Because the weather put us out of the syrup-making business by March 1st this year, we delivered a crowded schedule of March maple programming at a variety of events instead.
Kicking off the month, Kathy Smith and I tag-teamed a talk at the Woodland, Water, and Wildlife (WWW) Conference. We spoke to a roomful of attendees about the maple toolbox that has emerged from our tri-state USDA ACER grant. The maple toolbox is designed for foresters and natural resource professionals to bring maple sugaring to landowners as a management option. From site and tree evaluation to a crash course in regulatory requirements for maple producers, the toolbox is gaining traction as an excellent resource across its intended Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania reach. The 1-hour presentation at WWW teed up a full-day workshop dedicated to just the maple toolbox for middle of the month.
2 weeks later, I spoke to a group of 30 undergraduate students from the Buckeye Learning Community at OSU-Mansfield. While students filled up their plates with pancakes covered in Ohio State maple syrup, we discussed the concepts of stewardship and sustainability in balancing the need for natural resources while protecting our environment. Maple is absolutely a perfect candidate topic to explore these themes. Once bellies were full, we went outside to get students some experience identifying maple trees in the woods. With a handful of maples identified just outside the building, everyone got some tapping practice while we collected some sap to check Brix with our digital refractometers. The sap sugar content exercise worked beautifully as a suppressed maple struggling to get out of the midstory posted a 1.4 Brix and was blown out of the water by the most dominant sugar maple in the stand – the maple monarch put up a stellar 3.4% sugar content. It was eye-opening for many students to see the connection between a healthy forest and production potential as measured by Brix.
March 15th was a full day in-service workshop for 20 professionals. The deep dive into the maple toolbox coupled an indoor morning session with an outdoor afternoon session. Consulting foresters, extension educators, agents from local Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and more participated. A big thanks to Les Ober and Carri Jagger for helping us teach that workshop. While we talked about the in’s and out’s of how to make maple syrup, the workshop focused mostly on evaluating sites for feasibility and production potential and focusing on tree/forest health through the lens of sugarbush management.
Finally, a tandem of Saturday presentations at the Ohio River Valley Woodland & Wildlife Workshop focused on introducing landowners to sugarbush planning and maple economics. I shared a presentation entitled “Maybe Maple? A Beginner’s Guide to Planning a Sugarbush” that was followed by a remote presentation from Dr. Sayeed Mehmood dedicated to the dollars and cents side of maple operations. It is exciting to the southern tier excitement of maple spread, and engaging with an audience that welcomed attendees from Kentucky and Indiana to Loveland, Ohio, was a great opportunity to spread the good word of maple.