Custom labels are part of a dream come true for Jessica Ackerman and her family
Left: Every day, Jessica helps other people get the labels they need for their products. Today, Amherst Label created custom labels for Jess.
Many a New Englander has daydreamed about making their own maple syrup in a quaint little sugar shack as winter turns to spring. Imagine the sweet aroma of maple steaming in a wood-walled shed. Mismatched seating for friends to visit. Producing from the land something that when poured out of jugs and bottles makes everything taste mapley-wonderful, from pancakes to ice cream.
Amherst Label sales coordinator Jessica Ackerman’s husband Mike is one of those dreamers. But he and his brother Charlie built the shack, invested in the evaporator, and are producing enough syrup to sell in their second year of “living the dream.”
“Mike has always wanted to do it,” says Jess. “He started off small last year with 70 taps and a rinky-dink evaporator that he made out of a 50-gallon drum. It took hours and hours to get a gallon of syrup.
“It has turned into something a lot bigger now,” says Jess. “We’re fully into it. We’ve got all the professional equipment, an evaporator, bottles and syrup. We registered the name and formed an LLC.”
Everything is better with A LABEL
Jess realized that the enterprise was ready for professional labels and her coworkers at Amherst Label helped develop a brand that matches the beauty of the family vision.
The Amherst Label art department created a gorgeous label design, printed on our Domino Digital press. Jess and team chose a clear label so the syrup can be seen through the attractive glass bottle. Picture-perfect and ready to sell like, well, hotcakes.
Making the maple syrup
“It takes forty gallons of sap to make one gallon of finished syrup,” Jess explains. “Last season we totaled 6 gallons. This year, we are up to 15 gallons and it’s only a couple of weeks into the season.”
Although the charming sugar shack is as toasty as a sauna and has the heavenly scent of maple, the project is not without challenges. “It’s hard to keep up with the flow of the sap—we’re trying but the food-grade holding tank overflows on a daily basis” says Jess with a laugh. “Someone needs to drive down there on a snowmobile, pulling a sled, carrying a 35-gallon tank. We pump the sap and drive it back up to the shack.” Not that much fun when it’s cold and windy like it has been this March.
But otherwise the conditions in Merrimack, NH, have been ideal for Ackerman Brothers’ Maple this year. Nighttime temperatures below freezing and daytime temperatures above freezing make the sap run well.
Jess and Mike have just bought their first home, across the street from Mike’s parents’ house, a 20-acre family homestead that has been in the family for generations. The scene is idyllic—barn, goats, chickens, turkeys. Plenty of maple trees to tap. A huge vegetable garden each summer.
And now there’s a sugar shack, making syrup, making memories, and making Mike’s dreams come true.
Fun Facts About the Maple Business
Maple syrup is a $37.5 million business annually in the US, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Quebec’s yield is six times that amount! Vermont is the leader in the Northeast followed by New York, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut. Between 2010 and 2017, New Hampshire’s maple production doubled.
Top to bottom below: 1) Maple syrup labels hot of the digital press. 2) Printed labels heading to the die cutter. 3) Michael Brochu checking on things, inspection screen shows enlarged label. 4) Jordan Bristol at the controls of Amherst Label’s 7-color Domino UV inkjet press—the only one in New England.
Top to bottom at right: 1) Ackerman Brothers’ new sugar shack in Merrimack, NH. 2) Front view of the evaporator boiling sap down to make syrup. 3) The boiling, the steam that fills the air with that unique maple aroma. 4) Ackerman Brother’s 2018 syrup labeled with custom labels digitally produced at Amherst Label.