Not many people can say they’re fourth-generation maple farmers. Yet for Dana Putnam, who co-owns Finding Home Farms in Middletown with his wife, Laura, maple farming is in his blood.
On any given day, the Putnams are hard at work at Finding Home Farms, their passion project of a destination that’s tucked into a densely forested corner in Orange County. Depending on the season, Dana could be walking the tap lines across the farm’s 55 acres while Laura reviews the menu at the property’s onsite café. In the height of syrup season, they’re likely both hard at work in the adjoining processing and bottling facility to craft the signature syrup for which their farm is best known.
Even if you’ve never visited Finding Home Farms, chances are good you’ve seen the brand’s signature bottles of maple syrup (and if not syrup, then certainly the candles or pancake mix) around the Hudson Valley. The farm sells to around 1,500 stores both locally and across the country and offers direct sales via its café and website as well. It’s hot stuff in the local food world, and for good reason. The brand has won multiple foodie awards, including a Good Food Award, Gold SOFI, and SOFI Product of the Year (all for its Rye Barrel-Aged Maple Syrup, we might add).
And that’s just the start for Finding Home Farms, which has made a name for itself via its certified organic maple syrups and unique flavor infusions. The Rye Barrel-Aged Maple Syrup is the big award winner and community favorite, thanks to a 60-day aging process that gives it just the right buttery finish. Yet it’s the flavorful iterations that often pique people’s interests in the first place. Just give the cinnamon or coffee-infused maple syrups a taste and see if you don’t come back for more. Finding Home Farms leans into trending flavors, too, dishing out a pumpkin spice variety for #fallfeels and a hot and spicy syrup that offers just the right level of heat.
Of course, what would syrup be without something to soak it all up? The Putnams get it, which is why they’ve also branched out to offer mixes for everything from buttermilk waffles and pancakes to pumpkin spice and apple cinnamon kits. There’s also a sweet honey cornbread mix that’s particularly delightful when paired with a drizzle of the aforementioned hot and spicy syrup.
And did we mention the candles? Finding Home Farms keeps it clean with soy candles in scents that evoke different regions and seasons in the Hudson Valley. The pumpkin sage and Empire apple varieties are essential for autumn, while the nutmeg & vanilla and cinnamon pinecone candles are everything you’d want to smell during chilly winter days.
The offerings are quite impressive when one considers how relatively young the farm is. In fact, it wasn’t until 2015 that the Putnams started looking for the land that would become Finding Home Farms. Prior to that, Dana was traveling the globe in the corporate world while Laura worked in marketing and communications. Burnout was real, so the two shifted gears and combined forces when they found the perfect property for their new endeavor just a few minutes from where they call home.
In 2016, they started construction with help from local builders in Pine Bush. Finding Home Farms made its grand debut in the Hudson Valley in mid-2017, and the café followed in 2022. Today, the farm is open year-round for dine-in visits and shopping at the café, with tours, maple weekends, and other special events planned throughout the year.
“I think we are really a destination for people to come and gather, relax, enjoy good coffee and really good food, and shop a little,” Laura enthuses. “I think we just created – and we continue to work to create – a really welcoming environment that people want to stay in. They want to linger.”
As one step into the café at Finding Home Farms reveals, it’s all too easy to stop and stay awhile. The venue is cozy from the start, with thoughtful touches scattered throughout. The beams come from ash trees on the property, while the café bar is crafted from tapped maple trees. (Look closely and you’ll even see the holes where taps once were.) The property ADA accessible as well, which means everyone can relish a relaxing visit on the grounds.
The café’s slogan is “Brewed, baked, and waffled,” and its menu adheres to just that. On the list of specials, unique offerings abound, including a maple lemonade that’s so popular it’s become a staple and the signature Sugarhouse Latte, which is made with the rye maple syrup and topped with maple whipped cream.
While drinks are a no-brainer here, don’t sleep on the food offerings, either. The “baked” section of the menu is all about scrumptious breakfast-meets-lunch options, with everything from fresh-baked scones and bread pudding to frittatas and quiches. As far as the “waffled” component goes, it could be anything from the classic Sugarhouse waffles with the brand’s own maple syrup drizzled on top to savory waffle sandwiches to the “croffle,” which, as the name suggests, is a waffled croissant topped with cinnamon, sugar, and maple glaze. Delicious doesn’t even begin to cover it.
Even as the café and accompanying shop take center stage for visitors to the property, it’s impossible to forget that, yes, this is a working farm. As someone who lives and breathes maple farming, Dana makes a point to regularly check his trees, which he notes must be at least 40 years old for good tapping. He adds that deer and squirrels are a perpetual challenge for the lines, and bears have take out entire sections in their search for the sweet liquid.
Dana is also incredibly attuned to the weather, since changes in the frost and thaw cycle can have a major impact on syrup production. In general, he begins tapping in early January, then harvests in spring, usually around the end of March. He explains that the pressure in the trees as they freeze and thaw is what helps the liquid to come out. From there, it runs through the lines prior to processing. Dana and his team use reverse osmosis to extract as much water as possible from the sugar water to turn it into syrup. He tries to keep things as eco-friendly as possible, too, and uses the extracted water to wash equipment later.
Around harvest time, Finding Home Farms opens for tours and visits so people can learn more about what it takes to craft maple syrup. The farm is all about education and even offered a Camp Maple for ages three and up this past summer.
“It sold out in three hours,” Laura enthuses. Needless to say, they’re planning to do it again.
As for what makes Finding Home Farms such a unique destination in the Hudson Valley, the Putnams agree that it’s all about the harmony between agriculture and experience.
“I think our base of being rooted in agriculture and a working farm but yet hopefully a really beautiful experience as well, that’s kind of special,” Dana observes.
Looking ahead, the duo are excited to lean more into their Hudson Valley roots.
“We’re growing a lot across the country, but we really just want to lean into being a part of the Hudson Valley and this region,” Dana explains.
Laura adds, “I’d love to have a farmers’ market here. I think I’m almost ready to figure it out and set it up,” noting that it could end up being more like a quasi-health food store or a CSA depending on how it all shapes up.
On top of that, the pair are excited to continue to offer more events, since the ones they currently host often sell out. They want to expand the café as well, and even play around with takeout offerings down the line. And, of course, they hope to make Finding Home Farms as much of an experiential destination as possible.
“Hopefully in the next three years we’re going to be able to clear some walking trails in the 55 acres so people can walk among the lines and see it,” Dana says. “It’s definitely doable and I think it would be super cool for people to be able to get that experience. That’s part of our vision to make it more of an agritourism type of destination.”
No matter what the future holds for the Putnams and Finding Home Farms, one thing is for certain: It’s going to be sweet.
Finding Home Farms
140 Eatontown Rd, Middletown