the halls, maple syrup producers since 1860
His is the fifth generation to work the family’s ancestral home at Lac-Brome in the Montérégie region. Ferme Hallacres Farm draws its heritage back to 1860. David Hall splits his time between maple and lambs. With 21,000 taps and 300 animals to nurture, David counts on the support of family. A father of 3, David is happy to share daily chores with his son Andrew, a shareholder in the business for 5 years, representing the sixth generation to tend the ancestral property.
the university man goes back to the land
To David, his story is unremarkable: after studying at McGill University in Montréal, he went home to the family farm, buying it from his father in 1985. Up until that time, “my father made maple syrup the old-fashioned way, without electricity.” For his first 9 years, David used a generator and an old separator. By the 1990s, he was adding taps and getting the most out of his sugar bush. The family forest now boasts 12,000 taps as well as another stand of trees with a quota of 9,000.
a lesson from nature
David Hall and his family won’t ever forget 2008. There was so much snow that winter that it obliterated the old sugar shack on the hillside. “All the ice and snow made it impossible to get up the hill. It was the last week of boiling before we were finally able to reach it by tractor,” he recalls. By then, the little shack was obliterated. The Halls built a new one the following year, this time at the foot of the hill.
As a way to escape the day-to-day on the farm and recharge their batteries, David and his wife travel. “As they say,” he laughs, “Happy wife, happy life!” The Halls spend Christmas in the Caribbean sun and take their three kids to St. Martin in winter. David is also curious about what is going on elsewhere in the maple world, crossing the border to USA to visit with buyers and producers there. He feels knowing the broader business landscape makes him a better administrator.
16 years in the movement
“Stop crying about it and do something!” Those words from a friend and former administrator at a regional election meeting were what it took for David to throw his hat into the ring. That was 16 years ago, including the last 6 as president of the Montérégie-Est region. “At the beginning, it was tough because my French wasn’t good. I reached the limits of what I could understand when I first got involved. And meetings were very tiring,” remembers David. Still, all these years later, the anglophone Québecer remains humble about his French-language abilities. It didn’t stop him from honorably representing the producers of his region though. And he’s fiercely proud of what was accomplished. “Since 2010, we doubled sales, from 58 to 127 million pounds. We did that together!” His secret:
“If I’m still doing it, it’s because I love maple syrup!”