Family Farm History
The family farm history of the Carman Brook Farm spans five generations of Fortins. Today the family farm is owned and managed by Daniel and Karen Fortin. Daniel manages the dairy herd, crops and woods as well as maple production. Karen manages the sugarhouse gift shop, website, agribusiness activities and maintains the farm’s bookkeeping. Son, Levon, actively participates in the day-to-day operations in the sugarhouse. Levon works in the woods and is in charge of production in the sugarhouse, producing maple products and developing a wholesale market.
The Fortin’s have been making a living here since 1911. The following is a history of the family and how the farm has evolved through five generations.
First Generations of a Family Farm
Jeremy & Marie Fortin, along with their children, moved from Napierville, QC, with some farm equipment. They began milking cows at the Carman Brook Farm in 1911. Their youngest son, Alfred, served in the US Army and was deployed during WWI. After completing his duty he returned to Highgate Springs and married Eleanore Bouchard from St Valentine, QC. They purchased the farm from Jeremy and Marie in 1922. Alfred and Eleanore spent the rest of their lives on the farm. They raised nine children on the family farm and they lived in the original farm house until their deaths.
A Third Generation of Family Farming
While the other siblings left VT, Gilles stayed on the family farm and married Angele Letourneau from Noyan, QC. They purchased the farm from Alfred and Eleanore in 1957. They raised 7 children.
Gilles and Angele endured a 5 year battle with brucellosis which ended in 1977. At that time the herd was depopulated and the barn was sterilized by remaining empty over the 1977-1978 winter.
After attending UVM and traveling abroad and around the US, Daniel, the eldest son, came home in 1978 to farm with his parents. Cows were purchased from two different herds in New York and were brought to the Carman Brook Farm. All of the cows at the farm descend from the original 1978 purchase.
Fourth Generation of Family Farming
Daniel and Karen married in April of 1989 and in November of 1990 they purchased the farm from Daniel’s parents. At this time the farm was only milking cows and working hard to survive the ups and downs of wholesale milk prices. When prices for milk plummeted in 1993, the Fortin’s looked at other resources that were available on the farm. There were a lot of discussions about what they had a desire to do for work and what the farm could support. This is when the maple syrup business began.
The plan was to have trees tapped when the youngest of their four sons started school in 1998. With that goal met, they built the sugarhouse for the 1999 maple season. There was an addition in 2008 to the sugarhouse adding a commercial kitchen, shipping room and office space as well as additional maple sap storage. The addition supported the maple products that were being made and the shipping that was taking place daily. Moving the farm office out of the family home and into the sugarhouse was a huge success!
Fifth Generation of Family Farming
We’re looking forward to the next generation and what Levon will add to the farm. With the addition of a couple of granddaughters, who knows what will happen with the “Sixth Generation of Family Farming”!!