Local girl helps family with maple syrup business


Brynn Burton had been to Walt Disney World Resort twice.

The Brownstown Central Middle School seventh-grader’s third time can be summed up as a sweet experience.

During her fall break, she spent a week working at her family’s maple syrup booth at the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival in Orlando, Florida.

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Medora-based Burton’s Maplewood Farm received its first invitation to be a vendor at the event, which is a celebration of global cuisines, music and more. The festival ran Aug. 29 to Nov. 23, and the Burton family had some of its other employees working the other weeks.

“It was completely different because I’ve been there two times before then knowing I had seen all of the touristy stuff,” Brynn said. “We got to go backstage, and we got to see all of this stuff. It was larger scale. It was a cool setup.”

Along with interacting with the park’s visitors from all over the world, Brynn met some of the park’s employees. One was a cast member who told Brynn she is still in awe after 10 years of working there.

“I got a lot of information from her about the college program that they have there and other things,” Brynn said.

Tim and Angie Burton, owners of Burton’s Maplewood Farm, said they were happy to give their granddaughter an experience she won’t soon forget.

“How many 12-year-olds get to go work at Disney at Epcot?” Tim said, noting he and his wife like to step back and let Brynn interact with customers.

“Brynn is mature enough, when we do other events and she’s at it, if she doesn’t know an answer, she’ll ask me. She’s very mature for her age,” Tim said.

“She’s very driven,” Angie said. “It was a pretty cool experience.”

During her week at the festival, Brynn had the opportunity to provide samples of and sell the business’ traditional syrup, B Grade Maple Syrup, and two of its barrel-aged syrups, Kentucky Bourbon and Starlight Apple-Jack Brandy.

Plus, Burton’s Maplewood Farm had a three-bottle box set that was created exclusively for the festival and included a bottle of each of the syrups.

Tim said Kentucky Bourbon is their top-selling syrup across the country.

“I think it’s just because there’s just a lot more bourbon drinkers out there,” he said. “We collaborate with other distilleries that make a fantastic bourbon. … They do an incredible job.”

Tim said the family’s business was one of the few outside vendors at the festival. The booth was located in the Appleseed Orchard portion of the Canada building.

“It’s not like your typical trade show or anything where you walk into this hall and there’s just a ton of vendors. Nothing like that,” he said. “They blend you in. A lot of the guests thought we were a part of Disney. We have these products out there, so they can clearly see that we’re not Disney World employees. We’re Burton’s Maplewood Farm.”

A few years ago, Tim tried to get the farm into a food and wine event at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California. He, however, was told they were trying to limit it to California producers.

“That’s what I was interested in participating in, but it’s very, very difficult to get into those types of events,” he said.

He later received a call from a woman at Disney World asking if he would like to collaborate with them on an event called Party for the Planet, a six-week festival at Animal Kingdom that focuses on promoting the environment. Burton’s Maplewood Farm had its syrup featured at Tiffins Restaurant at the park.

“That went over really well,” Tim said.

The following year, the same woman called and asked Tim about the farm collaborating with them on the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival, and they did. He then asked the woman about being a part of the International Food and Wine Festival.

“Immediately, she said yes,” Tim said. “I didn’t expect that answer so quick. There’s not a lot of outside vendors, so we considered ourselves very fortunate.”

Burton’s Maplewood Farm has around 40 people who work at events throughout the year, and they helped during the three-month festival.

“What we learned is that you can use Orlando as your base and run out and do satellite events, like three- to four-day events,” Tim said.

Some of his employees set up shop at events in Lafayette and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Jackson, Mississippi.

“That was great because that’s no more than 10 hours drive time, but it would be like a three- or four-day event and during the holidays because some of the holiday markets kick off as early as late October,” Tim said.

In 2018, the Burtons’ employees worked 1,080 event days on the calendar. Last year, that increased by 10%.

The events include farmers markets, festivals, rodeos and more around the country.

“What we’re striving for is to build up where we’re doing 2,000 to 3,000 event days,” Tim said.

Later this month, Burton’s Maplewood Farm will have kiosks at Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm in California.

“I had thought about, ‘Well, if we can do this one with Disney World, I think it’ll open doors at other food-driven events at amusement parks,’” Tim said. “Now, it’s starting to snowball.”

In March, he said their syrup will be used in different dishes during the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. Plus, the farm has been verbally invited back to the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival.

Seeing how the business has grown since starting more than a decade ago, the Burtons are in awe.

They owned a systems integration business when one of their technicians asked Tim to help a Heltonville family collect maple sap.

When they decided to try it themselves, they collected maple sap on a nearby farm and sold it to a producer in Washington County for the first year. Then they bought an evaporator and started cooking, and that led to the farm hosting a maple syrup festival.

Later on, the business took off with the demand for barrel-aged maple syrups, and the farm couldn’t keep up with it, so the Burtons collaborated with other farms.

Tim said only about 15 states produce maple syrup, and Indiana is the southwesterly state in the Maple Belt.

“I wouldn’t have been able to tell you when we started where we are today only because that was not a part of the master plan. It has just happened organically,” he said.

“And it would not have happened had we not started doing barrel-aged. We wouldn’t have gone as far with just traditional maple syrup,” Angie said. “It hit at the time also that a lot of barrel-aging was going on. It was like it all came together, and then it was like vanilla is being barrel-aged, olive oils. We started at the same time, and it was weird how it all just evolved.”

Natural maple syrup is truly a luxury item, Tim said, and the farm developed a home market selling around Chicago, Illinois.

One time while set up at a farmers market there, they delivered to Oprah Winfrey’s personal chef, who was going to use their syrups in food he was preparing for an event after her wrap show.

They got to meet Winfrey and singer Lady Gaga’s parents.

“We’ve met some people that we just look at each other and go, ‘Oh my gosh! Did we just really sit down and have breakfast with them?’” Tim said. “I think it’s interesting because sometimes, when you’re just in the heat of the moment, you’re going nose down, nose to the grindstone. You couldn’t really think about this stuff, but then you stop and go, ‘Holy cow! We have made some progress.’”

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For information about Burton’s Maplewood Farm, visit burtonsmaplewoodfarm.com or facebook.com/burtonsmaplewoodfarm.


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