Dunvegan Gold a family affair
“We call it the old fool’s shack,” remarks Laurent Souligny, with a characteristic twinkle in his eye. The self-deprecating joke is funny because it is not true. While Mr. Souligny may not be a spring chicken, he is no fool. The StIsidore egg and cash crop farmer is recognized internationally as an advocate of Canadian agriculture and was inducted into the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2011. He was chair of the Egg Farmers of Canada for 11 years and a board member for 24 years.
The farm established by Mr. Souligny and his wife, Hélène, four decades ago, is branching out into maple syrup production this spring. The “shack” adjective is not quite accurate, either. The shiny, brand new “cabane” at Erablière Souligny Sugar Bush on Blyth Road near Dunvegan is equipped with the latest in highly efficient syrup-making equipment. “I have been dreaming of doing this for years,” says Mr. Souligny, conceding that his family, including his son Jean, and Jean’s sons, Nicholas and Patrick, do most of the work.
“The cabane à sucre is a great place for family and friends to get together,” points out Laurent Souligny. “It’s a family affair.” Mr. Souligny proudly adds that the sugar bush centre was all built by local people.
The Soulignys’ first attempt at large-scale production has been a pleasant learning experience.
“This is a lot more work than we expected,” admits Jean Souligny. “After you have boiled all day, you have to start cleaning everything. But it’s also a lot of fun.”
Laurent Souligny allows, “We had thought we would get 1,200 gallons this season, but it looks like we will surpass that. We have both the quality and quantity this year.”
The “L’or de Dunvegan Gold” syrup is produced on a 60-acre, 6,000maple tract of land that has been owned by the family for generations.
About 60,000 feet of piping and a vacuum system collect sap and send the sweet liquid to reservoirs. A reverse osmosis method removes excess liquid, leaving a concentrated sap. Instead of requiring 43 gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup, only 6.1 gallons are needed. The boiling process is shorter and cheaper.
Propane is the heat source. “We calculate that it costs $1.75 in propane to produce a gallon,” relates Jean Souligny. That rate sure beats the traditional wood-burning method. “You don’t get your chain saw out for $1.75.”
THREE GENERATIONS: Laurent Souligny, flanked by his son Jean, and grandson, Nicholas, says the family’s new “cabane à sucre” is a great place for family and friends to gather. Below: Laurent Souligny with vats of cool sap.