“We have grown exponentially since the days of boiling sap with a turkey fryer on our back porch!” chuckles Nicole DeFelice.
Such were the ways of True North Homestead. Wife-and-husband owners Nicole and Sam homestead together with their three daughters in a one-stoplight town nestled in the northwest corner of Connecticut. They are boots on the ground in a whole new way after collectively serving nearly 30 years in the military – both in the Army National Guard. Nicole served for six years, deploying to Afghanistan as an MP in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Sam served 20+ years, deploying to Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Post deployment, the couple found themselves searching for ways to reconnect with their children. They turned to agriculture as an adventure to share new experiences. A small garden plot and two little girls with very dirty hands led to a few backyard chickens. As their flock grew so too did their love for agriculture.
Before they knew it they were tapping maple trees in their own backyard.
The couple is now able to produce maple syrup on a larger scale thanks to a Farmer Veteran Fellowship Fund award in 2019 – and their new sugar shack. Nicole and Sam used their grant to purchase all the materials needed to construct the sugar shack, which ultimately would become the new home for their maple syrup operation.
Nicole reflects: “Having a dedicated space for creating this New England favorite allowed us to upgrade the size of our evaporator and expand the ways we serve our local community.”
Now True North Homestead has pivoted from solely producing farm fresh goods to incorporating agri-tourism. “We believe that everyone should feel empowered to take back ownership of their food sources,” asserts the veteran. “Offering workshops and farm visits allows the community to reconnect to the deep roots of agriculture in New England and excite the next generation to take up the torch and sow the land.”
That community extends to their veteran community. The homestead has also become something of an oasis to many of their comrades-in-arms who seek to find purposeful work post-service.
Whether it’s spending a few hours boiling sap or learning how to tap their own trees, more and more of their veteran friends are discovering the magic of pure maple syrup.