Ohio Maple Days 2021 Presentations AVAILABLE

Despite being virtual due to COVID-19, 2021 Ohio Maple Days – or more accurately Ohio Maple Day sans the “s” – was a success.  The audience, two hundred or so strong, heard presentations on tapping and updates from our ACER grants in addition to how production might be increased with red maple.  A big thanks to this year’s speakers and an extra round of applause for the committee who worked hard on an event that looked quite a bit different than in years past.  One silver lining to having a virtual event is that the sessions are easily recorded.

Visit the Ohio Woodland Stewards Maple page and scroll to the bottom of that webpage to access the different presentations.  Let us know what you think and send us any questions, comments, concerns, or suggestions to talk topics for next year!

From Tree to Table: Webinar for the Maple Curious

Join OSU’s Les Ober, Geauga Co. Extension, and SENR’s Gabe Karns and Kathy Smith, for this session on how to make your own syrup or explore turning your woods into a sugarbush as an income opportunity. We will talk some history, tree species to tap, how to tap and how to boil and bottle maple sap. Have a few trees in the yard or a woods that has potential? We will try to answer all your questions.

The FREE webinar will be March 12 from 10 AM-noon.  Registration link here!

Also don’t forget this weekend is the first of 2 for the Ohio Maple Madness Spring Driving TourClick here for more information.

From the Woods: ACER Research Update

Old Man Winter finally loosened its grip and maple sap is flowing!  For comparison using growing degree days (GDD) on February 28th, we were at 16 GDDs and 22 GDDs in 2019 and 2020 at our sugarbush on the Ohio State Mansfield campus.  2021 GDDs will likely tick up for the very first time on this – the final day of February; however, the extended forecast looks iffy whether we will get many of the needed recharge cycles with nighttime temperatures in the high 20s or lower.  Whatever the season may bring, our research is progressing nicely and the first data of the 3-year project is being collected.

Students have worked hard to get PVC research canisters built to collect sap off individual maple trees.  COVID-19 reared its ugly head by disrupting the shipping supply chain and a University-wide switch to a new fiscal operating system caused further delays for all the components to arrive.  Though we had working prototypes built by early January, we used up every bit of time that Old Man Winter’s stranglehold gave us to finish the entire research system.  What a relief when the final pallet arrived, the last canister was assembled, and pressure testing confirmed our DIY canisters were a success!

With warmer temperatures on the forecast and piles of snow melting away, last week was an all-out scramble to get our upgraded vacuum pump cranking, production taps running (a smidge over 1,100 for the 2021 season), single tree canisters situated in their collection racks, research trees hooked into the research system, and an additional fleet of buckets/lids installed across campus in the crop tree release demonstration area.

Student help has been and will continue to be integral to our success.  And Anthony Tambini – a recent graduate from the School of Environment and Natural Resources – has been full-time on the project since January 1.  Without the students and his help, none of this would be possible.

Moving forward, daily sap measurements (volume and sugar content) will be taken from each individual research tree’s canister through the end of the season.  Buckets will be emptied daily in the crop tree management zone as well.  2021’s data will be the first of 3 years to examine potential differences between maple species and between crop tree treatment groups (much more on that in a later post!).

We all wonder what March and April will bring to the maple woods in the Buckeye State, but this year’s cold grip of winter and late start highlights one important principle of research.  Because of variation, multiple years of data are necessary to make reasonable research conclusions – so we are in it for the long haul!  Happy sugaring!!

Author: Gabriel Karns

Maple Story Map – Students Are Key to Maple Success

Given that Ohio State is a university and has well over 60,000 students enrolled, making the statement – “students were involved” – seems like a needless statement of the obvious.  But in the case of the Mansfield Maple program and larger Ecolab initiative, the fact needs to be explicitly stated.  Students have been heavily involved.

The maple program itself is the fruition of a student report inventorying the Mansfield campus’ forest resources back in 2013.  A simple charge to “explore potential of the mature forest for a maple sugarbush” and subsequent student effort to do the project scoping have led to a whole host of tangible outcomes, not the least of which is a re-invigoration of the School of Environment and Natural Resources’ (SENR) commitment to non-timber forest products.

And student involvement has continued to this very day.  Ecolab student interns assisted in the Mansfield sugarbush installation and have participated annually in tapping and other system maintenance tasks.  Students have performed invasive species management in the maple stand and catalogued each individual tapped tree throughout the sugarbush.  A student research team helped establish the complimentary crop tree release demonstration area that targets sap-producing maples as one of the focal stand management objectives.  And last year, a Capstone group of SENR seniors explored new ways to assess and management for sugarbush tree health and vigor.  The deliverable outcome of their project was a well-crafted Story-Map linked here.  We encourage you to view the high-quality work of our Forestry and Wildlife seniors and learn about crop tree management, the threat of invasive plant species to our native biodiversity, and the potential effects of climate change on future sugarbush resilience.

Students have been an integral part of making OSU Maple a success.  By purchasing maple syrup and showing your support of the program, you can make sure student support remains a centerpiece of the initiative moving forward.  We are proud of our students and are thrilled to know that Ohio’s maples will be in safe hands for future generations.

Author: Gabe Karns

Spotted Lanternfly in Ohio

Even though it is 2020, there is still lots for which to be thankful.  That said, spotted lanternfly’s detection in the state isn’t on the list of items to be grateful.  As many have likely heard already, Jefferson County registered Ohio’s first confirmed detection of spotted lanternfly in late October.

Since then, agencies and officials have been scrambling to assess and monitor the location searching for additional evidence of the forest pest.  Beth Burger of the Columbus Dispatch wrote a nice article yesterday providing more details about the initial detection site and subsequent actions taken to lock down further spread.

Ohio State’s CFAES website just released an informative article too about Ohio’s most recent member of the state’s confirmed invasive species list.

We have already been urging vigilance among maple producers and woodland owners due to the species’ sweet tooth for the Acer genus.  Now your focused attention is even more important!  Should you discover evidence of spotted lanternfly, you MUST report sightings to Ohio Department of Agriculture’s website or the Great Lakes Early Detection Network for invasive and noxious species.

You can expect to see more about the spotted lanternfly in coming months as the second ACER grant award contains support to equip and empower Ohio’s maple producers to be active participants in spotted lanternfly surveillance.  In the meantime, be thankful for Ohio’s fleet of professional agencies and organizations who are actively working to combat spread of spotted lanternfly and other invasive species to protect our state’s great forests.

Author: Gabe Karns

WATCH: Climate and Maple Webinar

The OH / WV / PA maple collaboration produced a great webinar thanks to the expertise of Aaron Wilson, an Ohio State climate research scientist.

Here is a summary of the talk: The maple syrup industry is impacted by both seasonal weather and long-term changes in climate. While the short-term conditions impact annual production cycles and quality, long term changes in climate are having an impact as well. Temperatures across the maple syrup production areas of the US are warming, and climate change extends well beyond just temperature to include shifts in seasonal precipitation patterns and increasingly extreme events. Projections of future climate pose significant risks to the future of maple production across southern zones.

Watch the webinar on YouTube to explore the influence of weather and climate change on the maple industry and discuss the implications for the future.

Tune in next month on December 17th to another webinar in the same Out of the Woods: Enriching Your Maple Business series hosted by Future Generations University in West Virginia.

 

Upcoming Webinar (11/19): Climate Change Impacts and Risks to Southern Maple Production

The maple syrup industry is impacted by both seasonal weather and long-term changes in climate. While the short-term conditions impact annual production cycles and quality, long-term changes in climate are having an impact as well. Temperatures across the maple syrup production areas of the US are warming, and climate change extends well beyond just temperature to include shifts in seasonal precipitation patterns and increasingly extreme events. Projections of future climate pose significant risks to the future of maple production across southern zones. Join the webinar (Register HERE) to explore the influence of weather and climate change on the maple industry and discuss the implications for the future.

Speaker: Aaron B. Wilson – Aaron is an Atmospheric Research Scientist at The Ohio State University, holding a joint appointment with the Byrd Polar & Climate Research Center and OSU Extension. He is also with the State Climate Office of Ohio.

The webinar is part of the Out of the Woods series hosted by Ohio State University, Future Generations University, and Penn State University.

 

 

Spot the Spot: Friday in the Woods Webinar

Amy Stone, OSU Extension educator for Lucas County, Ohio, will be presenting a webinar on November 13th from 10 AM-noon on the spotted lanternfly.  From state and national spotted lanternfly updates to the latest on host plant distributions and invasive pest insect research – you won’t want to miss this one.

Maple producers across the region should be informed on this invasive forest pest and be part of the solution to ensure early detection and rapid quarantine limits damage on Ohio’s forests.

The webinar is part of the Friday in the Woods series hosted by OSU’s Woodland Stewards ProgramYou can register here – FREE.  ISA and SAF credits are available.

Ohio State Maple Syrup AVAILABLE

Maple syrup from The Ohio State University-Mansfield campus is available for purchase.  Produced from sap of the research and demonstration sugarbush, the maple syrup is bottled in 1/2 pint (glass bottles), pint, quart, and half gallon containers (rest are jugs).  As an extra bonus, the 2020 run of syrup, which is currently available, carries the 150th sesquicentennial logo for OSU’s important anniversary.

Importantly, OSU syrup sale proceeds contribute to maintenance of the sugarbush, seed money for research, funding maple-related student internships and research opportunities, and more.  To place an order, visit Ohio State’s Woodland Stewards website.  We can ship syrup to your door or you can request a pick-up in Columbus or in Mansfield.

For those already shopping for holiday gifts, a case of 20, 1/2 pint glass bottles is available at a good discount.  Email karns.36@osu.edu for discount details.

Click on the Mansfield Maple tab for more information about the sugarbush at OSU-Mansfield!

Sales and Marketing: Best Practices from IMSI

Thanks to Fred Ahrens (Richards Maple Products), Ohio’s representative to the International Maple Syrup Institute, for forwarding a memo from IMSI regarding Sales and Marketing Strategies.  The following are highlights from that document.

As everyone is keenly aware, COVID-19’s disruption of “life as we knew it” spared nothing – including your maple businesses.  Sales and marketing of maple syrup and value-added maple products were deeply impacted; however, eCommerce has emerged as a viable path forward for those brave enough to wade into the deep waters of online business, sales, and marketing.

The memo sent out by IMSI focused on sales and marketing best practices for direct to consumer, retail, and bulk/wholesale producers and distributors.  As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc with the old normal, I’ll do my best to highlight a few points that can aid in how each of you continue to refine and recast your business strategy.

1) Make sure your prices are optimized.  What producers usually think of is making sure price points are balanced between the forces of supply and demand.  While this is important, there is more to ensuring your pricing structure is optimized.  Chances are that COVID-19 has you shipping more product than in previous years.  Shipping has costs: someone’s time to package, the label, the box, the tape, the bubble wrap or other packing materials.  Spec out every last cent and make sure you are a) being efficient in terms of your time dedicated to shipping, b) purchasing materials at appropriate bulk rates to minimize costs but not overload your capacity to store supplies, and c) adjusting product prices or shipping rates at competitive levels which cover your costs and keep you operation profitable.

2) Consider a roadside “honor system” farm stand!  Target people in your local area and make it convenient and safe for people to buy your product.  Through social media, networks of friends and family, bulletin boards at your churches, restaurants, and hardware stores, and more – advertise your location, highlight your product through well-crafted and simple visuals, and drive customers to your doorstep.  If you have an online sales presence, add an additional option for order pick-up at your roadside stand.

3) Reinforce your operation’s personal story.  2020 has amplified people’s attraction to local economy and supporting neighbors and communities.  Now more than ever before, sharing your operation’s personal story and connecting with individuals will pay dividends.  Make sure your customer base knows how to reach you to ask questions, send personalized comments after orders, and thank patrons for supporting local business and eating local.  These points resonate today more than ever before – leverage them!

4) Get creative and partner.  Everyone is in the COVID-19 struggle together.  Others are being forced to think creatively about business solutions.  Those who succeed will hopefully emerge from the pandemic stronger for it, those who don’t may not.  TEAM UP!  Here are just a few ideas.  One, partner with a local blogger or print news outlet to do a promotional review and sales advertisement!  Make it a win-win and share the spotlight.  Two, share profit margins with local food and non-food stores who are willing to put your product in front of potential customers.  Three, collaborate with other members of the local food service industry to feature your maple syrup in their products – glaze the local bakery’s doughnuts, drizzle over a food truck’s ice cream sundae, or flavor a drink at the local coffee shop.  Make sure your ingredient and its story is not lost in the collaboration.  Leave customers with clear and simple instructions for how they can purchase and enjoy your product.

Sales and marketing is a big category and creativity is limited only to one’s imagination and willingness to explore new options.  Know when to dip your toe in the water and when to jump in and fully commit.  Talk with others who have successfully adapted to 2020 and benefit from their experience.  The COVID-19 reality is full of challenges, but challenges re-framed are just another name for opportunities.

Author: Gabe Karns