Maple production in full swing
By Jamie Organski
Those in the mood for something sweet are in luck, as NYS Maple Weekends return March 19-20 and 26-27. As part of the annual event now in its 26th year, sugarhouses across the Adirondacks will host open houses to showcase their maple operations and offer samples.
Cornell University’s Uihlein Maple Research Forest Director Adam D. Wild said the weather looks ideal (temperatures around the 20s at night, 40s during the day) for optimal sap flow, and most sugarhouses should be boiling.
According to Wild, the event is a way to showcase maple producers and their contributions. “A unique concept of maple production is it can be done in any environment, from urban settings to a heavily-forested area such as the Adirondacks,” he said. “Maple production facilities are predominantly small family-oriented operations and are a great way to generate income for communities. Unlike logging operations, maple producers are conscious of the environment and actively manage the forest so they are able to tap healthy trees and leave a legacy to be passed onto future generations.”
Community maple project
In Inlet, two entrepreneurs have led a maple syrup production initiative to boost agritourism, increase sustainability, and educate others about its underutilized resources. Inlet resident Jeremiah Best was one of the first to introduce a maple program to local families in 2015 as a Town of Webb UFSD teacher. Today, he continues to grow the program with the Inlet Area Community Task Force (IACTF), a group that works to ensure a sustainable region for many generations to come.
For the past five years, IACTF members have taught families how to start small backyard maple operations.
“Our goal is to bring 10 maple producers in the central Adirondacks in 10 years, and turn mud season into maple season,” Best said. “The Adirondacks have the largest store of untapped maple forests in New York.”
IACTF led a visit to Sweet Seventh Lake Farms (the IACTF’s maple and composting operation) on Tuesday, March 15. Attendees went through the entire maple process and its complexities, including checking sap sugar and syrup densities with hydrometers and reflectometers, pulling sap by buckets, boiling down sap, filtering syrup, and lots of taste testing.
“All you need is a drill, a tap, a bucket or jug to collect in and a way to boil it down,” Best said. “Many folks use turkey boils and propane, [and] evaporators can be built using fairly basic supplies and with little cost.”
IACTF will host a family night at Maple Moss Sugarworks at 113 Limekiln Lake Road in Inlet. The only, large-scale maple syrup producing operation in the area, it was established by Eric Sutherland in the spring of 2020. Sutherland credited his late wife, Kristy, who passed away in 2012, for inspiring him to take a leap of faith and try something new in the ADKs.
“The Adirondacks have endless potential,” Sutherland said. “Kristy was a believer in anything different making a huge impact on the area and she is one of the reasons I am where I am today. I started Maple Moss because no one else had touched the market around here and then COVID hit, so I thought, I’ll hunker down and make some maple syrup. I’ve doubled production every year and each year we sell out of product.”
Sutherland utilizes a pipeline system that allows for quicker, more convenient sap collection. There are 15 different stops from tapping to the finished product as the setup is composed of a vacuum system, reverse osmosis machine, stainless steel holding tanks, and more.
“My girlfriend says it takes a special kind of crazy to do this,” he said. “To prepare for the season, I walked six miles in a day installing new tubing and replacing damaged sections. I have 925 taps set up this year. In three days I’ve collected 3,000 gallons of sap, and this is only the beginning.”
Sutherland will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both Maple Weekends.
Learn more about this year’s events here: https://mapleweekend.nysmaple.com/.