Mixing Big 10 and SEC schools generally results in a brouhaha – not this time. The University of Kentucky and Ohio State’s Maple team partnered to host a well-attended workshop last Monday evening just across the Ohio River in Boone County, Kentucky. Strategically located to attract new and existing producers from southern Ohio and across Kentucky, 70 folks showed out for the event. Beginning outdoors at the Boone County Nature Center, speakers covered topics ranging from maple identification to sustainable tapping practices and showcased demonstrations of different sap collection methods (buckets, bags, tubing) and a steaming boil on the local evaporator.
(Image Courtesy of University of Kentucky)
Along the way, attendees participated in a discussion of different grades and tastes of maple syrup profiled by a couple taste tests. With a side-by-side comparison, many people were surprised just how different the same basic product – pure maple syrup – can taste. That taste bud tease led us back to the Boone County Extension Center for a catered City BBQ meal and more presentations on value-added products, a couple short videos on sugarhouse design, and an excellent round of Q&A and conversations that lingered well after the event officially ended at 7 PM.
Maple Boot Camp rotated over to Pennsylvania for 2023 after we hosted it last year in ’22. The agenda delivered a wealth of information to 20+ lucky attendees who came from backgrounds of “I’ve never tapped a tree before” to “I’m looking to expand into that medium-large producer category.” Speakers from Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania served to make Boot Camp a huge success – a special thanks to Mike Lynch of Baer Brothers Maple for hosting the in-field workshops in his sugarbush and sugarhouse.
Kate Fotos, Les Ober, and Mike Rechlin taught a maple grading seminar to attendees who elected to show up early for a pre-Boot Camp workshop. Day 1 covered discussions of tree identification, site and woods evaluation, sugarbush inventory, and tree health assessments, and spanned indoor sessions with outdoor hands-on lab time. After a wonderful catered dinner, Steve Childs tackled night one of value-added maple products and demonstrated maple sugar and maple cotton candy. Here is a link to the New York State Maple Confections Notebook that is a testament and legacy to his lasting impact on the maple industry across the region.
Day 2 kicked off with a flipped itinerary to accommodate weather conditions that were less than favorable. Kudos to everyone’s flexibility and Scott Weikert’s boldness to turn the agenda on its head. It is hard to imagine the day going much better than it did! While night two of maple confections featured maple cream and maple candies back in the meeting event space, the vast majority of the day took place in the sugarbush at Baer Brothers Maple. Sap collection methods and detailed demonstrations of installing and maintaining main line, lateral line, and drop and spout configurations filled the morning. After a bagged lunch, best practices related to tapping and sanitation practices took center stage. Semi-structured lectures interspersed with lots of hands-on demonstrations and opportunities for workshop attendees to try their own hands at different skills and techniques carried the day.
While I was not able to stick around for the third and final day, everyone once again caravaned out to Mike’s sugarhouse to see his reverse osmosis and evaporator set-up. This is such an important component of workshops, but due to time of year, sometimes gets the short end of the stick. Not this time. Mike had his system primed with water to get all the steam and the burn which takes an off-season experience to the next level. Attendees were lucky to enjoy an afternoon closing session on financial planning, operation economics, sales and marketing from one of the best in the industry – Mark Cannella from UVM.
Planning for Maple Boot Camp version West Virginia is already afoot for 2024 – as details begin to fall into place, you can be sure we will share all of the relevant details!
To kick things off, attendees can sign up for a bonus maple syrup grading workshop morning of Wednesday September 6th. The registration link is here.
The official Maple Boot Camp will kick off right after lunch that same day and continue for two and a half days through Friday mid-afternoon. We hope to see you in Pennsylvania for this signature maple educational opportunity. It is an excellent deep dive for beginners or small producers thinking about growing their operation. Veterans will undoubtedly learn a thing or 3 though too as they interact with maple experts and producers from West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York.
The Pennsylvania Maple Camp provides intensive, hands-on training for beginner and intermediate maple producers. The 3-day curriculum begins with sugarbush assessment, then builds sequentially through all phases of maple syrup production from sap collection to boiling, bottling and sales. Participants will gain the skills necessary for the safe, efficient, and profitable production of maple products. Camp will include classroom lectures as well as outdoor, hands-on exercises. Come one, come all, see you in Pennsylvania for Maple Boot Camp!
Offered through Ohio State’s Woodland Steward program, we are excited to introduce woodland owners to the ins and outs of maple syrup production. Is your woods suitable? How involved do you want to be? How much are you willing to invest into such an endeavor? We will start inside and finish outside looking at equipment options and how to set-up a woods for maple production. The class fee is $40 and includes lunch & materials. Please consider joining us and REGISTER here.
We’re tapped and the production system is flushed and tight with great vacuum. Many thanks to our students and technicians for getting the 2023 sap season underway!
Join the OSU Extension team on March 1st for the annual Woodland, Water, and Wildlife Conference. Kathy Smith and Gabe Karns will be presenting a seminar early in the agenda titled “Woodland Owners, Maple Syrup, and the New Maple Toolbox.” Book your whole day with us though as many other interesting topics will be covered including buckeye tree conservation, aquatic plants and wetlands, Ohio snakes, spotted lanternfly updates, urban coyotes, and more.
If you are a consulting forester, work with a natural resource agency, or are otherwise employed within the environmental and natural resource career field, please join us on March 15th for an in-service workshop customized for you! Learn how to assess a woodlands potential, what equipment will be needed, what options are available to a landowner interested in maple sugaring, and what else is needed to establish an operation as an income opportunity.
We hosted Maple Boot Camp at Ohio State Mansfield on June 22-24. Carri Jagger, Thomas deHaas, and Kathy Smith pulled this post together for the Buckeye Yard & Garden Online blog.
We cannot hold events of this quality without a lot of help and support. A big thanks to Carri and Kathy, Mike Lynch from CDL, Mike Hogan of OSU Extension, Sayeed Mehmood, Les Ober, Mike Rechlin, Kate Fotos, and Mike Lucero. I hope I am not forgetting anyone. And an especially huge thanks to the Brown family at Bonhomie Acres and Stan Hess for opening up their operations for tours and interfacing with Boot Camp attendees.
Here are a sprinkling of photos to supplement what you’ll see at the linked write-up above.
Please enjoy this 1-hour presentation led by Kathy Smith, Les Ober, and Gabe Karns. This opportunity was made available through the Woodland Stewards Friday in the Woods webinar series. Nearly 150 attendees listened to a wide coverage of beginner maple topics followed by a full hour of Q & A that ranged from more technical aspects of boiling and filtering and processing syrup to more inquisitive investigations of why the freeze-thaw cycle is necessary for making sap flow and if tapped wood has any market potential as lumber.
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.
One of the most popular fact sheets on the Ohio State University Extension’s Ohioline has always been the Hobby Maple Syrup Production fact sheet. Ohioline is the source for all of the fact sheets published by OSU Extension and the College of Food Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. The original fact sheet was written by OSU State Forestry and Maple Specialist Dr. Randall Hiligmann emeritus. That fact sheet has served as a guide for literally thousands of new aspiring maple producers. Anyone who has made maple syrup in their backyard knows that it is something that the whole family can enjoy. At the end of the season, you are left with some fond memories and a container of maple syrup that the entire family can enjoy. It may not be the best maple syrup you have ever tasted, but it is your maple syrup. That is what makes this hobby and the publication popular.