredients, with a very small to zero percent of maple syrup added, at about the third of the price of pure maple syrup. That is the competition.
The Hill boys also explained the new grading system. The terminology has changed to encompass the entire maple industry. There are four self-explanatory grades: Golden Delicate, Amber Rich, Dark Robust, and Very Dark (which used to be Grade B or for use in cooking). All are considered acceptable table quality maple syrup, according to your own personal preference.
The last two weekends in March marks their 24th Annual Open House. All four days they host a pancake breakfast, tours and tastings. Visit their gift shop on the way out for all things maple. Choose from maple candy, maple sugar, maple cream, aged bourbon maple syrup, gourmet maple dog treats, maple hot sauce, maple jelly, and the list goes on. Their equipment room is one-stop shopping for supplies, just in case you have been considering becoming a backyard boiler.
SHAVER-HILL DISPLAY OF YEARS WORTH OF SYRUP