In 1934, Goddard’s founding president Royce “Tim” Pitkin, prior to moving back to Vermont to help guide the Goddard Seminary to a Junior College, was serving as headmaster in the New London, New Hampshire public school system. In that year he published a book for young adults titled Maple Sugar Time that describes the entire process of making maple syrup as practiced by the Pitkin family in Marshfield, Vermont, going back as far as 1838. Over 80 years later this book is still in print and available to readers young and old interested in this age-old sweet Vermont tradition.
Tim, who graduated from the Goddard Seminary in 1919, convinced the Board of Trustees to give up on the five-story brick building in Barre, Vermont, and, along with a small group of dedicated staff, faculty and students, move to Plainfield to begin Goddard College, a Vermont school for living, in 1938. Some years after the College got on its feet, Tim proposed a cooperative venture that was called the Maple Store, a mail order business that offered Grade A Goddard Maple Syrup to customers all over the country for about $2.50 a quart. The profits and proceeds were contributed to a scholarship fund that provided tuition assistance to Goddard students. The hard work of making maple syrup and marketing it was tasked to the Work Program students, with help from a few dedicated local community members as well.
An annual sugaring off party at the Pitkin Farm was held so that local participants could see the process of sugar making as guided by President Pitkin. For the price of just 50 cents, visitors could sample traditional sugar on snow—fresh hot maple syrup served on snow with a donut and a sour pickle.
The Maple Store business was advertised in several national magazines. As the business grew it also offered soft maple sugar in a two-pound tin and both Cabot Cheddar and Cabot Sage Cheddar Cheese in three-pound blocks. In 1957, then Board of Trustees Chair Eliot Pratt crafted 200 four-inch tall stoneware jugs that were filled with Goddard Maple Syrup as a special offering.
A renowned food editor from the New York Herald Tribune once described Goddard College Maple Syrup as such: “this is fancy syrup for sure…a syrup refined to diamond purity; delicate as a sunbeam and of the same pure gold.”
The specially imprinted Goddard College Maple Syrup cans declared that purity and described the syrup as “delicate and golden, a sovereign remedy against the grouches of the world, it goes fast.”
Today, fifty years after the Maple Store closed its doors, Earthwalk staff and students who make use of the Plainfield campus as their classroom and laboratory, hang a few buckets on campus maples and boil the collected sap when it runs to produce some of the same delicate and golden remedy that can only be made in the hard earned Vermont spring.
This article first appeared in the Spring Clockworks magazine 2016. It was researched and written by David Hale. Photos by Hale.