On this Veteran’s Day, we give a special shout out to two of our fellow sugar makers, Veterans Mike and Lisa Martucci. If you ever have the pleasure of talking with Mike or Lisa, you will quickly find that they are super interesting, ambitious people who are extremely passionate about natural foods and agriculture. We were honored for the opportunity to interview Mike for this article and share some of his experiences — both as a United States Army Veteran, and a sugar maker.
Angela: Hi Mike! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today! For starters, what was your branch/role in the military?
Mike: I was a Combat Engineer in the Army. I was an Air Transportation specialist in the Air Force Reserve for a few years then I went back into the active Army at 40 years old to once again serve as a Combat Engineer and to lead a personal security team on deployment to Iraq.
Angela: In which location(s) did you serve? In the United States or abroad?
Mike: I served at Fort Irwin California, NE Pennsylvania, Fort Riley Kansas and Fort Wainwright Alaska with some training at various other installations.
Angela: What did you find most rewarding / interesting about your time in service?
Mike: What I found most rewarding about serving was the appreciation from my family and friends. The opportunities I was given to grow and work well beyond the scope of my job description, and having lived and worked with so many amazing people. Some of the most interesting things about serving were the places I was able to see and the amazing people from around this world. I can not think of a favorite because I simply looked at it all as an adventure.
Angela: Were there any lessons/principles learned in the military that have helped you today in your maple syrup business?
Mike: I always loved to work and explore. The military did however help me to stay focused on task and to not accept failure. There is always another way to make something happen. Every year making maple syrup we are faced with many obstacles and challenges. From the newbie mistakes like burning a batch to a tar like coating on my pan — to a tree destroying our newly built sugar shack — I have been able to learn, sometimes swear a little, and push through whatever happens. Most of the time, I am not only grateful for the lesson, but I am pleased with the results of having to do something different than I originally thought.
Angela: I’m so sorry to hear about your sugar house. Wow! That was a lot of damage.
Would you mind telling us about how you got involved in the maple syrup industry?
Mike: One of my oldest memories was spending time with my papaw (grandfather) and family during spring in Livermore Falls, Maine. It was during the 70’s and I can remember going with my Uncle Ike to collect sap from the old buckets hanging from trees. My Grandmother then boiled it down on the stove and we had syrup. I always thought of making syrup as a way to work with nature and when we lived in Alaska I had the opportunity to make birch syrup a few years. When I moved to Virginia I reached out to the local agriculture community and cooperative extension and was surprised to discover maple syrup was doable here so I built a fire, tapped some trees and never stopped.
Angela: Is there anything in particular that you are looking forward to about the upcoming maple season?
Mike: The past 2 years were very difficult, This year I am hopeful that our rebuilding and other preparations will finally allow us to increase how much syrup we can make. I am also looking forward to upgrading the hand pump on our filter press to an electric pump.
Angela: Any other thoughts you would like to share in this article?
Mike: I would also like to mention that my wife also served in the Army and the National guard. She was a medic and fortunate to serve in Germany, Tennessee and Washington state. She even helped during the Olympics. She gives me endless support and enables my maple madness every winter.
Angela: Cheers to both you and Lisa. It is always such a delight to chat with you two. On behalf of all of us at Smoky Lake, we would like to thank both of you for your service. Happy Veterans’ Day!