Keeping Memories Alive: McGavin’s Sugar Bush

Beverly Written by Beverly Leavitt May 29, 2021 Member Updates

Hundred of maple syrup bottles lined up in rows on a red and white checkered table cloth.

Farms are commonly passed down from generation to generation, and with each passing, new traditions arise.

Keeping the lineage alive is in a farmer’s blood, but what happens when it falls dormant?

McGavin’s Sugar Bush was in operation until Jeff McGavin’s great-grandfather shut it down at the age of 84. It wasn’t until 2010 when Jeff’s dad, Neil, and his father-in-law, Bob Rowe, decided to start tapping trees again on the family farm where Jeff and his wife, Shannon, live.

"The old building was there, and they asked if they could make some maple syrup with the grandkids. They wanted to teach them how it was made.

Well, it grew to more than that. Starting with 200 pails, we have that and another 725 on the pipeline,” exclaims Jeff.

Producing more than what Jeff and Shannon can give away to family and friends, they sell the maple syrup for donation at McGavin Farm Equipment.

The proceeds go to the families of soldiers fallen in the Afganistan war, which gave the syrup the name “Freedom Syrup.” Each pail’s lid carries the name, rank, hometown, and age of 159 soldiers that died in the war as a unique way to recognize their sacrifice.

To date, the Freedom Syrup has raised over $230,000.

Sugar bush covered in pail lids.

While the donations are undoubtedly special, what’s even more remarkable is the connections the sugar bush has made.

Jeff shares, "our story made it on the news, and we had a lot of the families of the soldiers that wanted to find us. One of the wives came out with her kids to look for their dad’s pail in the bush. At the same time, another man came to find the same pail. It turned out that it was the paramedic that was there when her husband was killed.

They talked about him and brought his memory to life. It was pretty moving to see.”

For Jeff, it brings him closer to his family and his community.

"It has kept dad young. He is always doing stuff and staying busy, but he also reminisces about stories of our family and the area.

Generally, a lot of our neighbours volunteer their time. They all have their own role that they like to do: gathering pails, bottling, checking lines, etc.

It’s a fun time! Everyone gets together and it brings our adult children, nieces, and nephews back each year to help. It turns into a family reunion.”

Want to contribute? Stop into McGavin Farm Equipment at the end of maple syrup season to purchase a bottle by donation. Don’t wait too long—these bottles go quickly!

We’re sure they’ll tell you a tale or two while you’re there too.