I have good news for readers who’ve never visited a working sugarhouse or seen maple syrup being made, but are curious about the process and would like to know more. Maple Weekend is coming. During the weekends of March 19 and 20 and March 26 and 27, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., member producers of the Northeastern New York Chapter of the New York State Maple Producers Association (NYSMPA) are joining maple tree-farming families across New York State in opening their sugarhouses to the public.
It’s a great opportunity for your family to visit one or more of the region’s family-run maple sugaring operations to see first-hand, from tree to table, how delicious, local maple syrup and other maple confections are made and to sample and take home some of the best tasting, pure, natural maple products in the world. Weather permitting, you’ll be able to watch the sap to syrup process unfold right before your eyes.
Maple Weekend is agri-tourism at its finest; an annual event organized by NYSMPA, funded by both NYSMPA members and the NY State Department of Agriculture and Markets, and supported and championed by Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Cornell Maple Program. The Maple Weekend initiative began in the mid-1990s, when NYSMPA producer-members across the state, in the first coordinated effort of this type, opened their doors for an event they called Maple Sunday. The objective for this year’s Maple Weekend event is the same as it was then; to provide an opportunity for interested persons to see for themselves, personally, how maple trees are tapped and how sap is collected and boiled into pure, delicious maple syrup.
The sugar-making season and the weeks that follow are an extremely important selling period for maple syrup-producing farm-families. For many, Maple Weekend marks the start of their annual retail sales. Unfortunately, in both 2020 and 2021, because of the spread of the Covid-19 virus and a commitment to public safety, the NYSMPA Board of Directors elected to cancel Association-sponsored Maple Weekend activities.
The impact of the virus was felt throughout 2020, as exhibitions, tradeshows, and events that many area maple syrup producers bring their goods to; County Fairs, the State Fair, farmers markets, and craft shows; were canceled. And in 2021, although most of those events took place, they were often poorly attended. For many area maple farmers, sales at those events represent a substantial part of their annual business income. What’s more, some producers provide maple syrup for pancake breakfast fundraisers that support civic organizations, 4-H clubs and 4-H youth programs, and Future Farmers of America (FFA) middle and high school agricultural education programs. Many of those groups found their fundraising goals unmet, as a result of having to cancel those essential fundraising events.
The sweet smell of boiling maple sap has signaled the arrival of spring here, for many generations. Tapping trees and making maple syrup is a time-honored practice, a popular hobby, and a thriving North Country tradition. For many hard-working northern New York farming families, maple syrup is the first agricultural crop of the year and an increasingly important part of their livelihood. Each maple sugar producing family’s situation is unique, as are their values and their operations.
Some producers use traditional methods and practices. Others use modern, state-of-the-art systems and equipment. All are united, however, by a shared commitment to quality, self-sufficiency, sustainable forestry, and environmental stewardship. And they all continue to turn out quality maple syrup of exceptional flavor. Because of their hard work, we can all enjoy the finest quality syrup, cream, sugar, and candy; products that they all take great pride in creating.
Many of our local producers also offer specialized, somewhat more unusual goodies; maple-coated almonds, peanuts, cashews, and walnuts, maple-coated pretzels, maple-coated popcorn, maple cotton candy, maple jelly, maple peanut butter, maple fudge, maple taffy, maple ice cream, maple donuts, maple cheesecake, maple vinaigrette salad dressing, maple mustard, maple BBQ sauce, maple tea, and maple coffee.
Please feel welcome to visit one or more of our North Country family-run sugarhouses on March 19, 20, 26 and/or 27, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. It’s an opportunity to see and learn about the maple sugar-making processes and to taste pure maple syrup at the source. Just be sure to dress for the weather. To learn more about NYSMPA, find participating maple farms, or plan your maple weekend, visit nysmaple.com or facebook.com/mapleweekend. You can also place an order for syrup and any of the yummy value-added confections they have available.
Photo at top: Sugar house at Brandy Brook Maple Farm and Olde Tyme Winery.