2018 Maple Weekend kicks off this Saturday

Mar 14, 2018

Maple producers have done their part — trudging through sometimes foot-deep snow, wandering to the far corners of dark and chilly forests and tapping dozens and dozens of towering maple trees. By now, hundreds of gallons of sap have completed a lengthy journey from tree to spiel to bucket to boiler. Once transformed, they’ll sit waiting in jugs full of sweet, sticky syrup, soon to be poured over pancakes and into baked goods. The producers are ready for that, dusting off their equipment and readying their presentation voices — Maple Weekend is coming. But before locals delve into all the warm, sugary goodness of hard and soft maple candies, of syrup samples and maple-infused tufts of cotton candy, there are some logistics to get through. Because in New York State, maple production is kind of a big deal.

Over the past 10 years, New York’s maple syrup production has tripled, while crop value has quadrupled. Just last year, in-state maple producers alone manufactured 760,000 gallons of maple syrup — the highest production rate ever, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. All of that makes for a $141 million economic impact, and some pretty sweet success — New York’s products account for 18 percent of all syrup in the United States.

But how do you get from sap to syrup?

The process begins with a mature sugar maple — New York has more tappable ones than any other state in the country, according to forestry data — holding starches in storage during the winter season. As spring approaches and the weather warms, the starch turns to sugar and drips as tree sap — 98 percent of it water, which must be boiled out in the evaporator in order to turn to syrup.

That’s where the magic happens, and this weekend and next, when local maple producers offer tours of their shanties, they’ll let everyone in on the sweet secrets of the business.

“Everybody has their own way of processing sap, and there are different tools to get it to the final product,” said Doug Beitz of A&A Maple in Attica. “The principles are the same, but they’re all done a little bit differently with different equipment.”

One of his own tricks of the trade, he said, is using 3/16 lines that take advantage of gravity to generate a vacuum in the sap lines — most other farms use machinery to get the job done.

“It’s the same principle, but we’re using the slope of our hill,” Beitz said. “We’re not paying higher energy bills and it’s a lower cost of production.”

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 17 and 18 and March 24 and 25, countless other producers will join the conversation — letting participants in on morsels of information — did you know that when the weather is warmer, syrup is darker? That a cloudy day is better for production than a sunny one?

“Maple Weekend is the perfect family event,” said Greg Zimpfer of Zimpfer Maple in Attica, a co-founder of Maple Weekend. “You can learn about tree tapping and boiling, see displays and, best of all taste, some of America’s greatest syrup.”

Here’s a breakdown of some local participants:

A&A Maple, located at 1084 Creek Road, will be offering demonstrations and samples of its “delicious, pure maple syrup made in Attica,” according to their blurb on the official Maple Weekend website.

Arcade Center Farm Pancake House, at 7298 Route 98 in Arcade, is open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and is all about “pancakes, pancakes, pancakes!” They’ll be offering all-you-can eat pancakes served with real butter and pure maple syrup, as well as observations of their wood-burning evaporator (weather-permitting). Jugs of maple syrup, packets of maple sugar and jars of maple cream are available in the gift shop, and maple syrup making supplies can be purchased, too.

Beaver Meadow Audubon Center will be hosting a Maple Harvest Festival from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at its 1610 Welch Road location in North Java. Those interested can visit the sugar shanty, sample fresh syrup and “Jack Wax,” see maple sugar made the Native American way and fuel up with an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast. A basket raffle, crafts and other activities will occur all weekend long.

Gary and Martha Bray, of Bray Farms at 1597 Bray Road in Arcade, have a 1,400 tap maple operation. Visitors can see a variety of maple production processes ranging from the state-of-the-art reverse osmosis sap concentrator to a new wood-fired evaporator, stainless steel steam hood, auto take-off wood-fired evaporator and filter process. The Brays will be showing the evaporator in operation as well as offering a tapping and tubing demonstration and a scavenger hunt for the kiddos.

George’s Maple Products, at 1766 Route 77 in Strykersville, will have various maple products available for sampling and purchase.

Hidden Valley Animal Adventure, at 2887 Royce Road in Varysburg, is offering all-you-can-eat pancakes and creme brulee french toast served with Boxler Maple Farm syrup from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Reservations are suggested.

The Humphrey Nature Center at Letchworth State Park will play host to a weekend full of maple production techniques, tree identification, tree-tapping demonstrations and a pancake breakfast from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and from 10 to 1 on Sunday, featuring Iroquois stone boiling and iron pot fire pit boiling techniques.

Kibler Maple Products, found at 1802 Perry Road in North Java, will also participate.

So too will Kirsch’s Maple, at 3175 Route 77 in Varysburg. Easily accessible and with plenty of parking, Kirsch’s Maple will offer maple sugar, maple cream, maple fluff, maple pieces and maple ice cream, too. They invite attendees to take tractor and wagon rides out to the woods to learn about the sap collection process during the event.

Maple Moon Farms, at 1058 Attica Gulf Road in Attica is offering wagon rides, too, as well as free samples of maple treats including maple fluff and maple creamies.

Typical of most years, Merle Maple Farm, at 1884 Route 98 in Attica, is pulling out all the stops. Merle Maple will be having tours, samples, wagon rides to the woods, a kids’ corner, presentations of new technology, an air cannon and the entire Merle family on hand during the event. Lunch options include maple chili, maple hot dogs, maple hard-boiled eggs, maple cotton candy, maple pulled pork, maple soft serve, maple raspberry twist ice cream, and more.

Meyer Harvest Patch, at 611 Route 20A in Strykersville, will offer maple syrup, maple sugar, sugar shapes and maple cream during the event.

Mohler Maple Products, at 1627 Route 19 in Wyoming, is only open on Saturday, March 17, but visitors will have the chance to sample homemade doughnuts with maple cream, maple cookies and maple syrup.

Narrow Path Farm and Market, of 5886 Route 19A in Castile, will offer sap-to-syrup production demonstrations with a wood-fired evaporator.

Over the Hill Maple, of 2089 Maxon Road in Varysburg, is a 4,000 tap maple operation. The Leffler family will be serving waffles with maple syrup as well as giving tours of their sugar house, which has an ultra-high-efficiency evaporator, reverse osmosis sap concentrator and UV lights for treating the incoming sap. In addition to maple syrup, they’ll have maple cream, maple sugar shapes and granulated maple sugar available for purchase.

Sage Family Maple, of 4449 Sage Road in Warsaw, will be making pure maple syrup and giving tours of their sugar house and woods, if requested. They’ll have maple syrup, maple cream and maple sugar candies available, along with maple-ccino and maple slushies, maple-frosted donuts and maple-frosted sugar cookies.

Siler’s Sugar Shanty, at 2401 Pee Dee Road in North Java, is celebrating 110 years of making maple syrup. Guest can enjoy a step-by-step demonstration of boiling maple sap into syrup and see how things have changed in the last century. The family has a balcony that overlooks our evaporator, so you can get a birds-eye view of the process, and will have 100-percent pure maple syrup, cream, jelly, fluff, granulated sugar, maple sugar candy, peanuts and mustard available for you to enjoy.

Sweet Time Maple of 5680 Webster Road in Wyoming is offering a pancake breakfast from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., tours of the operation and free samples. Local honey, maple cotton candy and popcorn, candy and creams, maple crunch snack mix and maple walnut topping will be available.

Wolcott Maple Syrup Products and Equipment, located at 1247 Dale Road in Dale, rounds out the Wyoming County participants.

More information is available by visiting www.mapleweekend.com.

By Jessica Dillon, Batavia Daily News