Lyle Merrifield, owner of Merrifield Farms in Gorham stood guard over his syrup production, while thousands walked by the blazing fire and the steaming sap this past weekend. This Sunday marked the 16th Maine Maple Sunday that Merrifield’s has participated in. Over the years the celebration and interest in the process has grown.
“It’s been an excellent two days,” said Merrifield, who estimates that between 1,500 and 1,800 visited on Saturday and at least 3,200 to 3,500 on Sunday. “I’m amazed by how many people are around.” Despite the freezing temperatures, around 20 degrees, and the strong wind, people didn’t pass up the opportunity to stop by for ice cream with maple syrup over it, or to try maple cotton candle, or any of the other treats Merrifield Farms created using maple syrup.
“It’s quite the production,” said Tony Ward. Penney Ward’s father used to make maple syrup and her brother still does. She said this was her first time going out on Maple Sunday.
Production this year is almost three weeks behind, according to Merrifield. Normally by this time he would have boiled sap four times. That being said, he’s “expecting a really good, extended season.” The production is about the same as last year, he said. Merrifield has collected 900 gallons of sap so far and expects to collect between 7,000 and 8,000 gallons.
“It’s an experience,” said Braedan Weil from Gorham.
“It reminds me of childhood. I used to come here all the time as a child,” said Sara Steinmetz from Gorham, who said she used to cross country ski over to the farm.
In addition to sampling the wares, visitors were able to purchase syrup made and bottled at Merrifield’s in glass or tin containers. Merrifield keeps his product priced right he said, which keeps him in business. “There’s plenty of market for everybody. Every family should try (making syrup),” Merrifield said with a laugh. “It makes it easier for us to sell it. They realize how inexpensive it is.”
There were also ox cart rides, and ice house, bar tours, cast iron cauldrons steaming over open fires to demonstrate how syrup used to be made and Sam Simonson a local blacksmith set up demonstrations for anyone who came by his stand. Chicken Wire (Jack Devereau, Jon Cooper and Jed Bresette) from North Gorham kept the visitors in line entertained with their upbeat tunes. “It’s a good family day. We entertain them,” said Merrifield.
Merrifield Farms sells syrup year round at their farm at 195 North Gorham Road.
“It’s the only time of year we get really good maple syrup,” said Judith Ahlquist of Scarborough, who enjoyed the farm with her daughter Elizabeth.