By Edith Tucker
RANDOLPH — John and Jenn Scarinza are thrilled to have won the Lawrence A. Carlisle Memorial Trophy that is awarded every year by the nonprofit N.H. Maple Syrup Production Association to recognize the best maple syrup made in the Granite State the previous spring. To qualify for the award, a sugarmaker must have won one of the top three ribbons at one of state’s 11 agricultural fairs. Hanging on the wall of their sugarhouse located on the south-facing slope above Route 2 on Hodgdon’s Hill are the blue ribbons they won competing at the Lancaster and Deerfield Fairs.
The couple first met in 2004 at the Fuller’s Sugarhouse in Lancaster and were married nearly 10 years later outdoors in a meadow on Randolph Hill in the fall of 2013. Jenn, a Loudon native, moved in 2003 to the North Country to teach at White Mountains Regional High School in Whitefield and lived in Jefferson. John, who graduated from Gorham High School, became a Gorham police officer, and later became Commander of Troop F of the N.H. State Police, a post from which he retired in 2009.
Right now, with mostly warm days and cold nights, the sap is flowing freely from their approximately 600 taps which then drain through plastic tubing into a 600-gallon stainless steel tank. The couple use modern-day technology, like reverse osmosis, but still depend on traditional dry wood logs - cut and split by John — to fire up their evaporator.
Winning the Carlisle Trophy helped to put their sugaring business and the state’s maple industry into the limelight. Their efforts and unusual love story were featured with a front-page photograph in the March/April issue of “The Communicator,” the official newspaper of the N. H. Farm Bureau Federation. Writer Josh Marshall, the NHFBF director of communications, interviewed them in Scarinza’s sugarhouse just as they were beginning to ready it for this season.
“There are volumes more to tell from the stories of John and Jenn Scarinza, but it all boils down to two sugarmakers who found their better half,” he wrote in his closing paragraph. “Together they share their love of the forest and the craft of making maple syrup all while providing opportunities for others to enjoy those passions too.”
Jenn was invited on Monday, March 9, to participate in “The Exchange,” the popular 9 a.m. weekday talk show on New Hampshire Public Radio. A recording of the show is still available online at NHPR. Sam Evans-Brown substituted for Laura Knoy, who was sick that day, and Jenn was joined by panelists Dave Anderson, senior director of education at SPNHF and a backyard sugarmaker, and Steve Roberge, UNH Cooperative Extension forester and maple specialist. She not only was able to discuss her classes at WMRHS and the importance of teaching traditional New England skills to students that connect them to our local forests, but also to talk about the pleasure that small sugaring operations give to local residents as they emerge from hunkering down for the winter. Locals also enjoy buying syrup and maple candies made from the sap of local trees on slopes that they can see. She thanked her parents and grandfather for teaching her and her brother to collect sap at their home farm in Loudon using oxen and a scoot. Now her nephews are carrying on these spring rites.
The Carlisle Trophy is named for Lawrence A. Carlisle, a commissioner of Agriculture in the 1920s and 1930s, who was devoted to the development of the maple industry in New Hampshire and best known for introducing the maple grading system. Carlisle, whose gravestone carries the dates Sept. 2, 1884 to Nov. 27, 1941, is buried in Starr King Cemetery in Jefferson.