In observation of National Agriculture Week, we present stories about Mason County farming this week.
By Rob Alway. Editor-in-Chief.
VICTORY TOWNSHIP — As the spring equinox nears, a special ritual occurs in the woods across the northern United States. It’s maple syrup season. For farmer Fred Bates, the season has even special meaning. His birthday is on March 15, traditionally the early part of the maple syrup season.
“I was born out in our old sugar house out here in the woods. When I was born my mom went and had me and 10 minutes later I was out in the sugar house,” Fred, who turned 69 over the weekend, says. “So, I’ve kind of have been born into it.”
Fred’s grandfather, Carl Christiansen, settled on the farm on North Peterson Road, between Fisher and Dewey roads, in 1905. His great-grandparents had lived on the southwest corner of Peterson Road and Victory Drive, a few miles north of the farm. In 1961, while still in high school, Fred bought out his grandfather’s maple syrup operation.
“I’ve always enjoyed it,” Fred says, while manning the syrup boiler. He also farms beef cattle and pigs. Back in the day, he also raised dairy cattle. His brothers, Ken and Frank, are also part of the farming operation. Total, the Bates farm is 280 acres, with 82 acres of maple trees.
Fred says his operation has gotten smaller over the years, and he likes it that way. Family members, including his brothers, help with the annual syrup season.