Maple sugar operation rebounds after theft

Maple sugar operation rebounds after theft

Last fall, Josh Dolan discovered his chainsaw was stolen. It was old, greasy –smelly even– so he had kept it outside on his porch in the Northside neighborhood, hidden out of sight.

“I was devastated,” says Josh. His maple syrup operation in Enfield, Sapsquatch,  could not continue without a chainsaw. Josh uses it to thin the forest for optimum tree growth and to stockpile wood for stoking the fire needed to boil sap into syrup. Plus, it was a gift from his mom. This wasn’t the first time he’d experienced theft. Once someone reached through his kitchen window to steal a bag of groceries on the counter, he says. Josh’s situation is unique in that he lives in the City of Ithaca and commutes to the sugarbush. 

“Besides the evaporator, the chainsaw is my most important tool,” he said. The evaporator, pictured above, is a large pan used for boiling sap into syrup.

Without the cash to buy a new chainsaw, Josh turned to the community. He set up a crowd-funding campaign and publicized it via Facebook. Before he knew it, he had raised enough to buy a new one, along with a hardhat and other safety equipment.

During the spring maple season, Josh invites friends to come out an explore the land, which he rents from family, and help keep the fires burning, sometimes through the night, as the maple sap is boiled down into sweet syrup. Josh says that the community aspect of sugaring is something he loves about the work. He regularly hosts school groups for educational programs. His community building paid off, quite literally. When he needed help, the community supported him. This year he tapped six hundred trees, and turned their sap into gallons and gallons of syrup.

Thefts of farm equipment in the area are common enough that the New York Farm Bureau regularly offers advice on theft prevention in their newsletters. Nationwide, farm equipment is a frequent target of crime, particularly because rural areas are tough to monitor. Crops are even a target. No statistics are kept on farm equipment thefts in Tompkins County specifically, but about 2,000 property crimes are reported here annually.

Image credit: Photo by Josh Dolan of Sapsquatch

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