OMPA Receives ODA Specialty Crop Block Grant

The Ohio Department of Agriculture recently approved a Specialty Crop Block Grant to the Ohio Maple Producers Association to better market Ohio maple syrup. The grant writing was spearheaded by Nate Bissell, Dan Brown and Terese Volkmann. Many hours went into this successful project which will benefit all maple syrup producers across the state.

The focus for the use of the grant funds will be, first, for Ohio maple syrup producers to sell more maple products directly to the consumer which will increases producer’s income – make more money. Secondly, it will be to educate the consumer about Ohio’s deep and rich maple history and heritage which will encourage them to purchase more maple products directly from the producers. Finally, being a part of the growing agri-tourism industry which shows people where their food comes from and encourages them to purchase directly from the grower. Agri-tourism also boosts local economies because when people travel they purchase fuel, food, lodging and shop.

This will be accomplished through the Maple Madness Driving Trail in March, creating a MAPLE OHIO MAGAZINE, which will include March maple events across Ohio and other maple related information, and improving the website to have more tour and maple information which producers and consumers will benefit from.

Because of this opportunity, all producers should be marking their calendar now to participate in the 2015 Maple Madness Trail, the biggest and best maple tour in the United States, March 14 & 15, 21 & 22. Encourage other producers in your area to join in. Each year a tremendous amount of calls come in asking where to go in the Columbus – Dayton – Cincinnati region so producers in that area are encouraged to sign up. You do not even have to be making syrup, just be willing to open your sugarhouse and welcome visitors and sell them your maple syrup. You don’t even need a sugarhouse, maybe a garage set up with products to sell and maple displays and information will do the trick.

If opening your location is not practicable but you want to sell more products, purchase an ad in the MAPLE OHIO MAGAZINE. These will be distributed across the state and be something that will be kept for future maple reference. It will get your name and contact information out there so you can sell more maple products.

Tour stop registration forms and advertising information will be sent out in September.

Thanks to the ODA Specialty Crop Block Grant, the Ohio maple industry will be showcased like never before. Every producer in Ohio stands to benefit from this extensive marketing. Be sure to be a part of this opportunity.

In other exciting Ohio maple news, March is about to be officially declared MAPLE MONTH in Ohio. First, the Ohio House of Representatives passed a House Bill stating it, and then the Ohio Senate followed and passed their Ohio Senate bill. The legislation is now awaiting Governor Kasick’s signature to make March Maple Month in Ohio. This was the project of Nate Bissell working with Ohio House Representative John Patterson, Ashtabula County.

Terese Volkmann

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2014 USDA Maple Syrup Crop Report!

Les Ober, Geauga County OSU Extension

In 2014 Ohio was ranked 6th in maple syrup production in the United States with 130,000 gallons. This is based on the official ranking released by USDA National Agricultural Statistic Services (NASS). Despite the odd ball year, maple syrup production dropped very little in the United States. In 2013 the U.S. produced 3,523,000 gallons in what was considered to be one of the best years ever. In 2014 the U.S. produced 3,167,000 gallons in what many felt was a short season. Also, most of the production came at the end of the year in late March and April.

As always Vermont remains the perennial leader with 1,480,000 gallons. In Second place was New York with 546,000 gallons and hot on NY’s heels, in third, was Maine with 545,000 Gallons. In fourth position was Wisconsin with 200,000 gallons and 5th was Pennsylvania with 145,000 gallons. Actually, 130,000 gallons is respectable in a year when it almost looked like we would not have a maple syrup season at all. The year also had an effect on Ohio’s production per tap which slipped to 0.289 in 2014 from 0.352 in 2013. This is predictable if you factor in the short amount of time that you actually had to produce syrup. Even though NASS recorded January 10th as the opening date (based on the earliest reported date in the state), many producers never tapped on until the first of March. The closing date (again the latest reported date) was an unheard off May 3rd. Most years Ohio is done no later than mid-April. This show just how odd this year was.

Crop value is another interesting area to look at. This is always reported for the previous year, in this case 2013 when Ohio produced over 150,000 gallons. This is where things get a little off track. In 2012 the average price of a gallon of syrup was $42.50 in 2013 the average price was $36.90. In fact in 2011 it was $42.10 and $42.70 in 2010. Even though we made a lot of syrup in 2013 it is hard to believe that that supply pushed the retail price down by $5.00 per gallon across the entire state. If fluid syrup dropped that much then I sincerely hope producers are making it up at the other end with value added products.  The truth is that Ohio is trending toward lower retail sales and higher bulk syrup sales. We are simply shipping are syrup off to big packers in the east and the west. They in turn are sending some of that syrup back to Ohio under an out of state label. The question is are Ohio maple syrup producers taking advantage of all of marketing opportunities that may be out there. For example Massachusetts and Connecticut produce less syrup than Ohio but they work hard to retail 50% or more of their syrup locally. New York markets over 30% of their syrup locally and is working hard to build their brand. The biggest surprise is that Vermont producers sell over 80 % of their syrup bulk. How much of that stays in Vermont is unknown.

The thing that producers need to take home form this report is that Ohio is making steady gains not only in production but in the value of the product they produce. In 2013 Ohio sold almost $6,000,000 worth of maple syrup alone that does not include value added products. Products like candy nuts and maple cotton have become very popular and make up a large percentage of a producers retail sale. Also not considered in the NASS report is the value of associated industries such as equipment t dealers and the big one tourism. Maple Syrup is truly a growth industry in the state of Ohio

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2014 Cornell Maple Camp

August 13-16, 2014

Cornell University’s Arnot Teaching and Research Forest

611 County Road 13, Van Etten (Cayuta), NY


Provide anyone who wishes to become a maple producer or those with some experience, but seeking to expand their production, products, marketing and profitability through focused and hands-on intensive training that helps them produce maple products with greater efficiency and profitability.As a result of the workshop, participants will develop the following skills and outcomes:

1. Measure and describe their sugarbush for improved tree growth, health and productivity.

2. Plan, install, and test a tubing system that matches topography and other components of a maple operation

3. Plan and assemble a processing system, including sap storage, reverse osmosis, evaporator operations, filteringand syrup storage.

4. Know which trees to retain and which trees to cut, understand principles of forest dynamics and appreciate thevalue of directional felling and low impact tree harvesting.

5. Understand the principles for marketing of syrup and value added products to optimize profitability.

6. Be able to analyze your own maple enterprise and develop good business management skills.

7. Become familiar with strategies and options to lease sugarbushes and purchase sap for processing.

Registration Information:

Registration includes all meals (Wednesday supper through Saturday lunch) and handouts.Cost is $275 per person.Cabins at the Arnot Forest sleep 8 and will be available for rent at $40 per person per night (Wednesday, Thursday, andFriday) or information on local hotels and camp grounds can be provided.

This training is sponsored by the Cornell Maple Program.


Cornell Maple Camp (CMC) Registration

Name: _______________________________ Address: _______________________________

City: _________________________________ State, Zip: ______________________________

Phone: (________)______________________ E‐mail: ________________________________

Additional names that you are registering: _________________________________________


CMC $275.00 x ________ # attending = _______

Cabin $40.00 x ________ # of nights x _____# attending = _______

Total due: $ _______

If you are unable to attend the whole program but can come for part, call 607-255-1658 or email Steve Childs at to negotiate pricing for attendance changes.

Preferred method of payment is, by credit card:

fax this form to: 607-255-0349 or e-mail to Steve Childs at and make payment here:

Or mail registration form and check to: Cornell Maple Camp, PO Box 6741, Ithaca, NY 14851, make checks payable to: Cornell University

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The OMPA officers ( Aggie Sojkja Sperry, Dan Brown, Karl Evans, and Paul Snavely) and Dr. Gary Graham OSU Extension met with Deputy Director Jenelle Mead and Assistant Chief Terri Gerhardt of the Ohio Department of Agriculture to discuss grade law changes to conform to the new USDA maple grade standards. We also discussed input into rules concerning the production of maple products.

The good news is ODA is willing to make the rule change to implement the new grade standards as soon as they are adopted by the USDA. Grading of syrup will remain voluntary in Ohio under the new grade standards.

The great news is ODA has agreed to exempt maple cream as a maple product needing to be produced in an inspected facility. They agreed that maple cream is a form of maple syrup and is exempt under current rules. A letter has been sent to all county health departments and all farmers’ market coordinators informing them of this change. ODA has also agreed to exempt maple sugar under the cottage industry rules but it will take time to get this change implemented.

Gary Graham and Dan Brown will have a copy of the letter concerning maple cream and will forward the letter to any producer wanting a copy for their use.

Dan Brown; President Ohio Maple Producers Association

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The Finishing Pan; Where The Art of Making Maple Syrup Meets the Science of Making Maple Syrup

 Les Ober  Geauga County OSU Extension            

The old timers called it an art, modern maple producers call it a science and in reality it is a little of both. What happens in the finishing pan can determine the success or the failure of a season. It is here that all of the standards that we base quality maple syrup on come together. Here the right density meets the right color and the right flavor. The science is using instruments to determine the exact time to draw off the syrup. The art is that six sense of knowing when everything is moving toward the perfect draw-off.  The result is golden amber maple syrup with the perfect maple flavor.

               There are several types of finishing pans on the market today. The reason for the difference is to manage niter or sugar sand. Niter is the mineral content in the sap that precipitates out in the boiling process. To manage niter, most front pans are designed to either change to a side or to pan with a lower deposit of niter.  The reverse flow allows the operator to switch sides when niter builds. A variation on design is the one-sided draw-off, reverse flow where a series of valves are used to redirect the flow of sap from one side to the other. An example of this would be the Leader Revolution. The other style is the cross flow, where there are multiple front pans connected by stainless tubing. In this configuration the pan closest to the draw off point is rotated with a clean pan. The best policy is start with a clean pan every day and change during the day when needed. Pans can be cleaned with the use of white vinegar and hot water. This is a very effective way to clean pans with a minimal amount of elbow grease. The amount of niter present in sap varies from season to season and from woods to woods. If improperly controlled the result often be a scorched pan.

Once the sap or in this case concentrated sap reaches the front pan, or the finishing pan, it is approximately 19% sugar. This is sap that has not been run through an RO. It has been concentrated by boiling. RO Concentrate will enter the pan at a higher concentration.  As the concentrated sap is crossing over into the front pan it should be reaching 213 degrees at 29.9 barometric pressures. It is also at this temperature that the concentrated sap is not only becoming denser but is starting to change color. As the density increases, the sugars react with the heat to form the amber color we associate with pure maple syrup. It is also at this time when the bacteria in the sap can interact with the heat and the sugars and darken the syrup. All of this happens in the finishing pan and over a relatively short amount of time. This reaction can occur quickly and if the operator is not paying attention he can actually burn or caramelize the syrup, darkening the color. He will also increase the density past 66 brix. The result is thick heavy syrup and possible loss of profit.

To make sure we pull the syrup off at the right density, we can use a variety of instruments. The most common and least expensive are the thermometer and the hydrometer. Most evaporators come with a thermometer that is placed at the point of draw-off. Water boils at 212.1 degrees Fahrenheit at sea level and a barometric pressure of 29.9 in. of mercury. Because syrup in rarely produced in a location at sea level and the barometer is seldom at 29.9 we must make some adjustments. We must boil water near the evaporator and reset the thermometer that is used to make syrup. This process of adjusting to match the barometric pressure must be done daily and whenever the barometer changes due to weather front movement. This can occur quite often during an average sugar season. This is why most producers would rather use a hydrometer for the final test and use the thermometer to give them an approximation of when to draw-off.

The hydrometer is the judge and the jury. There are two lines on a hydrometer the top line is for hot syrup the bottom line for cold. Use the top line. Always use a hydrometer cup full of syrup that is at least 211 degrees F. Bring the instrument up to eye level or set it on a stable object close to eye level for the most accurate reading. Producers need to test their hydrometer annually against a calibrated refractometer. The hydrometer gets jarred around and the paper containing the scale can move or it can get dirty and give a false reading. If the reading is inaccurate replace it. Another tool is the refractometer. The new ones are digital, very accurate and are temperature compensating. However, the cost may prevent many from using them.

The automatic draw-off is a great tool for any producer in any size operation. It will make drawing off syrup a lot easier, especially when boiling RO Concentrated sap. It is nothing more than a digital thermometer hooked to a valve that draws the syrup off at a very precise temperature. Everything I said about the syrup thermometer applies to the auto-draw-off. Most producers set there draw-offs with a hydrometer. During the sequence of opening and closing the auto draw-off is actually working within a range of temperatures. The thing to remember is that the draw-off will open at very precise temperature but if the flow is slowed by foam or a valve coming into the draw-off is restricted the temperature will rise above the desired level resulting in denser syrup.  All auto draw-offs should be installed with a valve between the pan the draw-off. This allows the producer to adjust the flow of sap coming off the pan.  Open the pan valve so a steady stream flows through the auto draw-off. Try to avoid a heavy stream that will result in the large batch. The draw-off should close and the temperature on the readout should drop 4 to 6 degrees and then quickly rise coming back to the desired temperature. The result is a series of small batches coming off in a relatively short amount of time.  The producer needs to check the final product in the bucket or tank when the auto valve closes and adjust the draw-off accordingly. It is very easy to get a denser product than desired. The auto draw-off monitored often during the day. It is not a set and forget instrument. Today there are newer auto draw-off that compensate for barometric pressure but again the cost may be prohibitive for the small producer.

Another area to consider during the finishing process is foam control. You only control foam in the front pans at the point of draw-off and only if the flow out of the draw off point is being held up by the foam. If this happens one drop will reduce the foam to the point where the bubbles will decrease and flow will increase. Avoid using defoamer anywhere else as it causes the gradient to break down and the syrup densities to intermingle. If you are foaming over in the front pan it is usually because the foam is not properly controlled in the flue pan. Occasionally it may be necessary to knock this foam down but try to avoid this action if you can.  If the foam is properly controlled in the flue pan there should be minimal problems in the front pan. The only exception would be coming into the first draw-off after a layoff. All types of sap will behave differently during the initial draw-off. Watch for increased bubbles and denser steam, this is a sign that you are making syrup across the front pan. In this case do not panic, if you can slow your boil down and stabilize the evaporator as quickly as possible. The result is usually one big batch of syrup followed by reduced boiling temperature. The next batch should be normal if not look for the problem.

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Managing Your Flue Pan

Les Ober OSU Extension Geauga County

                In the last column I discussed the overall basics of running a modern evaporator. You will notice that there is a lot left out of that very basic discussion. Let’s take a more in-depth look starting with where the sap enters the evaporator at the flue pan float. If you have your float set properly the level of sap in the back pan can vary between 1 and 2 inches depending on the style of evaporator you are running. As mentioned in the last article if you have a drop flue then you set the level of sap for the entire rig with the back float. A raised flue evaporator has two floats and this allows you to set the front and the back pan independently. It also allows you to run the back pan a little shallower than you would with a drop flue. The shallower you can run the more heat you transfer in to the sap and the harder the boil. If you run your back pan too deep then the boil slows down. Every evaporator has a sweet spot and once you get it set, you usually leave it alone. Remember if you make a change at the float, a reaction to that change will take a significant amount of time. All changes should be minimal, as large changes will alter how the rig is running.   Another good idea is to have calibrated site gauge in a position so you know what the level is at all times. By calibrated I mean make sure that the level you are reading on the gauge is the same as the level in the pans. This is should be the level of sap above the flues. Check this before you start your rig. When running a pan a little on the lean and mean side it is a good idea to set up some kind of an alarm system just in case the flow of sap is interrupted and the pan level drops to below the critical level. All of these suggestions just might save a pan from burning up.

               The proper use of deformer in the back pan is critical. According to Leader Evaporator Company if the defoamer is used on a regular basis in the back pan you will very seldom need to use in the front pan. In fact except for the occasional use at the point of draw-off, defoamer should not be used in the front pan.  There are several ways to accomplish this. Several Years back Bradley Gillilan of the Leader Evaporator Company authored a book entitled Boiling 101 Tip and Tricks to Make Better Syrup. This is a must read for anyone who is running an evaporator. I think the book is still available through the company. One of the discussions is the use of defoamer and how it varies from one style rig to another.  Defoamer is needed because one of the inherent characteristics of sap is that if foams excessively when boiling. When foaming occurs the boiling rate slows down and the flow can even be interrupted. It is necessary to add a small amount defoaming agent to prevent this from happening. You add just enough to stop the foaming but not enough to kill the boil. Too much defoamer can also alter the flavor to the syrup. Most new evaporators use defoamer cup in the back corners of the flue pan. They are shallow cups suspended at height that will stop the foam level at the height of the cup. This continuously controls the foaming level in the back pan. Other producers prefer adding a drop or two to the back pan every time they fire up. Either way regularly managing the foam in the back pan will usually mange the foam throughout the entire rig. It will also promote and even flow and smaller batches.    

                Why would I want to spend $2000.00 on a pre-heater? After all the best I can hope to gain from this accessory is 10 to 15 % increase in efficiency. Would it not be better spent on an RO or a steam-a-way or piggy-back? The answer to the last part of the question is strictly economics. Both, a steam-a-way or piggyback, are very expensive additions to an evaporator. My personal thoughts are that t it is much better to put the money into enhancing your RO. The advantage you get from increasing your RO capacity will outweigh the money spent on a steam enhancement device. However, that being said I have seen phenomenal results when an RO and a Stem-A-Way are used together. Producers have reached levels in excess of 1000 gallons of sap an hour being processed with a single 3X12 rig. Again it is all about economics.

               The pre-heater is another matter. The use of a preheater is not so much to gain capacity as it is to gain efficiency of sap movement. The issue here is what happens when you put cold sap directly into an evaporator. When this is done you literally kill the boil at that point of entry. On very large evaporators with long flue pans this is not as critical but on small evaporators killing any portion of the boil on the flue pan will decrease you capacity. On a 4 X 10heater pan divided in 4 sections you have 40 square feet of surface above the flues. If you kill the boil on just under half of the section where the sap enters ( 1 foot by 4 foot)  you will only lose 10 % of your capacity in the pan. Now if you lose the boil on the same area in a 3 X 5 heater pan you would lose close to 25 % of you boil. Considering that 75 to 85% of the liquid is evaporated in the flue pan that is a significant loses.   A preheater designed to bring the temperature up to 190 degrees F is a valuable addition to your small evaporator. The use of pre-heaters went by the wayside when the use of Steam-a-Ways and RO increased. In old days you hardly ever saw a rig without some way of pre -heating the sap. Today many dealers recommend the use of a pre-heater on smaller rigs. A word of caution when using a preheater! Watch the flow of the preheated sap going through the float, If the sap starts to boil in the pre-heater it can vapor lock and shut of the flow. You always need to properly vent a preheater according to dealer recommendations.

               When you put it all together the boil in the back pan should be vigorous and uniform across the entire pan. You should see the bubbles moving in the direction of the flow. If the boil decreases and the bubbles move back a forth then an adjustment needs to be made. Efficiency in the back pan  will largely determine the capacity of your evaporator.




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Evaporator Basics

Les Ober
Geauga County OSU Extension

We pay a lot of attention to managing the woods during the maple season. After all success or failure depends on what happens in the woods. However, what about that shiny or not so shiny metal machine in the sugarhouse we call an evaporator. How you run that machine will make or break you in the end. There is a common joke among maple producers, that you are not really a maple producer, until you have burnt a pan. Trust me if you have never scorched a pan, or come close to burning one, consider yourself lucky. This is one place you do not want to go. Usually the most common reason for burning a pan is human error caused by some kind of distraction. When you are running a rig you are dealing with extreme heat, in up to 1000 degrees F. You are applying that heat to a relatively small volume of liquid (2 in. across the surface of the pan) separated by a thin layer of stainless steel metal. The only thing that keeps that metal from melting is that thin layer of liquid. If the sap boils out because you run out of liquid, forget to turn on a valve or you drink one to many beers, that metals will scorch, then buckle and then melt down. Your season could be over, if you cannot find a replacement. You cannot go to Walmart to buy a flue pan or a syrup pan. To prevent all of this from happening you need to understand how your evaporator works.

If you were to ask many producers how an evaporator works, the answer would be that 2 brix sap enters through a float and moves through a series of channels until it reaches the end of the syrup pan and 66 brix  syrup is produced. Sounds simple enough but this is a very complex process. When sap is boiling a gradient is formed causing the heavy syrup to moves in front of the lower density sap. As long as the pan is boiling, the two will not mix, well should not mix? That is not always the case if the boil is interrupted. To completely understand the process you need to know how much water is being removed in each pan. If you understand that you will also understand how easy it is to burn up an evaporator. The sap entering the back pan or the heater pan is roughly 2 brix. Applying the Jones Rule of 86 (Now the Jones Rule of 87.1, aka 2013 research at  UVM ,Proctor Research Center) where 44 gallons of sap is needed to make 1 gallon of syrup  The flue pan is where all the work is done. When the sap leaves the flue pan, close to 35 to 40 gallons of water will be evaporated leaving the concentrated sap at 18 to 19 brix. That only leaves less than 5 gallons of water to be removed in the syrup pans. This makes more sense if you compare it to what happens in a Reverse Osmosis machine. If you take 2 brix sap to 8 brix you are effectively removing 75% 0f the water. This is roughly 33 gallons of water removed from the 44 gallons required to make a gallon of syrup.  If the syrup represents 1 gallon that only leaves 9 gallons of water to be evaporated. How quick this happens is relative to the size of the evaporator you are running and the quality of your fuel source. The RO has made it possible to handle large volumes of sap very efficiently on a small evaporator.

There are two types of evaporators, raised flue and drop flue. With a drop flue you only have one float and it controls the entire machine back to front. You control the depth of the sap throughout the entire machine based on the depth in the front pan. This is usually between 1 1/2 to 2 inches across the entire machine.  A raised flue evaporators has two floats,   one for the back pan and one for the front pan.  You are running one evaporator but controlling two separate processes. The level of sap needs to be between 1 and 1 1/2 inches above the flues of the back pan. This causes the back pan to boil off water fast. If the back pans are too deep the intensity of the boil will be dampened. If you put a big pot of water on the stove it takes a long time to come to a boil, however as the liquid boils off the rate of exportation becomes faster. Which style of evaporator you prefer is strictly a personal preference.

In the front pan you are taking the sap from slightly over 212 degrees F, boiling point of water to 219. F the boiling point of syrup at 66 brix. This happens at 29.9 inches of mercury on the Barometer. If the barometric pressure goes down and it will all the time in the spring of the year, the boiling point of water will vary and you thermometer will have to be adjusted.  . Make sure you calibrate your thermometer in boiling water before the start of each boil.  You should carry 2 inches of liquid across the front pan.  Syrup should flow evenly to the draw off. If hot spots develop, that area of the pan will tend to boil faster increasing the risk of burning. The trouble usually occurs when you draw off. This is why you want to avoid removing large volumes of syrup at one time. This causes the liquid level to become very uneven, you might have 2 inches in one part of the pan and a 1/2inch in another.  Removing small batches more often will accomplish this. If a heavy draw off occurs and a shallow spot develops watch the bubbles, they will become smaller and intensify in that area. As the liquid goes above 219 F the liquid will gravitates to the hot area. The steam from those bubbles will become more localized and intense.  This means the sap is becoming more concentrated in that area. If this happens a long way upstream from the draw off you are headed for trouble, unless you let more liquid into the pan. However, the addition of more liquid of lessor density will disrupt the gradient. This means you will have to boil longer to make syrup. This also leads to additional large volume drawoffs. Maintaining a constant even flow of syrup in the form of low volume draw offs, stabilizes the process. Watch you r bubles they should move in one direction across the entire rig. If they start moving the opposite direction a problem has occurred and a adjustment needs to be made. Make all your adjustments in small increments and remember it takes time for that adjustment to affect the process.

Another problem that can lead to a burnt pan is allowing too much niter (mineral deposits in concentrated sap) to build up in the pan with the drawoff. Pans are designed so you can reverse the flow (reverse flow) or change out the front pan (cross flow). When you are boiling only sap you usually can boil for one day without reversing the flow or changing the pan. If you are boiling RO concentrate the change may come more often. Niter buildup tends to be worse at the end of the season and will vary from year to year. Allowing niter buildup is the same as cooking with a dirty pan the niter insulates the liquid from the pan surface cause in the surface to burn under the niter. Niter builds in the pans further away from the drawoff but the concentration is a lot less and the boiling action tends to break the niter down. This is why reversing the flow to the other side will dissolve the niter. Starting the day with a clean syrup pan is a necessity.  Where you swap pans you can soak the pans in a 5% vinegar solution for several hours and then scrub and rinse the pan until the metal shines. I buy white vinegar by the case.

Technical information from the North American Maple Syrup Manual 2nd Edition

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When Will You Tap and Will the Trees be Frozen?

Les Ober
OSU Extension Geauga County

This looks like a cold one going into the first part of the season. I do not believe we will see many trees tapped during the month of January. That being said, there are always a few hardy souls in Southern Ohio that venture out into the cold, trying to tap before m Mr. Ground Hog leaves his burrow.

Looking at the 30 day forecast maps by NOAA Weather for the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes, the forecast is for more of the same. The weather pattern that has been bringing waves of cold air into the region all winter, appears to be staying in place. We can expect very short warm ups between these low pressure systems. What has set this year apart form other similarly cold winters, is the extreme cold caused by the polar vortex drifting farther south than normal. Some agricultural forecasters are predicting this pattern of below normal temperatures and above normal precipitation to continue through mid-March, with the above normal precipitation continuing for 60 to 90 days. The one thing to remember is that predicting weather more than 5 days in advance is a very inexact science.

In a normal year the low temperatures at the start of February would be, lows in the twenties and highs into the mid-forties. This sets up a well-defined freeze thaw pattern. This pattern does not setup in New England until early March. Their season typically runs through April. Ohio is about a month earlier. If we continue with a prolonged period of cold weather running through most of February, this could have an impact on the season. That would happen only if the weather remained cold and then suddenly warmed up and stayed warm. We saw that in 2009. In 2008 we were cold right into the first part of March with heavy snow. In 2008 we made 125,000 gallons in Ohio. No matter how hard you try, you cannot completely forecast a maple sugaring season. The only weather that counts is the weather that occurs from the time you put the tap in the tree to the time you pull it out. All you can do is get ready and tap when Mother Nature gives you the green light.

This year, early tappers will, most likely, will be tapping into frozen wood. This is very different than the last two seasons which were very mild and producers tapped under unfrozen conditions. Frozen wood presents a few problems. The first thing you need is a very sharp bit. There is more resistance in frozen conditions. The bit will also dull down quicker, requiring a change in bits from time to time. Today many companies make bits that are designed to drill under frozen conditions. This is a very common practice in Canada and the Canadians drive the market. Because it takes little extra force you need to take care and not drill an oblong hole. Producers also need to be very careful when setting the spout. It is very easy to split frozen wood and cause a leak at the top and bottom of the whole. Either one of these conditions can cause vacuum leaks. You need to steady your drill hand and go straight in allowing the drill to do the work. Then tap in the spout very carefully. If you are tapping in frozen wood you will probably need to go back and check the taps once the wood thaws out. Reset where needed. There is a little extra work required when tapping early but you know what they say about the early bird. In this case no worm, but a lot more sap.

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The Most Important Time You Will Spend in Your Sugarbush

Les Ober; The Ohio State University Extension Geauga County


               The 2014 maple season is only 45 to 60 days away depending on where you live in Ohio. The Deer season is coming to an end and it will most likely be safe, to once again enter the woods. Mid-December is a great time to inspect lines and to make adjustments to your tubing system. The work you do before the season will probably determine how well your system will perform during the season. Here are some things to consider and watch for as you work on your tubing system prior to tapping.

               How many times have you said to yourself, this system just does not perform as well as it did when we installed it? You have to realize the first year of maple tubing system’s life will be its best year, simply because it is brand new. The spout and drops are new and everything is tight and working properly. After the first year a systems performance will depend on how well it is maintained. Leaks will develop and those leaks can expose flaws in the system. Finding and repairing leaks is the first step to achieving high vacuum. The problem with doing work on lines prior to tapping is that you are not running a vacuum pump making it almost impossible to find all of the leaks. However, with careful inspection you can spot and repair many potential trouble spots that can cause problems later.

                The first step is to walk the wood making sure that all of the lines are up and running tight and straight. Inspect all the tubing that is in contact with tree. These areas are where you will find the highest percentage of squirrel chews. If the critters have been chewing this should be easy to spot. Make sure you not only look for chew holes but also scrapes where the little vermin start to chew and back off for whatever reason. Next you need to look for old connections on tees that have been stretched and twisted, replacing old tees where they are needed. If your system has some age then this year may be a good year to start replacing drops and spouts. Research out of the Cornell University maple program states that you can improve your production by over 50 % when you install new spouts and drops. A couple of interesting side notes are that you can come very close to this by keeping the old dropline and installing a new check valve adapter on that line every year. Many producers are finding it more convenient to replace the spout every year and the drops every third year. Use a different color tubing  on new drops so that you can quickly identify the drops that need to be rotated out.

               Three areas to check on main lines are the saddles, boosters and line connectors. Check for old worn or stretched saddles. If the loop line going to the saddle has become disconnected and is pulling hard on the saddle itself replace the saddle immediately. Once the seal on the saddle is twisted you will more than likely not be able to properly reseat the saddle without leakage.  Saddle leaks are hard to detect and can quickly become the site of major vacuum lose. Another trouble spot are the boosters on a wet dry line. Most of these are made of PVC plastic. PVC plastic was developed for indoor plumbing in buildings. It is not designed to be left in direct sunlight for long periods of time. The result is a total breakdown of the plastic due to Ultra violet light from the suns rays.  The UV Light and exposure to hot and cold will also breakdown the glue in the joints. Any PVC fittings should be inspected and replaced on a regular basis. If you use a PVC line from your vacuum pump to your releaser, including your moisture trap, make sure you inspect this area for loose or cracked joints. These areas are not only exposed to UV light but experience major vibration that can cause damage to the line.

 The other location where vacuum leaks can occur is where lines are joined together with Cam Lock couplings. Producers need to replace the rubber gaskets on the inside of these couplers on a regular basis. Also try not to exert a lot of outward force on these connections. The work best when they couple together with little force.

               Most of the above locations can be inspected without have to run the vacuum. Of course the final inspection will need to be made once the taps are in and the vacuum is running. If you can flush lines with water prior to using them many leaks will appear during this process. However, this may not be possible due to weather conditions. Early inspections and maintenance can offset hours of costly repairs and down time once the season starts.


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The 2013 Lake Erie Maple Expo

The 2nd Annual LEME is now history, and what an event it was. This show had something for everyone. Attendance figures were not available at this writing but this year’s edition matched or exceeded the 2012 Expo. Thanks to the Committee that worked for six months crossing all the T’s and dotting all the i’s.  You cannot put a program of this magnitude together in a few weeks and effort that the members of the Northwest Pa Maple Producers Association and committee members from other states should be applauded. Thanks to the students of the Northwestern High School FFA chapter and to  Anthony Honeycutt their advisor, for their hard work and dedication. The LEME Committee could not do it without them. Thanks to the speakers many of which taught for two days in both seminars and workshops.  Finally, thanks to all of the dealers and vendors that brought in the equipment and product to make up one of the best maple trade shows around.

So what did you miss because you decided that this was just another maple seminar and you would catch up at one of the winter meetings? On Friday you missed attending one of three workshops that contained in depth and in many cases hands on demonstrations on tubing installation, vacuum and a complete beginner’s class. One producer remarked it was worth the 200 mile drive for the workshop alone. After the vacuum workshop producers had an opportunity to sit down with Steve Childs to answer specific questions on their vacuum system. Thirty five producers left with a better understanding on how to setup and operate a vacuum tubing system. If you missed Glen Goodrich and Karl Evan” presentation on tubing installation you missed a chance to gain knowledge from a combined 50 years plus of experience in tubing installation. The tips and tricks that producers learned will make life a whole lot easier when they go home to install their system. In the beginner workshop hobby producers learned everything from start to finish about how to start making syrup from two veterans, Laura Dengler and Mark Lewis. The workshop format proved to be a winner and will be repeated next year.

When the producers came back from the workshop they were greeted with a tradeshow that filled the Northwestern High School lobby and cafeteria. 32 dealers in all made for an outstanding display that anchored the Friday evening and Saturday show. Producers also had a chance to attend a roundtable discussion and ask questions of Dr Tim Perkins, Dr Gary Graham, Steve Child and Glen Goodrich, four the most prominent individuals involved in maple production today.

On Saturday the producers could choose from 30 seminars on just about any topic you could think of.  Where else could you find this kind of knowledge in one place at one time? There was plenty of time between seminars to visit with dealers and talk maple with old and new friends.

If after reading this you find yourself wishing you had made the trip to Albion Pennsylvanian, be assured you will have a chance to redeem yourself in 2014. The dates are already set November 7th and 8th. The location will be the same and there will be some surprises I am sure. Look forward to seeing you all in 2014 and our heartfelt thanks to all of you who attended the 2013 Lake Erie Maple Expo.   

 Les Ober; LEME Committee Member 


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