By Julia Donnini
Flurries in April don’t get everyone down. For people like David Palmer, freezing nights mean business. At his family’s authentic sugar house, he keeps busy being a one-stop shop for maple fiends. Here, sap turns from liquid to candy, syrup to sugar.
Palmer’s grandmother started the business post-WWII when sugar was still being rationed. As a mother, she found a way to stock the sweet stuff and keep her son in tow. “My father would always joke that he was sugaring as a baby, and it’s sort of true. She’d bring him along while she tapped the trees.” After the maple matriarch passed away in 2001, the late David Sr. made it his goal to create the largest sugar house in Chittenden County. He left a sweet legacy.
But David isn’t just the sugar guy now. Though maple is “in [his] blood,” he went on to complete a history degree at Trinity College and the University of Vermont. “I loved reading and I loved history,” Palmer said. He even kicked around the idea of law school. Instead, Palmer landed a job as a claims adjustor out of college. Though it wasn’t his favorite aspect of the game, he learned the ropes and found his true love, marketing and sales. His mien says it all – Palmer is a people person. Now, he operates Palmer Insurance Agency in Hinesburg and Williston Insurance Agency.
For about seven weeks out of the year, Palmer and his wife, Michelle, share the family business with their daughters, five-year-old Lilly and 2-year-old twins, Paige and Chloe. The operation is a family affair. Even Palmer’s niece is set to wed in the meadow behind the sugar house this summer.
Though last year Vermont producers only tapped into about half of a crop of syrup, Palmer maintains this year is going strong. “It’s also been one of the busiest years for visitors. We have live music on the weekends and people leave here happy,” he confirmed. They typically start tapping around February but it’s more of an art than a science. Guests can catch a glimpse of the process at the sugar house every weekend during maple season. “The sap is still running right now, but as Dad used to say, ‘We’ll tell you in May how it goes,’” Palmer said. For now, Palmer’s Sugar House is open for sugar on snow parties through April 21.
When he’s not boiling sap or offering insurance advice, Palmer is a part of the Shelburne United Methodist Church. He’s also a member of the Shelburne Business & Professional Association (SBPA), having helped organize Shelburne Day. Still, the father of three savors simple domestic pleasures. When asked what he reads, he replied with a smile, “Right now, I read bedtime stories.”
Favorite book: “The Count of Monte Cristo”
Favorite Shelburne haunt: Shelburne Beach, The Bearded Frog, and the family property. “We love to walk through the back paths with the girls and our golden retriever, Charlie. We bring our four goats and they follow right along,” Palmer said.
Favorite food: Can you guess? “Maple syrup,” he said with a grin. “It really is a beautifully diverse thing. It’s even been called a super food.”
Bucket List: King Salmon fishing in Alaska