SINCLAIRVILLE - March is maple!
Maple syrup producers from six different farms celebrated the sixth annual Maple Promotion Day in Chautauqua County at MRC Farms - Pure Maple Products in Sinclairville on Friday.
"The maple industry is very important to Chautauqua County," Ginny Carlberg from Cornell Cooperative Extension said. "Western New York is big in maple syrup."
County holds Maple Promotion Day
Dave Munsee, Vice President of the Maple Producers Association and co-owner of Big Tree Maple in Lakewood, kicked off the event as the region prepares for New York's 16th annual Maple Weekend March 19, 20, 26 and 27 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at a variety of sugar houses around the state.
"I want to thank MRC Farms, Ken Morley and his partner Keith Carlson for hosting us today at their wonderful operation and probably the largest in the county," Munsee said. "They do just a fantastic job here. The purpose for today is to promote maple and the maple industry in Chautauqua County. It's a serious industry, definitely worth promoting. March is the month for maple."
New York State Assemblyman Andy Goodell was on hand to celebrate.
OBSERVER Photo by Jenna Loughlin
New York State Assemblyman Andy Goodell speaks during Maple Promotion Day on Friday at MRC Farms — Pure Maple Products in Sinclairville.
"(The) agriculture industry is very important in Chautauqua County and the maple syrup industry is an important part," he said. "My hat's off to all the maple syrup producers here in Chautauqua County. You make fabulous product. I'm really proud whenever I see our Chautauqua County maple syrup out on the shelves."
For Goodell, Chautauqua County maple syrup makes a fabulous, unique gift for those not from the Western New York region and he makes sure he always has some on hand as a treat for guests that visit from out of town.
"It really is the extra benefit to a breakfast at my house," he said.
According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, 52 farms producing maple syrup in Chautauqua County, totaling 39,899 taps and producing 6,254 gallons.
Goodell then recalled a tale of his own attempt to make maple syrup. He and his wife took 10 gallons of sap and boiled it their kitchen stove. Although he said the house smelled lovely, all the wallpaper pealed off and the kitchen was very sticky for the next several months
"I would recommend you buy your maple syrup from a professional than try to make it on your own," he laughed.
The host of the event, Morley spoke about the set up and process on his farm. MRC Farms puts in around 7,000 taps on one piece of property owned by Morley and three leased properties which creates around 2,000 gallons of maple syrup each year, making his one of the largest maple syrup producers in the county. So far this year, MRC Farms has produced 625 gallons of syrup in five boiling days since starting on Feb. 28.
"I think we're a little ahead of schedule for the season," Morely said. "It's been a real nice, cold winter so everything's staying real fresh this year. We're making some real nice syrup."
Because it is early in the season, the syrup being produced right now is light syrup due to the cooler weather. As the season, which lasts for 3-4 weeks starting at the end of February or the beginning of March, goes on and the temperatures rise, the syrup will start turning darker.
Morley started producing maple syrup with his father, purchasing the farm in 1993.
"He did it as a child himself with his father, so it's been in the family for over 50 years and we've just carried in on and kept getting bigger and bigger," Morley said. "It's just a family job and I really enjoy it."
A modern addition to Morley's syrup-making arsenal is his reverse osmosis machine which removes around 80 percent of the water from the sap through a high pressure environment. This separates the water from the sugar molecules in a more efficient fashion than merely boiling.
"It's phenomenal the way it works, so that way you can produce more syrup with less time and less energy," Morley said.
With this machine, Morley can make one gallon of syrup using one gallon of fuel. Without it, the ratio would be 1:5. Additionally, it takes around 50 gallons of sap to make that one gallon of syrup.
"We're proud of our product," Morley said. "It's all natural and basically 100 percent organic. It's as natural as you can get. It's nature's sugar."
Those interested in purchasing syrup from MRC Farms can 499-0481 or stop by the farm located at 57 Water Street in Sinclairville. Maple products are available year round, including maple cream and maple candy, and can also be found at the Sinclairville and Cassadaga Shur Fine stores.
"I appreciate the Maple (Producers) Association for asking me to participate in this," Morley said. "It's a real honor."
Other local maple producers were also on hand to share their stories and experiences.
John Holland of Maple Center Farms in Bemus Point sell product around the lake produced from his around 2,000 taps.
"It's fun to make it," he said. "Our maple fluff is one of our biggest sellers."
Fred Croscut, a Chairman of the Chautauqua County Legislature and a member of the MPA runs has run a small operation of 1,200 to 1,500 taps for 40 years. He used to run it with his father and his son, but he now relies on the help of his two Amish neighbors to produce around 200 gallons of syrup each year.
"It's a part of agriculture of Chautauqua County," Croscut said. "I'm very proud to be a part of it. I enjoy it and I enjoy the comrade among the producers. I think the Maple Producers (Association) is a very close knit organization. We help each other out, we ask each other questions.
"It's in my blood," he added. I'll keep doing it as long as I have some Amish neighbors to help me."
Don Mansfield owns a small, hobby operation just outside of Fredonia. His father made syrup for as long as he can remember and Mansfield has continued on the tradition, making syrup the old fashioned way with only a couple hundred taps, buckets and wood with no reverse osmosis.
"It just gets in your blood," he said.
Dave Munsee's brother, Lloyd, spoke about their Big Tree Maple farm of around 1,000 taps - a little over half on tubing and the in buckets on roadside trees. They sell a large portion of their products at the sugar house, but they can be found online at www.bigtreemaple.com, at various craft shows and at Mindy's Place, a restaurant in Lakewood. As of last night, Big Tree Maple has made around 45 gallons of syrup on the young season.
"I think this year is going to be a good year," Lloyd said. "It seems like we may be a little bit ahead of schedule unlike last year which was pretty much a disaster for all of us."
Big Tree Maple is one of the local farms that will be participating in New York Maple Weekend. For more information on Maple Weekend, visit www.mapleweekend.com.