The Belcher family has been producing top quality maple syrup for over 60 years. This tradition began during the rationing period of World War II when many comodities, including sugar, were in short supply. As a means to supplement the short supply, Les and Betty Belcher, tapped a few maple trees near their Brighton, MI home, and in a cast iron kettle boiled the water out of the sap until it was maple syrup. It was this sweet syrup that was used in place of sugar. The harvest was so successful that they were able to trade some sugar ration stamps for gasoline stamps.
Not long after the war ended, Les and Betty realized the potential in what they had begun. They purchased forty acres of land south of Marion, MI where the Muskegon and Middle Branch river converge, and there they built a small vacation and hunting cabin. Farther back in the woods, they set up a small flat pan for making maple syrup. At this point the harvest was transformed into a money making hobby. Les began selling the syrup at his Gulf gas station in Hamburg, MI.
What prompted the next move is debatable, but the result is unmistakable. One rainy day during a deer hunting trip at the cabin Les and his hunting partner, "Red" Terry, set out to look at land for sale, and found a nice 80 acre piece to the west of Marion. This land was beautiful and rolling compared to the mosquito infested flood plain along the river. The parcel included forty acres of upland hardwoods. Here the maples were "sugar" maples; not the soft maples that grew in the low lands. Within two years the gas station was sold, the low forty was sold, and Les and Betty were packing for the move "up north."
A commercial Vermont evaporator was purchased in 1966 and set up in a rough sawn building, still in use today. The 5' x 14' evaporator has the capacity for processing 200 gallons of sap per hour which is the equivalent yield of about 2000 taps. Covered buckets were used until the mid 1970's when the sap gathering technique was switched to tubing. Much of that tubing is still being used today.
In 1993, Les' son Jim took over the maple syrup operation. Jim operates the evaporator in much the same way as Les, using wood fuel as a heat source. While this wood fuel is a renewable energy source, it is also more expensive than using reverse osmosis water removal technology. But, Jim says, maple syrup tastes better made the old fashion way.
Awesome Woods Maple Syrup, is a brand of Michigan Maple Syrup selected for high-quality and packaged at Belchers' Farm.