Maple syrup thefts sour for Mount Holly sugarmaker
By Brent Curtis
STAFF WRITER | April 30,2013
MOUNT HOLLY — For years, the only safety measure that maple sugar maker Mark Turco has relied on at his farmstand has been a heartfelt prayer written out by his deceased mother.
“My mother wrote a note thanking people for being honest and wishing God’s blessing to us all,” Turco said standing next to the little wooden shed at the end of his driveway. On most days, the shed doors are open and an open flag hangs off the Papa John’s Sugar Shack farm stand.
But the sign was down, the doors were locked up and Turco was away at the Vermont Maple Festival in St. Albans last weekend when someone pried open the lock and stole as much as $700 worth of syrup and cash, he said.
“It’s a shame, we’ve never had a problem with anyone taking anything without paying. I’ve had people stop me in the grocery store to pay me $10 they owe me,” he said.
The rural stretch of Healdville Road where Turco and his family live and make their maple syrup doesn’t look like a hotbed for criminal activity either.
But looks can be deceiving.
In recent months, Turco said five of his neighbor’s homes have been broken into and his own house and sugar shack have been targeted by thieves.
A few years ago, he said someone stole hundreds of dollars worth of equipment from his sugar shack and a few months ago his house was broken into and hundreds of dollars worth of maple syrup and cash were taken.
Vermont State Police are investigating the thefts from Turco but have made no arrests. Investigators could not be reached Monday but Turco said police have told him they have no suspects in the case.
“It’s getting to the point where the whole area is going to be under surveillance cameras here,” he said.
He’s only half-joking.
While maple syrup might seem like just a sweet breakfast staple to some, to sugarmakers like Turco it’s a commodity that’s both expensive to make and costly to lose.
Turco maintains taps on 10,000 trees to get the roughly 160,000 gallons of sap he needs to make the 4,000 gallons of maple syrup he makes each year. That’s at the low end of a conversion rate that dictates that it takes 40 to 50 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup.
How much syrup was in the farm stand when it was broken into is unclear but the sugarmaker said he knows he had stocked two one-gallon jugs along with a a number of containers ranging from half-gallons to pints. A one-gallon jug of maple syrup is priced at $45 on Turco’s web site.
“A lot of work went into what was taken,” he said.
Anyone with information about the thefts is asked to call state police at 773-9101.