Press-Republican

January 13, 2013

New group offers maple education

Richard Gast, Cornell Ag Connection
Press-Republican

---- — The recently established Franklin County Maple (Producers) Association (FCMA), in cooperation with Brushton-Moira Central School (BMCS) Future Farmers of America (FFA) and Cornell Cooperative Extension, is kicking off its First Annual Maple School.

Whether you are a seasoned maple-syrup producer, a less-experienced sugar maker or an individual interested in learning the ins and outs of making maple syrup at home, this all-day event, which will be held at BMCS on the Gale Road in Brushton on Feb. 2, will offer informational and hands-on classes and workshops that will most certainly be of interest to you.

The school is an opportunity for anyone involved in maple sugaring to learn about cutting-edge sugarbush management and maple-syrup production technologies, state-of-the-art sugaring and sugar production-related equipment, machinery and tools and how to use them, and methods for collecting sap and making high-quality syrup and value-added maple products.

It’s also a chance for greenhorns and rookies to expand their understanding of large production and small-farm sugaring operations and how these family-run businesses produce hundreds of gallons of quality maple syrup of exceptional flavor every year.

A wide-ranging variety of informational and educational classes are being featured. Among them are Maple Tubing for Beginners; Sugarbush Thinning for Improved Growth and Productivity; Ensuring Sugarbush Regeneration; Filtering and Canning; Making Maple Cream and Candies; Making Maple-Coated Popcorn, Suckers, Smoothies and Slushies; Economics of Buying and Selling Maple; 20C & Home Licenses Needed for Maple and Marketing; Ag District Property Tax Assessments; and Stainless Steel Welding.

Presenters include specialists from Cornell University and Cornell Cooperative Extension, Soil and Water Conservation District professionals, maple producers and industry consultants.

This is a truly diverse group of folks. All of them bring their insights, knowledge, experience and expertise to the event. And all will be available to answer questions and address concerns.

Rarely have I had the privilege of working with a group of individuals with the enthusiasm and determination of FCMA’s founding members. Several times this year, I’ve seen them quickly take ideas from vision to reality. This is their latest effort.

At a meeting held earlier this year, FCMA core members brought to light the fact that they, and many other North Country maple producers, travel great distances to attend maple schools when they are offered in downstate counties or in neighboring states. All agreed that there was an obvious need to make a similar educational experience available here. And a lot of planning and hard work has gone into making that happen.

The comprehensive variety of classes that have been scheduled are intended to meet the requirements of just about anyone interested in maple. Whether you’re a large-scale producer who sells to wholesale markets, a small sugar maker who sells direct from your home or at the farmers’ markets, a backyard or would-be home syrup maker, or just a curious consumer, the school will have something to offer you.

While you’re there, you can also attend the trade show, which will showcase equipment and supplies from dealers including CDL USA (Dallaire), Leader Evaporator, Dominion and Grimm, Burch Bottle and Packaging Inc. and Airgas. Several makers of maple products will have their wares displayed for sale, too. Among them are Parker Family Maple Farm, Homestead Maple, Hastings Family Maple, Sugar Hill Farm, Adirondack Maple Farm, Beaver River Maple Supplies and, of course, the FCMA.

In addition, representatives from Cornell Cooperative Extension, Franklin County Soil and Water Conservation District, New York Forest Owners Association and the Wild Center will oversee tables with handouts and be available to answer questions and speak with you throughout the day. And while you’re at it, please support the artisans and craftspeople who will be on hand displaying their skills and their handiworks. And take a little time to look over the variety of items being offered by the flea-market vendors who will be selling their goods, as well.

If you would like to attend the Maple School, participate as a vendor, or sell maple sugaring or related equipment through the auction, you can find registration forms online at the BMCS FFA website www.bmcsd.org/ffa/index.html. The cost to attend, which includes lunch, is $20 if you register in advance or $30 at the door. Vendor table space is $10 if you bring your own table or $20 if you would like the FFA to provide a table for you. Lunch is extra. The fee for selling equipment at the auction is 10 percent of the sale price charged to the seller. Other terms and conditions apply.

Worldwide demand for maple syrup and other maple products continues to grow. And we live in one of comparatively few places in the world where maple production is even possible. A maple school like this one represents an exceptional opportunity to learn about maple production from the trees to the table, about the sustainable forestry practices that make it possible, and much more.

If you are a New York forest owner with a suitable site, growing sugar maples and managing your stand for sugar production can maximize the productive use of your forest natural resources and allow you to leave a healthy, productive forest, a lasting resource, and a working agribusiness to your heirs.

Richard L. Gast, Extension program educator II, Horticulture, Natural Resources, Energy, agriculture programs assistant, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Franklin County, 355 West Main St., Suite 150,  Malone, 12953. Call 483-7403, fax 483-6214 or email rlg24@cornell.edu.