Catching the Sugarmaking ‘Bug’ in Vermont


The Maple Syrup Tradition Endures in Vermont

By Erica Houskeeper

Kenn Hastings knows all about catching the “sugar bug.” A sugarmaker at Bread Loaf View Farm in Cornwall, Hastings starting sugaring for a living 30 years ago.

“There’s a love and passion that goes into being a sugarmaker,” says Hastings, 57.


Filmmaker Will Hanley

Hastings is one of several sugarmakers featured in Will Hanley’s short documentary film, The Sugar Bug, which will play at the annual Green Mountain Film Festival this month.

“Most everyone in Vermont can tell you something about sugaring, whether it’s a memory of visiting a sugarhouse as a child or knowing someone who runs a maple sugaring operation,” says Hastings, who grew up in Bridport in Addison County.

Hastings met filmmaker Hanley last year. A graduate of Middlebury College’s Film and Media Studies program, Hanley made the film for his senior thesis project. While Hanley was raised in Baltimore, his mother grew up in Rutland, and his grandmother still lives there.  His main memory of maple sugaring is when his mom tapped a tree in their backyard in Maryland for a couple of years.

“I knew a little bit about maple sugaring when I started the film, but I did know much,” says Hanley.

The Sugar Bug was made in 2015 primarily from February to May, with most of the footage and interviews filmed over a four-week period.  Most of the maple sugarmakers interviewed in the film are from Addison County and the surrounding area.


Kenn Hastings

Hanley credits sugarmaker Hastings for giving him the idea for the title of the film. “Kenn talked about catching the ‘sugar bug,’ and I starting finding people who are super passionate about maple sugaring,” Hanley says.

Hastings learned to sugar when he was 13 years old, but he didn’t tap into his passion for maple sugaring until his 20s.

“To be a sugarmaker, you have to love being outside in the woods where things are quiet and all you hear are the birds singing,” Hasting says. “If you are a sugarmaker and someone starts talking to you about the sugarbug, you can totally relate.”

**If You Go: Want to learn more about maple sugaring? Vermont sugarhouses around the state, including Bread Loaf View Farm, will be open for Maple Open House Weekend April 2-3.

This post written by Erica Houskeeper and originally appearing on her blog Happy Vermont.