Friday, March 25, 2022

Business Spotlight: The Maple Sugarhouses of Windham

The sugarmakers and longtime friends Mark Cooper and
Richard Morrill. SUBMITTED PHOTO 

Windham is a town rich in history with deep agricultural roots.  Agriculture is alive and well in late winter and early spring on two Windham farms.  The maple harvest is in high gear at Cooper’s Maple Products and at Nash Valley Farm.  Both farms will be hosting Maine Maple Weekend on March 26 and 27 and invite you to come on out for a maple experience.

The Cooper’s and the Morrill’s of Nash Valley Farm are longtime friends. Their families have been part of the Windham agriculture community for generations. Mark Cooper and Richard Morrill grew up in Windham, returned after college and have raised their families here. Both farms raise beef cattle, make hay, and produce maple syrup. The Cooper’s also raise chickens, horses, along with greenhouse plants and flowers. Farm life has many advantages such as a busy schedule where no two days are the same. The intrinsic rewards are the best – a wholesome way of life for the entire family, seeing the next generation coming along with an interest in helping on the farm, stewardship of the land and open space in a rapidly growing town, and the joy of offering high quality products to a loyal customer base.

At Cooper’s Maple Products, syrup production started in 1988 with about 40 taps and boiled on a wood stove. That spring, an old 2 x 8 Vermont evaporator was purchased, and plans were made to build a sugarhouse. The sugarhouse was completed in 1989 and 350 trees were tapped, and a maple license was secured.  1989 was the first Maine Maple Sunday at Cooper’s.  There were maybe a couple hundred visitors and they were off and running.  Now they are at 2,000 taps and several thousand visitors over two days.

A couple of Mark’s favorite parts of making syrup are working out in the sugarbush to put up new tubing and lines or tapping trees.  You’re busy but it is a nice peaceful place -  just you and Mother Nature.  The other favorite time is boiling and making syrup.   Boiling is typically done in the evenings when Mark boils alone most of the time. If things are going well, it is a nice smooth rhythm of adding wood to the fire, checking syrup density to draw off, and filtering the finished product.  Sometimes it can make for some very late nights but it’s always well worth it.

Both Mark and his wife, Gaylene, enjoy Maine Maple Sunday and all the visitors to the farm. Although there is a huge amount of work involved to pull off the event, they feel truly blessed with some great family and friends to help make it go smoothly. 

Richard grew up on the Seven Maples Farm that sits next door to the current sugarhouse.  He looked at many large healthy maple trees for years and always wanted to tap them.  There was much to do on the farm and never time to experiment with sugaring.  He decided to give it a whirl in 2001, putting buckets on a few trees and boiling on a homemade evaporator under a blue tarp.  The nights were long, the boiling was slow but the syrup was darned good - so good that he decided to do it again in 2002.  He was hooked and a sugarhouse was built that summer.  He equipped the sugarhouse with a used G.H. Grimm 2 x 6 evaporator for the 2003 season.  Nash Valley Farm hosted its first open house in 2003 with 19 visitors.  Everything has grown since then  -  the sugarhouse has an addition, the equipment has been enlarged and new tools have been added, the number of trees tapped has increased and thus, so has the amount of syrup made.  

Richard finds that maple season brings purpose to the time period between winter and spring, making the mud more tolerable.  Working in the woods is peaceful and can be a great physical workout depending upon the amount of snow.  Becoming a part of the maple industry has given Richard and his wife Roberta many reasons to explore sugaring from Maine to New York.  They have made many life-long friends in the process.  Like the Cooper’s, the Morrill’s family and friends are a huge part of the annual maple open house.  They are very grateful to all of them for their help as it just couldn’t be done without them. 

Maine Maple Weekend provides an opportunity for these sugarmakers and their families to greet visitors and share their knowledge about maple syrup.   Seeing a food product made right before your eyes is quite an experience.  Knowing where your food comes from is peace of mind. 

Maple syrup, once thought of primarily as a pancake topping, is becoming a staple in the kitchen today with its healthy properties and wide variety of uses.    Maple Syrup is healthy because:

  -  it has the same calcium content as whole milk

  -  it is rich in minerals such as calcium, potassium, manganese, phosphorous and iron

  -  contains vitamins B2, B5, B6, niacin and folic acid

  -  it has trace amounts of amino acids which are the building blocks of protein

  -  it is 100 percent natural

You will find cookbooks at the open houses with recipes that use maple for every-day foods.  Many are surprised to learn that Maine Maple Weekend isn’t the only time to stock up on maple products  -  it is available all year long!!

There is no better way to experience maple than at a Sugarhouse during Maine Maple Weekend.  So, stop in and visit Mark and Rich on Saturday or Sunday to get a taste of the natural sweetness of spring.  It’s good for you!

Cooper’s Maple Products is located at 81 Chute Road, phone 207-892-7276 and Nash Valley Farm is at 79 Nash Road, phone 207-892-7019. Both farms can be found on Facebook. <

Friday, March 18, 2022

Business Spotlight: Merrifield Farm

Whether you are new to the state or a lifelong resident, Maine Maple Weekend is an event not to be missed and there’s no better place to experience the natural goodness of Maine maple products than at Merrifield Farm in North Gorham.

This year the celebration of Maine Maple is Saturday, March 26 and Sunday, March 27, but fans of Merrifield Farm should be aware that the popular destination is also open for sales from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Thursday through Sunday during the month of March. And this coming weekend they will be serving hot and iced coffee and maple baked beans to go for visitors to the farm.

“As far as retail sales go, we’ve been making maple syrup since 1999, but I’ve really been involved with making maple products for most of my life,” said Lyle Merrifield, who grew up in North Gorham and became fascinated with the maple making process as a young boy.

“I went to school about two miles away from here and my kindergarten teacher taught us how to make maple syrup,” he said. “I was hooked right away and knew that this was something I wanted to do when I grew up.”

Now Merrifield Farm draws thousands of visitors each Maine Maple Weekend and is a source of pride for the Merrifield’s.

 “We are a family run sugarhouse,” Jo-Ann Merrifield said. “We are very proud that our daughters have taken such an active role in the farm’s maple business.”

According to Lyle and Jo-Ann Merrifield, the best part of their work is creating maple products that so many people seem to enjoy.

“The satisfaction we get comes from seeing our customers enjoy our product and come back again and again,” Lyle Merrifield said. “The sugaring business is unique in the fact that you get so many repeat customers, especially during sugaring season.”

Of course, the highlight of every maple sugaring season for the Merrifield Family is Maine Maple Weekend and Maine Maple Sunday, a long-standing tradition where the family meets customers and shows them what it takes to produce maple syrup through demonstrations and offers a wide array of maple products they sell on the farm.  

The Merrifield Family, from left, are Jo-Ann, Molly,
Lyle and Lexi Merrifield. SUBMITTED PHOTO

As producers of Pure Maine Maple Products, the customer base for Merrifield Farm lies mostly within a 20-mile radius of Gorham, but they do ship nationwide, and the quality of their products is second to none.

“While most sugarhouses pack their syrup in plastic containers, Merrifield Farm has primarily always packed our syrup in glass and tin containers,” Jo-Ann Merrifield said. “Glass and tin are the best containers for preserving color and taste, and certainly a more traditional look.”

Like most other agricultural items, maple products are dependent upon Mother Nature and the elements.

Preparation is critical and months prior to the season, Lyle Merrifield is busy cutting and splitting wood for the sugarhouse, replacing tubing and testing equipment needed to produce quality syrup. Then trees must be identified for collection and tapped at precisely the right time before the sap is boiled, evaporated, filtered, graded and stored.

He says visitors to the sugarhouse during Maine Maple Weekend are often amazed at the process of how maple products are made.

“A lot of people come here and see the process and they see that we’re boiling 40 gallons of water away to make one gallon of syrup and they couldn’t be more surprised. It’s just that simple,” Lyle Merrifield said.

Merrifield Farm also stays updated on the latest trends affecting maple production.

“I would say we keep a very close eye on what’s happening in the syrup industry in Maine, but we try not to be guided by trends and rely on Time, Taste and Tradition,” he said. “All of which are reflected in our customers’ experience at Merrifield Farm. We produce a quality product, spend time with our customers and explain our product to them and show them the sugarhouse.”

During Maine Maple Weekend on March 26 and March 27, Merrifield Farm will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. It’s free to stop in and fun for the entire family.

For more information about Merrifield Farm, call 207-415-3001 or 207-415-3002 or find them on Facebook at Merrifield Farm.

Merrifield Farm is located at 195 North Gorham Road, Gorham.

** Don’t forget to have your picture taken with their “New” Sugar Bear.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Business Spotlight: William Flagg Agency, LLC – Allstate Insurance

Commitment, experience, product knowledge and courteous customer service are the foundation of the William Flagg Agency and has led to the company being a popular option for many when searching locally for a reputable insurance company.

From its offices at 543 Main St., Suite A in Westbrook, the William Flagg Agency helps protect clients from life's uncertainties with Allstate's comprehensive line of insurance.

“We offer all personal lines products including Home, Auto, Renters, Condo, Motorcycle, Boat, Landlord, Off-Road Vehicle, Manufactured Homes, RV and Valuable Personal Property insurance,” said agency owner William Flagg. “Also, we specialize in commercial lines products and offer General Liability, Commercial Auto, Commercial Property and Workers Compensation. We are licensed and staffed to offer life insurance, annuities, mutual funds and employee workplace benefits.”

Flagg lives with his wife Jaimee and stepdaughter in Windham and started in the insurance and financial services industry after graduating from the University of Rhode Island. He joined the agency while working for the prior Allstate owner, Carlo Giraulo, in 2016 and now leads a staff of five highly skilled employees who handle all aspects of the insurance business including sales, service, claims and life/financials.

“The most significant aspect of our business is the ability to offer a solution or product for anything a client needs, be an expert in those products and help guide them through the education and purchase,” Flagg said. “We spend real time with our clients to make sure they understand what their options are and what product or coverages are best for them. We’re also a local small business with staff that live and work in the community and understand the needs of our clients.”

According to Flagg, the pricing they offer for insurance is highly competitive, but their diverse products and expertise is what really sets them apart from other insurance providers.

“We offer solutions for investment properties, vacant properties that are being renovated, short-term rentals, flood prone areas, coastal exposures, log homes and many other hard-to-place risks,” Flagg said. “Allstate specializes in the standard Homeowners and Auto but also partners with other companies to help place risks that are outside of Allstate’s guidelines.”

He said a misconception is that the main goal of every insurance agent is just to make a sale and his intention is to ensure that every sale is not the end of the relationship with customers of his agency.

“We are a local, trustworthy, licensed and knowledgeable office available to review their current policies, offer solutions and help try to save them money,” Flagg said. “We understand that money is the important factor in most insurance decisions but there is a lot more that can come along with it. There is no need to settle for an 1-800 customer service when a local office is here.”

Because Flagg lives and works in the community, he feels an obligation to help them understand their insurance options and strives to make their experiences with his agency as friendly and knowledgeable as possible.

“I want everyone to know there is someone in the community who can help them understand the options available when they’re looking for insurance,” he said. “By doing so they are supporting small business and we can offer them the utmost in personalized attention. Our agency is one of the only Elite agencies for Allstate in Maine. This means we have achieved extremely high levels of sales, customer retention, claims handling and bundling and for the client, this means they’re working with the best.”

Flagg and his staff constantly review current trends affecting the insurance business so they can best educate their customers regarding options.

“Allstate is the industry leader in telematics and offer steep discounts for those participating in our safe driving program. Everyone should be aware of the discounts available to them through their insurance carriers,” Flagg said. “Every company is different, but many are offering safe driving discounts through telematic systems. It’s the future of the insurance industry.”

Through everything they do at the William Flagg Agency, relating to people and being able to share their knowledge of the insurance business is paramount to its staff.

“The best thing about what we do is being able to educate and help people with insurance,” Flagg said. “We take a conversational hands-on approach and I educate more than I sell. We’re here to help.”

For more information and to reach the William Flagg Agency, call 207-856-0000 or visit them online at Find them on Facebook at William Flagg/Allstate. <

Friday, March 4, 2022

Business Spotlight: Green Light Go Driving School

It’s been said that everything someone needs to feel relaxed behind the wheel comes with lots of practice, lots of smiles and a great deal of patience. That’s precisely what Green Light Go Driving School offers to would-be drivers in the Lakes Region.

From its convenient office and facility at 32 Tandberg Trail in Windham, Green Light Go provides driver’s education classes, private lessons, senior driving evaluations, road test preparation and just about anything connected with driving. 

Stacy Kramlich, Green Light Go’s owner, has been teaching students to drive for years and says the one thing she’s discovered about her work is that to keep students relaxed and willing to learn, instruction must be fun and positive.

“Driver’s Ed should be an exciting time in a young person’s life and therefore I want to make it a positive experience,” Kramlich said. “A negative experience leads to a fear of driving and that’s contrary to what we’re trying to do here.”

As a Class A driving instructor and a lifelong resident of Windham, Kramlich said that she emphasizes development of safe driving practices that stick with her students for a lifetime.

Stacy Kramlich

“We teach safe driving,” she said. “Our in-class courses offer more hands-on learning, far more than any other driving school.”

Green Light GO’s prices are competitive, but Kramlich said that when it comes to selecting a driving school, it’s what you get for your money that truly matters.

“We give back to students,” she said. “We offer home pick-up or drop-off for driving time which helps get driving time done in a timely manner. The savings I offer in the long run is that the students will have a better learning experience before getting behind the wheel.”

Being flexible to work around a family’s schedule or available when a student needs lessons is what distinguishes Green Light Go Driving School from the competition.

“They have choices. I communicate with students and work around their schedules to make accommodations,” Kramlich said. “I understand that today’s teens have school, sports, family time and work which comes before Driver’s Ed and I understand things come up, so I do not charge for canceling. As adults we sometimes forget and so do students. It’s so important to have a positive attitude and a strong mind behind the wheel. People’s lives are at stake. I want my students to feel comfortable and confident at all times.” 

In opening her own business after years of working for someone else, Kramlich said she appreciates the fact everyone is different and so she tries to relate and communicate effectively so that her driving lessons are understandable and meaningful for all.

"You have to be understanding and sympathetic,” she said. “You just don’t know where they are coming from and what kind of day they’ve had. I show them respect, no matter what age they are and try to make it a fun time for them.”

Kramlich said she offers Zoom classes for online Driver’s Education because of the pandemic but prefers in-class learning for students because of the improved quality of learning through hands-on lessons.

“During in-class we teach hands-on each lesson giving students first- hand experience from everything like where to put fluids in vehicles or how to gas up a car to how to put air in tires. The drunk buster googles are always a big hit too and you don’t get any of this with Zoom and if you do, it’s often weeks later, so the in-class learning experience is best when they coincide.” 

The most challenging aspect of teaching driving to students is getting across to them that driving is a privilege, not a right, and driving safely is paramount, Kramlich said.

She says that the best part of her work at Green Light Go Driving School is being able to meet so many people from throughout the community and especially all the teenagers just starting out learning to drive.

“It’s a positive time in their life and this is their journey,” Kramlich said. “It’s a road trip and a journey and I’m grateful to be able to help them accomplish their goal of learning to drive and getting through to them that driving is a responsibility for everyone and always driving safely is a serious matter.”

For more information about Green Light Go Driving School or to sign up for their next class, call 207-383-0882, email: or visit their website at or on Facebook at <