Parsons Farm, Charlevoix, Michigan

Our story

living the sweet life for five generations

George Parsons (center) gathering sap with the kids, Jane (left) and Bill (right), circa 1925

Harwood Gold
Family Farm Transition

October 2015

We are very excited to see the Parsons family tradition continue on as we transition the farm and Harwood Gold over to the fifth generation. Watch the video to learn more.

The Parsons family has hugged the shores of Harwood Lake for over a century. The farm's current location, established in 1898, stands just about a mile from where John Parsons first set the family homestead all those years ago. By 1910, John's son George was co-owner of both a sawmill and a thrashing company, serving the farming community of Charlevoix and Antrim Counties with milling services, a grain thrasher, bean thrasher, silo filler and water wagon.

While George was certainly an entrepreneur, he was also a visionary. One day he tapped the sturdy old maple tree that stood in the middle of a field west of the family farmhouse, rigged a brass hog kettle to a makeshift boom, and boiled the collected sap over an open fire until it was almost syrup. The process was finished over the bustling wood cook stove in the farmhouse kitchen, and the result, packed into canning jars, was known fondly as "liquid gold."

George Parsons thrashing

George Parsons (driving tractor) with his water wagon and thrashing machine, circa 1910

Bill and Bertha Parsons

Left: Bill and Bertha Parsons engagement photo, circa 1930
Right: Dave Parsons firing up the King Evaporator, circa 1990

Time passed, and more trees were tapped. By the late 1930s George's son William (Bill) was running the farm, and while dairy was his business, syruping became the Parsons family passion. Bill made many updates to the syruping process - instead of boiling over an open fire in the woods, he built a new sap house on the farm, and purchased a King Evaporator. This way, he was able to milk the cows, and keep an eye on the boiling sap.

Bill and Bertha Parsons had four boys, and when their son Dave took over the farm, he continued the family tradition. Each Spring, as the temperature rose to just above freezing, the tapped trees along the banks of Harwood Lake gave up their crystal clear sap, and the evaporating began. Dave and his family practically lived in the sap house, enjoying meals and the company of friends, making instant syrup sundaes and coating the snow outside the little sap house with syrup for an extra special treat.

In the 2000's, Dave updated the whole syrup-making process. He and his wife Terri turned the little family hobby into a little family business, by selling the syrup at local farmer's markets, restaurants, and online. And now they are handing over the reigns to the next generation. Dave's daughters have decided to carry on the family tradition. Amber and her husband Phillip (who happens to be a chef!) have moved onto the farm and are expanding the line of products to include gourmet maple products. Katie is the designer, in charge of the website, and keeping up with new label designs for the chef's latest creations.

We are so honored and excited to see the Parsons family tradition continue on as we transition over to the fifth generation. You can still find us on Parsons Road in Charlevoix, tapping the same trees tapped by our ancestors, watching the steam rise from another season in the sugar bush.

Dave in the sap house

Dave Parsons in the new high-tech sap house, 2014

Phillip tapping trees

Phillip tapping trees, 2015

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Left: Amber giving thanks for the first precious keg of the season, 2015
Right: Katie, Dave & Terri Parsons, at Charlevoix's Apple Fest 2015