March 13, 2011

Maple season a time that all can enjoy

Richard Gast: Cornell Ag Connection

---- — Maple Weekend is coming. And this year it's so big that it's two weekends, March 19 and 20 and March 26 and 27 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. each day.

Regional member producers of the New York State Maple Producers Association invite you to come and see how their delicious maple products are produced and to sample and take home some of the best-tasting maple syrup in the world — pure New York maple syrup.

Maple-syrup production has long been a thriving tradition in Northern New York. As homeowners tap and set buckets on yard and roadside trees, and farmers and landowners tap trees in pastures and forests, the sweet smell of boiling maple sap signals the arrival of spring as it has for many generations.

Maple syrup production is a time-honored practice, a popular hobby and an increasingly important part of farming to many hard-working North Country families. Well-established maple producers turn out hundreds of gallons of quality maple syrup of exceptional flavor using the latest equipment, machinery and tools. And because of their hard work, we can all enjoy the finest quality syrup, cream, sugar and candy — products they take great pride in producing.

Each maple sugar producing family's situation is unique, as are their values and their operations. Nonetheless, these families are united by a shared commitment to quality, self-sufficiency, sustainable forestry and environmental stewardship.

Please feel welcome to visit one or more of these family-run sugarbushes and experience first hand how sugar maple trees are tapped and sap is collected and boiled into pure, delicious maple syrup. Weather permitting, you'll be able to watch the sap-to-syrup process unfold right before your eyes.

Clinton County

Brow's Sugarhouse, 89 Sugarbush Drive, West Chazy, 493-5683, open March 19, 20, 26, 27. Take a free tour of the sugarhouse to see how delicious maple products are made. Bring the camera, ask questions and try samples.

Parker Family Maple Farm, 1043 Slosson Road, West Chazy, 493-6761. Open March 19, 20, 26, 27. In 1884, Adolphus and Amelia Parker set up their homestead on a one-acre parcel of land. Five years later, in 1889, they purchased another 60 acres and the Parker Family Maple Farm was established. Five generations later, the Parker family farm encompasses 700 acres of land. The Parkers are one of the region's oldest maple syrup producing families and, at about 30,000 taps, they are also the largest.

Franklin County

Friend Maple Products, 402 Spencer Road, Burke, 483-5559, open March 26 and 27. Allan and Mary Friend tend a 75-acre sugarbush of approximately 2,500 taps at their family farm. They'd love to show you their newly built sugarhouse and let you taste maple syrup fresh from their new evaporator. And, depending on the weather, the Friends plan to offer horse-drawn sleigh or wagon rides to and through their sugarbush.

Woods Maple Products, 1470 County Route 23, Chateaugay, 497-6387, open March 19, 20, 26, 27. Hamilton and Bill Wood operate a 5,000 tap sugarbush that sits on about 100 acres of forest land. It has been carefully tended for generations. Bill speaks lovingly about the fun he had as a boy working with his father and grandfather in the bush and in the sugar house, where he would revel in the sweet aroma of syrup steam coming from the evaporator. Maple syrup season was his favorite time of year. Maybe it still is.

Essex County

Essex County Cornell Sugar Maple Research and Uihlein Forest, 157 Bear Cub Lane, Lake Placid, 523-9337, open Mar 19, 20, 26, 27. The Field Station's sugar bush of approximately 4,500 taps sits within a 200-plus-acre forest that serves as an outdoor laboratory for the study of forest management and health. Cornell researchers work to develop improved techniques for sap collection and syrup processing, and to identify and cultivate genetically improved maple stock. That research has resulted in several advancements and new technologies, including the development of vacuum enhanced tubing systems.

Please support the maple producers in your county. For more information, contact your local Cornell Cooperative Extension office.

Richard L. Gast, extension programs assistant, Horticulture and Natural Resources, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Franklin County, 355 West Main St., Suite 150, Malone, 12953. Call 483-7403, fax 483-6214 or e-mail