A Vermont maple syrup producer has a big mess on his hands and is out thousands of dollars of merchandise during the holiday shopping season following vandalism to his sugarhouse.
"Every time you touch something, you stick to it," said Alan Mayer of Bristol, as his feet made a loud sound pulling away from a tacky layer of maple syrup that had been spilled on the floor of his sugarhouse.
Vermont State Police said someone broke into Mayer's property last week and apparently used an axe to punch holes in large storage barrels and smash equipment required for syrup production.
Mayer estimated that nearly 340 gallons of the valuable product gushed out and was ruined. Based on his price of $38 per gallon, that's well over a $12,000 hit.
"Why damage somebody’s livelihood?" Mayer asked.
The intruder or intruders also stole several jugs of maple syrup, perhaps a dozen, Mayer said.
The costly destruction of sugaring equipment throws into question whether Mayer will even be able to boil next spring when the maple sap starts running, because he said some replacement parts are hard to obtain.
"We’re trying to figure out what our options are," Mayer said, noting he is still waiting to hear back from his insurer as well as equipment suppliers. "It’s maddening to realize somebody damaged this, just — for whatever reason. We don’t know."
Mayer makes syrup, which is very time-intensive, on the side in addition to his other jobs as a printer and volunteer fire chief.
Vermont State Police said the timeframe for the crime has been narrowed down to a roughly 24-hour period starting in the evening of the Monday before Thanksgiving.
If anyone saw or heard anything out of the ordinary, they’re asked to call the Vermont State Police at the New Haven barracks at 802-388-4919.
Matt Gordon of the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association said the crime strikes at the heart of an iconic industry the state prides itself on.
"It’s damaging to the spirit," Gordon said. "What makes Vermont really special is we can just have things out in the woods and trust that no one’s going to tamper with it or mess with it."
With that trust broken, Mayer said he needs warmer weather to bring in a hot-water power washer to get all of the maple syrup off the floor.
He said he is grateful for his customers’ support, and hopes he can return soon to the traditional Vermont activity he loves.
After word of the crime spread on social media and through the news, Mayer said he received a card from a woman from central Vermont and a letter from a man from Pennsylvania, voicing their support and sympathy.
"It’s nice to know there still are so many good people in the world," Mayer said.