Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks
Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks is a family-owned business in Vermont that’s been around for over 200 years. As you may have guessed from the name, their speciality is making maple syrup. We pulled into the parking lot in front of a small cabin nestled in the maple trees. I beelined it through the rain toward the warm, glowing shop windows and stepped inside. As I began to walk down the aisle, checking out the various apparel, produce and sweets, I realized the place was a lot bigger than it looked from the outside.
My arms were now filled with Vermont gifts for friends back home. My favorite had to be the t-shirt that said, “What Happens In Vermont, Stays in Vermont,” and then on the back in small letters, “Nothing Happens in Vermont.” Hey, at least they knew their audience. Instead of finding a basket, I took this as a cue to stop shopping before I dug a deeper hole in my bank account.
“Maple syrup sampling is starting now! Come grab a spoon if you want to sample!”
The Maple Syrup Process
Okay, I suppose I had a little wiggle room left. Grabbing a spoon, the worker poured a glob of syrup and explained to us that this first one would have a lighter, honey taste. I took a lick of the spoon, keeping this in mind.
“Oh, wow. This is amazing. I wasn’t expecting that,” a woman behind me read my mind aloud.
We went through three more samples, each better than the last. The amber syrup tingled on the outside of my tongue as the classic maple reminded me of pancakes after sleeping in on the weekends. I couldn’t possibly decide which one I loved the most, just that I needed to take one home with me. Checking out with a bag larger than I bargained for, we went next door to explore.
This is where the magic happened. Though the maple trees weren’t being harvested at this time of year, we could see all of the equipment used to turn the trees outside into the tastebud festival we had inside. There were facts plastered up on the walls, each one more shocking than the next. For instance, did you know it takes 40 gallons of maple sap to make just one gallon of pure maple syrup? This made me cringe, as I may or may not be one of those people who’s pancakes need to go for a swim before being consumed. I might have to rethink that routine.
Ben and Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard
Now that we were in the sugar land, we decided to continue the diabetes waltz at Ben and Jerry’s Factory. Everyone knows what kind of crazy delicious ice cream these guys can make, but not many (including me) knew that that ice cream comes from Vermont! It was still drizzling a bit when we arrived, but that didn’t deter anyone from grabbing a sweet scoop of ice cream from the factory. Well…maybe some people [like us]. Instead of reactivating our tastebuds, we went to the graveyard—the flavor graveyard, that is.
This is where all of the discontinued flavors went to die. Stepping through the archway, I could see why some of them didn’t last. I mean, who in their right mind is going out to order a fresh scoop of Schweddy Balls. Nonetheless, I had to commend them on the respect of letting these legends live on. The mood was truly cinematic as the thunder crackled in the distance behind the grey clouds overcoming the graveyard. We payed our respects to Creme Brûlée, and went on the mission to find our home for the night in Williston, a small town just outside of Stowe.
Dinner in Vermont
Arriving at the farm, I slugged my suitcase through the mud in my white AF1s. That was a bit of poor planning on my part, I must admit. After getting a quick tour inside, we realized it was getting a late in the day and small towns are notorious for not having any places to eat after dark. Going out to explore, it was worse than we thought. Sure, the town had dinner spots (four total to be exact), but every single one of them was closed on Mondays, Tuesdays and sometimes even Wednesdays.
Our host later explained to us that this is because places are struggling to find workers after the pandemic hit. She said even Starbucks is closed a lot, with very limited, odd hours. After an hour of Yelp hunting, I finally nailed down a restaurant two towns over—the only one open anywhere near us. I say near, but, really, it was a thirty minute drive on the backroads.
Checking in with the host, I soon found that being the only place open has its advantages: Everyone will come from all over, just to dine with you. With the host promising us at least an hour wait, we took his recommendation on hitting up the brewery next door, Prohibition Pig. Besides, everything goes a little quicker when you have an IPA to finish. Our late night meal ended up being worth the wait and I could see that people weren’t just here as a last resort: They were here because the brisket was absolutely mouthwatering. I fell asleep to a pitter patter on the window sill, dreaming of counting sheep.
Breakfast on the Farm
As the morning came, that was exactly what I did. The farm held thirty or so sheep, each one louder than the next. Our host explained that they were being a bit vocal because they hadn’t gotten their hay yet and were essentially yelling at the waitress (her) to hurry up.
The smallest one tip-toed over to me, sticking her snout up for a good pet. She seemed so peaceful. That is, until a burley, ornery man came up and rammed her off of the fence.
Going back inside, I was spoiled with a fresh cold brew coffee from my host. I enjoyed it black, but I do regret not trying the fresh sheep’s milk as my coffee creamer—maybe next time. She treated us with fresh veggies scrambled in eggs, overnight oats and toast with homemade butter. However, we weren’t the only ones who got to enjoy this breakfast of champions.
Traveling With A Purpose
“Oh yeah, I eat GOOD here. I’m going to miss it,” one of the farm helpers exclaimed.
She’d been living on the farm for a month now as a work-away program. She got to live in New England and learn more about taking care of the large animals on the farm, like the sheep and horses. Though she wasn’t getting paid doing this, growing up in Missouri, this wasn’t exactly an experience that came by often. Our host explained that she had a very big farm and there was always something that needed to be done, so the program has helped them a lot, as well as taught many eager people about farm life while living in Vermont.
This is just one of the many ways that I’ve learned can gift you with free travel. Traveling, though it may seem like a luxury, is more accessible than many think. Sure, a 5 star resort in Cancun isn’t going to be cheap, but there’s a savvy way to travel no matter where you go. Oh, and just for the record, my week in Cancun (one of the most expensive cities in Mexico) was $700 total, including a roundtrip flight, accommodation, and three tours (Chichén Itzá, Whale Shark Diving and a Temazcal Ceremony). You can check out my itinerary here.
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