Brookfield Maple, Westfield, Tioga County

Owners: Bud and Tina Bowers; Jim and Jackie Mills

 Jim and Jackie Mills purchased their farm near Westfield in Brookfield Township, Tioga County, in the early 1980’s. The two grew up on farms about a mile apart in the nearby town of Mills, and wished to return to their farming heritage.

 On the historic farm, maple syrup had been boiled down in an old sugarhouse in the woods for as long as anyone could remember, and the Mills continued to produce enough syrup for home use and to share with loved ones.

 Bud Bowers started helping on the farm in 1985, marrying Jim and Jackie’s daughter, Tina, in 1988.

 “I started helping various people make syrup when I was about 14 years old,” Bud said. “I guess I got the maple bug and have loved making maple syrup ever since.”

 In the early 1990’s, a wildfire swept across the bucolic farm, destroying the historic wooden sugar house.

The family was undaunted, installing a wood-fired evaporator in the garage. At this time, Bud and Jim had 210 taps, with sap flowing into metal buckets hanging from the trees in their sugar bush.

 The resulting 200 gallons of finished product was sold in bulk, and they decided to enter into the maple business, starting Brookfield Maple in 1996. Unlike the old sugar shack, the garage had electricity, but the only running water came from a garden hose.

 In 1998, an old bookstore building on the farm was renovated to house a more modern maple operation, and the building now boasts five distinct areas to house the large oil-fired evaporator and reverse osmosis machine, a kitchen and a store where the finest pure maple products can be purchased.

 Brookfield Maple is a unique operation; one of the few Certified Organic maple producers in the region, having first earned the distinction in 2004. 

 Retaining the license requires an annual inspection by the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) of the farm grounds, equipment and records to remain in compliance with strict organic standards.

 Contrary to popular belief, not all maple syrup is organic. Though many producers practice organic stewardship of their lands, certification requires extra effort and expense and tedious record-keeping to ensure only the highest-quality, sustainable and responsibly-produced products are labeled organic.

 “We decided to go organic because we are very concerned with what’s in our food products today. That is also the reason we raise our own vegetables and beef,” Bud said. “At my house we don’t eat processed foods, and I could count on one hand the number of times in the last year we ate any.”

 An independent inspector certifies that no herbicides or pesticides have been sprayed, that buffer areas are maintained around the sugar bushes to prevent runoff, certified organic products are used, and a sustainable number of taps are placed in trees.

 “This gives us and the landowners we lease from peace of mind that we are taking care of the land, and most importantly, the trees,” Bud said. “We work very hard to make sure we supply our customers with the best maple products and, in doing so, take care of our land and trees.”

 Brookfield Maple maintains approximately 4,000 taps, many of them on leased property. A copy of the inspection report is sent annually to each property owner to show that the folks at Brookfield Maple are being good stewards of the land.

 Bud and Jim take care of the everyday activities around the farm, working in the forest and running equipment. Tina handles internet orders, jugs syrup and helps make a variety of products. Jackie is the farm’s chief salesperson, handling craft fairs, events and promotions. In addition to maple activities, they raise beef cattle, are an authorized dealer of LaPierre Maple Equipment, and Jackie cares for three large gardens that grow wholesome foods for the family.

 In addition to organic Maple Syrup, Brookfield Maple also produces cream, candy, maple-walnut topping, maple sugar, crunch topping and coated peanuts. Homemade fudge is available seasonally or by special order.

 During Maple Weekend, boiling demonstrations are available, as are samples and sales of the finest organic maple products. For more information, visit the farm’s website at brookfieldmapleproducts.com or call 814-367-5284.

To reach the farm, take PA-49. Just west of Westfield, turn north onto North Fork Road and continue approximately 2.5 miles. Turn right onto Plank Road and drive approximately ¼ mile. The sugarhouse will be on the left-hand side of the road just past the barn.

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