Nestled on a hill across from the picturesque beauty of the Croton Reservoir in Yorktown Heights, is White Oak Farm. Last weekend, after a delicious pancake breakfast at Hilltop Hanover Farm, I got the chance to go for a visit for the first time in the over 5 years I have lived in the area. Established in 1973, the existing farm, dates back to the 1800’s. Forty years later the Farm features beautiful open fields, renovated barns, an impressive sugarhouse, garden, sawmills, and dry kilns.
I learned a lot on my short visit, having never visited a maple sugar farm before. As the southernmost commercial producer in NY and the only commercial maple syrup producer in Westchester County, NY, this farm is unique. They tap over 2400 trees on the hill up above the house and barns as well as some off-site areas. I found it so interesting to see the demo of how they connect the trees with tubing that flows all that sap down the hill and into their large holding tank beside the sugarhouse.
When you first get up to the barn area, you are asked to go and watch an instructional video in their small store on how the syrup is produced. This also allows you to browse all the yummy offerings of syrup, maple candies, popcorn, homegrown honey, and other snacks. After you have finished with the video, you can wait your turn to get a tour of the sugarhouse. OK, so it is not really a tour as the sugarhouse is tiny and their large boiler machine takes up most of it. But, you do get an informative and interesting narrative into the world of maple syrup by Mr. Bri Hart, a retired teacher who managed to keep all the sugar amped kids in the room impressively in check.
Mr. Hart explained to the group how their boiler machine worked, with the ability to boil 900 gallons of sap an hour. We learned how much the weather can really impact the tapping season, drastically shortening it like it did last year. We also heard about how the farm was impacted by the storms and the associated power outages of this season. It was fascinating to hear how much sap it takes to actually make a gallon of maple syrup as well as learn how labor-intensive the production of maple syrup actually is. All of these issues contribute to the high cost of real maple syrup. In answer to a question from the audience, we were educated to the fact that the tapping of trees really does not hurt them at all because of the small size of the taps used in the tree. We also got to see the varying grades of syrup they produced from different runs on display in the house, from the lightest of amber to the darkest sample which almost looks like oil. Apparently, the darker variety is highly prized among local restaurants.
The tour ended with everyone in the room getting the chance to sample some syrup, wow was that good! White Oak Farm sells to many of the local restaurants in the area, so chances are, you may have had their syrup without realizing it. If not, you can stop by and pick up a bottle at their store.
All in all, I had a lovely time at this big, little-hidden gem of Westchester. It was educational as well as yummy. I encourage you to check them out before the season ends which is in late March to early April. If you miss it though, they also have a woodworking business and furniture store. According to their site and Mr. Hart, they operate a commercial bandsaw mill and circular sawmill, two dry kilns, state of the art finishing equipment for dressing boards, as well as a full woodworking shop. They sell all species of local hardwoods and softwoods, and specialize in custom saws and drying They can dry, finish and even make you a piece of furniture.
I look forward to visiting again when their furniture shop is open.
To learn more about White Oak Farm, visit their website.