THE BIRTH OF KICKAPOO GOLD

Phil Gudgeon and his wife, Sarah, spent their childhoods making maple syrup with their families. Carrying on the tradition, they first tapped the sugar bush on the Gudgeon family’s farmstead in 1974 with the assistance of Phil’s grandparents, Carson and Gyneth Lawrence. “It was a stellar year,” according to Phil, and they produced 14 batches and 54 gallons of pure maple syrup.

Six years later, they rounded up some used equipment and began tapping the five-acre stand of maple trees on their own farm in rural Viroqua, Wisconsin, which they have owned and operated since 1977.

March in Wisconsin is perfect for making maple syrup: the weather is ideal, with cold nights and warmer days to make the sap run, and plenty of free time for doing almost nothing else on the farm except the normal barn chores of milking and caring for the 40-cow herd.

For years, the Gudgeons’ 150 taps would produce about 100 quarts of the sweet delicacy, plenty to share with family and friends who came to help out during the month-long sap run. It wasn’t until the cows were sold in December of 1998 that they started thinking about expanding production.

Phil purchased a 4’x14’ evaporator at an auction and constructed a building to house it. Needing a large volume of sap to operate the evaporator, he also began inquiring about stands of maple trees to be rented. But syrup making remained a spare-time activity until a large stands of maples became available in 2001.

Suddenly, the dream was becoming a reality, and all the equipment needed to tap 900 maple trees had to be ordered and the building had to be readied and made operable for the coming spring. Needless to say, after all of the planning, 2002 was a very productive sugar season and the Gudgeons made much more syrup than their friends and family could eat.

“I have had my fill of buying retail and selling wholesale, the grave ill of production agriculture, so embarked on marketing our syrup as Kickapoo Gold,” explains Phil. “I feel that is about the only gold you will find in the beautiful Kickapoo area.”

With a growing interest in further expanding maple syrup production, they also saw an opportunity to service other local producers, and in September of 2002, Kickapoo Gold Maple Supplies became a dealer for Leader Evaporator Co., Inc., offering a full line of products for producing maple syrup with an office and showroom located at 200 High Echo Lane, Westby, WI 54667. To make an appointment to visit, please call 608-634-4896.