More Upcoming Maple Events

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.

Upcoming Webinars – Weather & Worms

Two webinars are coming quickly on the calendar.  And yes, you read the post’s title correctly…

First, a perennial favorite speaker is coming to Future Generations University “Out of the Woods” seminar series next Thursday, January 19th.  None other than Aaron Wilson from Ohio State’s Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center will be discussing the weather and how it impacts your sugarbush.  If this talk is anything like usual, he delivers excellent information about general effects and then dials it in to the prognostications that seem to be developing for the current and upcoming sap season.  Click here to register – next Thursday night at 7 PM. 

And second – Wednesday, January 25th at 3:00 PM, Penn State Extension will be offering a webinar called “Stressors of Maple: Dieback and Mortality.”  The webinar will be recorded and sent to everyone that is registered.  The webinar will host speakers from Michigan Technological University and will cover what maple decline is, what is driving maple decline, how earthworms impact maples and native forests, and how to respond if you have maple decline.  For more information and to register for this January 25th webinar, click here.

Reverse Osmosis 101+

Ohio Maple Days 2022 did not disappoint.  The food was fantastic, the vendor room crowded, and the presenters shared a wealth of knowledge of expertise across a wide range of subjects.  Joel Oelke, Regional Sales Manager with Leader Evaporator/H2O Innovation, shared an encyclopedic wealth of knowledge regarding reverse osmosis leading up to the lunch hour.  Before we get into a few highlights, be sure to mark your calendars for next year’s conference December 8th and 9th!

At its simplest, reverse osmosis is a process by which sap is passed through a membrane to remove water thereby concentrating sugar.  The pure water pulled out of the sap is referred to as permeate.  The increasingly sugary solution – concentrate.  The benefits are obvious – it saves space on numerous fronts and greatly improves efficiency at the evaporator by reducing time, fuel, and labor.  While the list of pros is long, suffice it to say – reverse osmosis is one of the biggest technological revolutions the maple industry has experienced in the last 100 years.

While reverse osmosis is a true game changer for maple producers, the technology is also one of the most complex and expensive pieces of equipment in the sugarhouse.  It is easy to become intimidated by what’s necessary to implement and maintain a unit, and mistakes chalked up to the “school of hard knocks” can be expensive.  Here are just 5 rules of thumb that I pulled from Joel’s presentation to share in this article.

#1 – RO’s efficiency rating (how many gallons can a unit process per hour) is given at a solution temperature of 55 degrees Fahrenheit.  Because sap is kept at cooler temperatures to ensure syrup quality, you need to factor the lower temperature into your unit’s efficiency rating.  This is especially important to consider if you are shopping for a new RO unit.  Here’s a simple figure to calibrate your RO’s operating efficiency.  If you purchase a unit rated at 600 gallons per hour but expect to run sap at an average temperature of 40 F, you can multiply 600 by an efficiency downgrade of 0.75 (or 75%) and expect a 450 gallon per hour operating rate.

#2 – A second factor influencing RO efficiency is the concentrate level you are trying to achieve assuming you start around 2 Brix.  The more you want to concentrate your sap, the less efficient your unit will be.  Let’s continue with the example we started above in italics.  If you want to take 2% sap to 8% concentrate, your RO unit will run at the temperature-corrected peak of efficiency and achieve your calibrated 450 gallons per hour rate.  However, if you concentrated to something higher, say a 12% level, your operation would get dinged with an additional 30% loss in efficiency.  Here’s what the math would reveal – 450 gallons per hour multiplied by 0.70 = 315 gallons per hour.  Below is another figure to help you calculate the efficiency factor of concentration.  Remember, you must factor in both penalties – sap temperature and concentrate level – to properly estimate your efficiency rating.  And this all assumes you are running a clean, properly-maintained RO unit!

#3 – The desugaring, rinsing, and washing cycles are what keep your expensive reverse osmosis investment operating at the peak of performance.  Long story short – each cycle is critical to maintaining your unit.  And do not – especially in the wash cycle – generalize across all RO units.  Specific models and manufacturers use different membranes which are tailored to different types of soaps and chemicals as well as amounts of each.  Consulting the manuals and consulting with your RO manufacturer reps – just like Joel – is best practice for getting maximum life and performance out of your reverse osmosis technology.

#4 – Don’t let your improved efficiency get you in to trouble.  What I mean is this – sap that goes through a reverse osmosis unit comes out as warmer concentrate.  So, A) the process of reverse osmosis physically warms the concentrate above the temperature that it went in the machine, and B) you aren’t concentrating just sugar with an RO unit, you are concentrating everything – including microbes and bacteria.  The warmer concentrate coupled with a denser community of “nasties” can get a producer in big trouble if the evaporator is not synced up in work flow and their facility can not properly keep concentrate cool.  Stopping short of laying out any specific recommendations for how to integrate and streamline your sugarhouse sap-to-syrup processing, just know that the clock is ticking extra fast once you start concentrating sap.

#5 – If you properly size, run, and maintain an reverse osmosis unit, you can expect roughly a 3-year payback on your purchase when accounting for saved fuel and labor.  A rough cost estimator predicted a $4 cost savings per finished gallon of syrup using fuel oil in a 110 gallon per hour evaporator.  Obviously there a lot of moving parts for each unique scenario, but the bottom line is this asset does not 10 years to recoup costs.

Hopefully these quick 5 points help you make sense of reverse osmosis and how you might consider incorporating or upgrading an RO unit in your sugaring operation.  Thanks for an extremely informative talk Joel!

Getting Down to the Business of It All

Mark Cannella, Farm Business Management Specialist for University of Vermont Extension, ventured down to the Buckeye State to kick off our Ohio Maple Days weekend on Friday, December 9th.  Mark’s half-day seminar helped nearly 20 maple producers give serious consideration to their maple business plan.  From modules on strategic planning to marketing to managing finances and calculating true profitability, group discussions and active work sessions engaged participants.

No matter the scale of a single maple operation, our commodity market is determined by a host of macro factors that are sometimes easy to observe but as often are difficult to suss out.  At the level of the single operator, those macro factors mingle with local variables to produce a host of challenges and opportunities that vary year-to-year and even within a single season.

Participating operators asked hard questions that forced good conversations – conversations that sometimes ended in relatively clear answers, other questions that resulted in more…well, questions.

“How do I transition from a hobby to a business that can support my whole family?”

“Should I make that change truly believing it will be good for my family business in 2 generations future?”

“How can I better care for my trees?”

“How do I balance the need for equipment upgrades with the challenge of having enough labor to increase my number of taps?”

“How do I juggle maple and the rest of my responsibilities?”

These questions and more provided excellent fodder to stimulate 4+ hours of lively discussion.  Thanks to Mark for bringing his business planning expertise to Ohio!

Additional online business planning tools can be found at www.maplemanager.org.

Upcoming NAMSC Webinars

Thinking of adding value-added pure maple products to your operation?  Looking to improve your current candy and cream skills?  Merle Maple confections expert Eileen Downs will demonstrate the processes used to make award-winning candy and cream, from start to finish.  Join this North American Maple Syrup Council webinar on Monday, December 12th at 7 PM.  Register here.

The second opportunity is offered twice.  Once at 7 PM on December 14th and again on December 17th at noon.  In these sessions, the lead researcher (Geoff Lewis from the University of Michigan) will describe this maple syrup life cycle inventory project and go over the data they’re looking to collect from producers and processors this coming spring.  These data will also be used to build an online calculator for any producer to estimate their own greenhouse gas emissions and receive suggested strategies to reduce these emissions.  There will be plenty of time to answer questions about the project and participate.  Registration information is here.

Ohio Maple Days & Workshop Registration DEADLINE Approaching

Registration is sneaking up for the Friday & Saturday festivities surrounding Ohio Maple Days.

In order of their occurrence, Mark Cannella is hosting a maple business workshop representing by University of Vermont on Friday, December 9th.  Mark is offering this half day workshop with a focus on strategic planning, marketing and managing finances toward profitability.  Participants are encouraged to bring any business records and information of their own to apply during the workshop.  There are 4 SAF category 1 continuing education credits offered for the day.  Space is limited and seats are running out – register now!

Friday evening, you do not want to miss out on the One Sweet Gathering fundraising banquet thrown by the Ohio Maple Producers Association.  Register here!

And of course the main event on December 10th, Saturday for Ohio Maple Days.  We will meet again at Ashland University’s John C. Meyer Convocation Center for a jam-packed program on all things maple.  Updates on red maple research from both Ohio State’s Gabe Karns and the University of Vermont’s Proctor Maple Research Center’s Abby van den Berg.  Add to this other talks on reverse osmosis, marketing and insects impacting maple trees.  A maple themed lunch and a vendor room that features a variety of maple equipment dealers, consulting foresters and other associated equipment help round out the day.  There are also SAF continuing education credits available for the program.  Registration here.

 

 

Upcoming Maple Events

There is a flurry of upcoming maple programming and events to consider.

Of course, the International Maple Conference just concluded up in Lacrosse, Wisconsin held over the latter part of last week and weekend.

Next weekend, the Ohio Maple Producers Association are convening for a great line-up of food, fellowship, tours, and syrup contests.  Dates are Nov 4-5 and additional details can be found here.

Just a few days after, Seldom Seen Farm will host a Woodland Wednesday program from 4:00-7:00 PM on November 9th.  In collaboration with Geauga Soil and Water Conservation District, Geauga County Farm Bureau, NRCS, and host Seldom Seen Farm, speakers will discuss the relationship between modern forestry and the maple industry.  Specific topics will include thinning, tree crown development, soil conditions, and maple tubing in the sugarbush.  All are welcome to this free outdoor event that will benefit the landowner and woodsman alike.  Please RSVP to Kevin Holy at 440-596-9717 or via email (kevin@seldomseenmaple.com).

Lake Erie Maple Expo, the following weekend of November 11 and 12, will host its usual showcase of vendors, talks, and all and everything else maple.

Completing the first half of November flurry, Penn State Extension Educator Brian Walsh will discuss what is known about the spotted lanternfly and observations about maple trees that provide insight as to the impact the insect could have on the industry.  Pennsylvania has endured a longer stint of spotted lanternfly infestation than Ohio, and we can learn more about what to potentially expect by seeing what has been learned by our neighbors to the east.  Register for the November 16 – 10:00 AM webinar here.

Ohio Maple Days 2022 Registration Live

Please join us on December 9th and 10th for a great line-up of workshops, socials, and seminars at this year’s Ohio Maple Days.  Registration is available at the Woodland Stewards website.  Saturday has a packed agenda of research talks, seminars, vendor displays, and down time to enjoy meals engaging with fellow maple enthusiasts.

Preceding Saturday, Friday will feature a half-day business planning workshop with Dr. Mark Cannella (ad below) followed by a banquet and social with maple-themed entrees, drinks, and cocktails galore (buy tickets here!).  Registration for each event is separate, so don’t miss out a great 2-day package of maple education and fun.

Ohio Maple Boot Camp

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.

Registration OPEN for Maple Boot Camp

Maple Bootcamp: Ohio is for woodland owners looking for an annual income from their woodland or current producers looking to sharpen their skills.  This multi-day workshop will cover everything from tree identification and tree health through tapping and marketing an end product (syrup, candy etc).  There will be tours of a sugarbush that has been in operation for more than 50 years and one that takes advantage of today’s technology.  We will also tour the sugarbush that was installed on the Ohio State University Mansfield campus in 2019 and is a hub for maple research.  Join us June 22-24 for this exciting event.

Registration is $150 total for the 3-day camp.  Sign up here and check out the agenda for more details.