Maple as STEM – PAST Party

We had an opportunity to table as an Experience Partner at the PAST Foundation‘s STEM of Spirits event this past Friday evening.  What a wonderful event and chance to showcase maple as a local food that supports local communities and is full of elegant and interesting science!

We chose a couple engaging angles to highlight the STEM of maple syrup to our guests.  Attendees learned about the differences in cancer fighting properties between early season Golden Delicate syrup as compared to later season Dark Robust profiles.  An informal poll of taste preference ended in a dead heat with the exact same number of people preferring Golden Delicate as Dark Robust.  Each syrup has its own medical benefits (Read more in our September ’23 Maple REVIEW article), and participants decided the only rationale response was to consume copious amounts of both!  Smart folks.

Another activity invited guests to use a sap hydrometer, digital refractometer, and traditional refractometer to calculate Brix of “sap” from 3 different maple trees.  One tree was a healthy full-crowned sugar maple.  The second was a stressed sugar maple.  A healthy “rilver” represented tree number 3.  A graduated cylinder varied sap output volume, and sap Brix varied by tree species and tree health.  A dry erase marker to record data on the tree canopies and some quick calculations to estimate final syrup output, and we transformed the evening’s guests into researchers.  The quick study’s results suggested that while maple species does matter, managing for healthy trees and forests is the highest priority for maple producers – regardless of maple species composition.

A bit of information about spotted lanternfly and some visuals to help showcase Jones Rule and the boiling process rounded out the display.  We’re excited to see Ohio State Maple continue to build momentum as we continue to expand our maple education and outreach footprint.

PA Maple Boot Camp Recap

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!

Pennsylvania Maple Boot Camp: REGISTER Now

Maple Boot Camp is going on the road for 2023 and pit-stopping with our neighbor to the east: Pennsylvania.  Scott Weikert and the good folks at Penn State University are hosting this year’s event from September 6-8 in Somerset, PA.  The agenda is fairly similar to last year’s event that we hosted at the OSU-Mansfield campus during the month of June.

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!

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.

July-October Webinar Series through UVM

Beginning Wednesday, July 21st, the University of Vermont is offering an excellent line-up of 8 webinars spanning into October.

The full topic line-up includes Total Yields from Red Maple (7/21), Maple Start-up Profiles and Financial Benchmarks (7/28), Best Practices for Birch Syrup Flavor (8/11), Sugarbush Inventory Methods (8/25), Sap-only Enterprises (9/15), Binding Contracts and Legal Agreements (9/29), Maple Forests and Carbon (10/13), and Northeast Forest Land Taxes and Programs (10/27).  While not all topics will apply directly to Buckeye State maple producers, many do and promise to be highly informative.

Full details with registration links are available here.