When Bob Snider retired, he and wife, Charlotte, purchased a bush property near Gooderham, with the vision of building a small cabin and sugar shack to make maple syrup.

Their first attempt was in March 2016, when they snowshoed into the woodlot with a few buckets and a turkey fryer. That weekend, they made a little less than two litres of maple syrup but were hooked.

The next year, they had the sugar shack built and have continued to expand and improve every year since. As a hobby operation with less than 300 taps, they use traditional bucket and gravity sap collection methods, a wood fire evaporator and gravity filtering.

“The reasons we make maple syrup are simple,” says Bob. “We are a family that eats a lot of it, I enjoy the challenge, and it is an activity that brings our family together throughout the year. My sister and I learned the basics of sugaring from our dad when we were kids. Today, my wife, daughter, her partner, my sister and a nephew all help out, from filling the wood shed in the fall, to collecting sap and managing the evaporator in the Spring, to delivering our orders to family and friends after the season is over.”

The family – under the name Neil’s Brown Farm – entered the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair the first time in 2019 and in each of the past four years have been awarded ribbons. Last year, they received a second place for their Amber and a third for their Very Dark maple syrups.

This year, at the 101st Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, they were “very honoured” to be named the 2023 Champion Maple Syrup (best of the class 1 through 4) and to receive the John David Eaton World Championship Cup for their Grade A Dark Robust Taste maple syrup.

Bob said, “in my absence, my sister, our daughter and newborn were present at the award ceremony on Nov. 8 in Toronto.

“We are proud to be a part of Ontario’s agricultural tradition and of the role the Royal Winter Agricultural Fair takes in celebrating that tradition. Our love of sugaring is not unique. Ontario producers each have a story to tell and at the heart of their stories is a love of sugaring and the ability to produce great pure maple syrup,” Bob said.

He added his involvement with maple syrup goes beyond their own operation. As a board member of the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association, he works with other producers to advance Sweet Ontario, Pure Maple Syrup.

“As a family, we look forward to the 2024 season and coming together to hopefully produce another great maple syrup,” Bob said.

Asked about the name, Neil Brown’s Farm, Bob said, “Neil Brown’s name is written across our property’s lot and concession on an 1890 map for the Township of Glamorgan. We assume that Neil Brown was the first owner of the property and may have started the arduous task of clearing the bush and moving the many stones in an effort to homestead. One hundred and forty years later, what remains of these efforts are huge piles of stones throughout the sugar maple bush. We recognize the earlier settlers by naming our farm after Neil Brown.”