Specialty Food Magazine

JAN-FEB 2012

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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Page 10 of 159

and the outbuildings—often with the help of fam- ily, friends or employees, but rarely with professional construction help. He maintained his own equipment. Naturally self-sufficient, Jim was comfortable spending all day alone "playing," as he called it, in the sugarbush, though when the bottling side of the business was slow, he would employ production workers who might otherwise be laid off to help in the woods. As demand for Jim's products rose, he began to purchase and bottle syrup from other producers around New Jim found more satisfaction in his work than in his accomplishments, and he died doing what he loved in a place that was special to him. England. He knew intrinsically what it took to run a sugaring operation, from the sugarbush through the production process. He was an honest trader, begrudgingly respected as a tough negotiator, and was known to travel deep into the North Woods of Maine to meet a producer, grade syrup and put a cash down payment on a season's production. Specialty food people put so much of themselves into their products and their work that it's hard to separate business associates from friends. Lives are chronicled from Fancy Food Show to Fancy Food Show, where we learn about marriages, divorces, births and graduations. So it was with Jim and me. He and Judy had a son, Dylan, in 1995. They divorced in 2003. I met Jim's new partner, Karen, at a Show a few years later. During an evening at the San Diego Fancy Food Show in 2008, I saw Jim standing outside a restaurant in the Gaslight District, holding his daughter, Alexandria. Not yet two years old, she had grown restless at dinner. It took some urging on my part, but Jim let me hold Alexandria for a bit so that he could go back inside and finish his meal. After their brilliant October color fades to brown and the leaves fall, the branches of the sugar maple lay bare. Thus November marks the beginning of "stick season" in the Northeast: a stark, cold transition before the snow accumulates. It's a valuable time for the sugar maker to begin preparations for the upcoming season. Roads are cleared, damaged limbs cut, lines are checked and equipment is repaired. Like most experienced woodsmen, Jim wore a helmet to protect his head, ear guards to mute the noise of the chain saw, and chaps to protect his legs. Saws have brakes to ensure that the chain stops its cutting action should a hand slip off the grip. Beyond the obvious hazards of falling trees and branches, there are hidden perils: Knots can cause a saw to kick or buck, and hidden pressures can make a falling tree twist or jump unpredictably off the stump. An early snow had come and gone when Jim was alone in the sugarbush on November 1, clearing a few remain- ing trees away from one of the main lines. That day, Jim didn't come home to his family. At this Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, some will learn that Jim is gone, leaving his children, fam- ily, friends and business behind. For survivors, it's natural for an early passing to inspire reflection on missed opportunities, regret for a life unfinished. Although his death was tragic, those who knew Jim well understand that he found more satisfaction in his work than in his accomplishments, and that he died doing what he loved in a place that was special to him. Back in Vermont, the maples on the MacIsaac farm will stand quiet through the winter until the sun once again rises higher and warms them, first on the South Face and then on the North Face. The sap will likely run sweet again in the sugarbush. Remembering Jim, we can seek joy in nature, engagement in our relationships and integrity and pleasure in our life's work. A memorial fund has been established in Jim MacIsaac's The full version of this memorial can be found at specialtyfood.com/onlinehighlights. name at the University of Vermont. For more information, visit specialtyfood.com/onlinehighlights. |SFM| Chris Crocker is NASFT's senior vice president, media. He can be reached at ccrocker@nasft.org. JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2012 9

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