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Getting Started in Maple – FREE webinars 1/18 & 1/25

Penn State Extension is offering free webinars to maple beginners on January 18th (noon) and January 25th (7 PM).

Topics covered will include identifying different maple tree species, proper tapping procedures, boiling the sap, and filtering the final syrup product.  Registration is FREE, click here for more information.

2021 Ohio Maple Days – Virtual Event Announcement

Join us for the virtual version of Ohio Maple Days on Friday, January 15th!  Due to COVID-19 restrictions Ohio Maple Days will take place all on one day and be offered virtually.  The event will be recorded and available afterwards for viewing.  For questions contact Dr. Gary Graham (email: graham.124@osu.edu).

The registration link and more details about the agenda can be found here.  We hope to see you there!

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

For Maple Producers (and everyone else for that matter), 2020 Has Been Different!

I thought everyone would appreciate an article that provides an update on how the world of maple education is adapting to the pandemic. First, I suppose everyone realizes that normal is still a way off in the future, but that has not stopped us from delivering maple education. All the normal events, the Lake Erie Maple Expo, the Southern Syrup Research Symposium and the New York Mid-Winter Conference among others, have been cancelled. But in their place, a series of virtual maple programs have been delivered by specialists from across the maple producing regions. Let us step back to April and see where we have been and where we are going

In April 2020, everything came to a standstill as COVID-19 numbers increased in the United States. The pandemic had major impacts on the food production chain and food processing/distribution system. It was also a difficult time for Extension educators. Most of April and May were spent adjusting our work schedules to abide by rapidly changing health regulations. We were and are still working mostly from home.  In-person meetings were all but cancelled, and teams of educators started brainstorming new ways to communicate with producers. It is very fortunate that we have access to virtual technologies in 2020 that were not available as little as just 5 years ago.

By June, plans were being formulated to find creative ways of delivering important information to our producers. As luck would have it, three universities from Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania (Ohio State, Penn State, and West Virginia’s Future Generations University) were awarded an ACER Access Grant in autumn 2019. The grant’s primary purpose was to conduct two surveys and collect information to help develop marketing opportunities across the region. Along with the surveys going out across the 3 states, outreach programs have been presented virtually with the next webinar launching at 7 PM on December 17th. COVID-19 slowed the survey timeline, but the first program series came out in June helping producers struggling to sell maple product during the pandemic. This was the first of what would become a series of monthly programs. In the months to follow, UVM Proctor Research Center and The Cornell Maple Program started producing virtual programs as well. In addition, we here at Ohio State University launched this new Ohio State Maple website that took much of my previous posts and expanded it to include contributions from additional authors as well as a host of education, extension, research, and other maple-related content.

For Ohio State University, decisions to drastically alter the long-established Extension model of outreach and education have not been easy decisions to make nor been made lightly.  We hope our audiences understand and appreciate our commitment to new and virtual programming, but we also understand that virtual remote programming is far from perfect. We also understand that in the rural portions of our state internet connections are less than optimal providing barriers to accessibility.  Many have found ways to adapt, and we are also recording and archiving programs so you can view them later at your convenience.  We are also looking into ways we can deliver this current and relevant outreach to our Amish maple producers community

Where does this leave us going into the winter months, and when will in-person programming return? I cannot speak for other institutions because health rules vary from state-to-state, but this is what I see happening at OSU. Right now, we are operating under Ohio’s health mandate. Group size maximums are still set at 10 people (including instructors), though with increasing case levels, all in-person meetings are now on hold except for critical circumstances. Everyone including the instructor must wear a mask, and it is preferred that meetings be held outside. All meetings must strictly follow CDC guidelines. Because of the current and strict regulations at the state and university level, we have decided to continue with the path of virtual leaning. It is not unforeseeable to see the trend continuing far into 2021. A committee is currently planning the 2021 Ohio Maple Days, and it will be presented in a virtual format. Plans are to present the program virtually so that everyone can stay safe at home and view the program. The Ohio Maple Producers Association is making provisions to make the program available to those who do not have internet, details forthcoming. Pre-registration for the 2021 Ohio Maple Days will be required.

As we approach winter, uncertainty still looms on the horizon. I encourage you all to be patient, and if and as often as you can, to take advantage of the virtual programs being offered. We will continue to keep you posted on upcoming programs and events on the Ohio State Maple site. Just like you, I deeply miss the opportunity to attend events like the Lake Erie Maple Expo and fellowship in-person with everyone at the Ohio Maple Days event. Not being able to walk into a room filled with polished stainless and not being able to visit with my fellow producers is more than disappointing. Eventually, we will move beyond COVID-19, and the events we look forward too will return. And when they do, they will be bigger and better than ever. For now, be safe and stay healthy!

Author: Les Ober, Geauga County OSU Extension

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