Amy and Steve Wheeler, owners of Jed’s Maple Products, produce a wide variety of maple products in small batches by hand.
Surrounded by 110 acres of forested land, the Wheelers sell everything from maple syrup, maple candy and maple ice cream toppings to maple mustard, maple jelly and maple barbeque relish.
A circuitous path back home
Steve and Amy follow in the footsteps of five generations of Wheelers who came before them. However, they didn’t always know they wanted to come back to the family business.
Steve and Amy met at the University of Vermont. He earned a degree in mechanical engineering, and she earned a degree in physical therapy. After master’s degrees in Virginia and climbing corporate ladders in the mid 1990s, they realized their hearts were in Vermont. That’s when they came home and became the sixth generation to follow the family’s deep-rooted passion – maple syrup production.
Expanding the business and the family
Making maple syrup together was so much fun for the young couple that they decided to expand into specialty foods – dressings, barbeque sauce, maple sugar and spices. In 2008, the Wheeler’s purchased the Northeast Kingdom Mustard Company and in 2009 they purchased Rabbi’s Roots Horseradish. In 2012, with all of that growth, they built a new facility in Derby, Vermont.
As the business grew, so did their family. First came Jed, then Jonah. The brothers grew up in the family business, greeting customers in the shop, working in the woods or sugarhouse, labeling products and helping develop new ones. Jed graduated from Vermont Technical College with dual degrees in Forestry and Agribusiness Management and came home to the farm. Jonah is studying pharmacy.
Stewardship, a key principle
Part of the Wheeler family’s mission is to care for the forest, both their home and an integral part of their business. As a result, they follow organic guidelines for maple syrup production. While many maple syrup producers use a synthetic defoamer when processing the sap into syrup, the Wheelers use organic safflower oil. They avoid using pesticides or herbicides in the woods, believing that such chemicals are unnecessary if the woods are healthy.
The Wheelers tap wild maple trees, and their woods management plan includes tree species diversity. They feel this supports a larger number of wild birds and animals, which better protect their maple trees from unwanted insects. The Wheelers were also one of the first producers involved in the Audubon Bird Friendly Maple Program.
“Nature has a great way of taking care of itself when left in balance,” states the Wheelers’ website.
Farm Credit partnership
Throughout their many years in business, the Wheelers have grown and expanded in different ways. Those changes required financial support. That’s where Farm Credit East came in.
“We are so thankful that Farm Credit East entered into our business life. They helped organize our finances in such a way that we now truly know we can attain our dreams,” Amy said.