Treesblood Farm
Contact: David Barnes
Address: 1735 Rosser Avenue East Brandon, MB, R7A 7J2
Email Address:
Phone: 204-728-6278
About Us
Treesblood Farm is a ten-acre woodland property nestled along the Assiniboine River in the east end of Brandon, MB. Originally known as the Cram Farm, it was one of Brandon’s first farms that was producing pigs, goats, chickens and truck vegetables that fed the growing city in the early 1900s. Owned and managed today by Dave Barnes, the ancient riparian forest of maple, oak and ash provides refuge to a wide variety of wildlife. However, it also gives the greatest gift to Dave, pure maple syrup that Dave has harvested since 2009. The trees there are big and healthy, with root systems right in the water table, although this bank of the Assiniboine is relatively high in elevation. Treesblood Forest has received very little damage in recent high water events; floods here are still nature’s way of restoring the water table and the spring-fed creeks that take their source from it. Immediately to the east and south of Treesblood Farm is the Assiniboine Food Forest, the City of Brandon’s 40-acre permaculture preserve and forest regeneration project, managed by a charitable corporation on whose Board of Directors Dave serves as Chair.
Sap for Treesblood Farm maple syrup is dripped the old-fashioned way from spiles and into buckets, collected with toboggans, then batch-cooked on a Québec wood-fired evaporator right in Treesblood Forest. Each year Dave employs a few local young people to help with collection and cooking. Great care is taken to protect the purity of the sap; it is filtered three times before reaching the evaporator, then the hot syrup gets a final filtration before storage. Sap buckets are kept covered on the trees, and workers are careful to keep collection buckets and toboggans clean.
The health of the trees is top priority to Dave; at tapping time in March, Dave inspects each drill wound from the previous year to ensure that it has healed over completely. If not, that tree gets the year off to rest and recover fully. Although commercial maple producers drill up to four spiles in large trees to increase productivity, Dave uses only one. He believes that the trees repay him not only with better health, but with handsome sap volumes. On a good day’s run each spile will yield up to 15 liters of sap. Many of the Manitoba Maples (Acer negundo) here are larger than a man can wrap his arms around!
Maple syrup quality is influenced by many factors like: sap chemistry, weather, depth of the snow pack, health of the trees, collection, boiling, and finishing methods, and each different species of maple has its own unique flavor. As the season progresses, sap chemistry changes from simple sugars to more complex carbohydrates and amino acids, leading to a gradual darkening of syrup color and a more robust flavor. Individual batch cooking means that each batch of syrup is a unique reflection of this ever-evolving physiology. Dave believes that the old ways produce the finest syrup, so he does not use vacuum pumps, plastic tubing, reverse osmosis, or anti-foaming agents. Treesblood Farm maple syrup is pure and natural which means no additives or chemicals of any kind are used.
Although most of us love maple syrup on pancakes, Dave considers it to be medicine from the forest, the ideal sweetener for herbal teas. Maple syrup contains a wide spectrum of micro-nutrients in addition to simple sugars; many cultures use it as a key component of intestinal cleanses and fasting programs. The syrup is packaged in re-usable glass bottles rather than one-time plastic containers. You should store Treesblood Farm syrup in a dark location to preserve it from ultra-violet exposure, and always refrigerate after opening.
In the spring of 2015 Dave spent a six-week apprenticeship in Québec at the Sucrérie Blouin on Île d’Orléans where he fine-tuned his knowledge of maple syrup by working with a 4th-generation family of producers. Preserving the very same old-fashioned methods, the Blouin family uses horse-drawn sleighs to collect sap, a dream that Dave would love to pursue himself. The family also operates one of Québec’s largest and most popular sugar shacks, the Cabane à Sucre Blouin. Much of what Dave studied involved kitchen transformations of syrup into other products such as maple taffy, maple butter, caramel, jelly, granulated sugar, soft and hard sugar loaves, soft and hard candies, and others from the family recipe book of Julie Blouin, 3rd-generation maple chef and restaurateur.
Watch for an expanded line of pure maple syrup products from Treesblood Farm in the future.