Category Archives: Maple Syrup in Ohio

2017 Maple Syrup Production in Ohio Better Than 2016

Les Ober

Geauga County OSU Extension

The production results from The USDA NASS Survey were published on June 9th. For Ohio the numbers were an improvement over 2016, but not by much. This year Ohio Produced 80,000 gallons, an improvement over the 70,000 gallons produced last year. Once again 75% of the producing states improved their production and for some it was a major improvement.  New York and Maine each added close to 50,000 gallon to last year’s production. The nation’s leading producer of maple syrup is no surprise, Vermont. Vermont is in no danger of losing its crown; production was once again just under 2,000,000 gallons. Finishing out the top 5 were New York with 760,000 gallons, Maine with 709,000, Wisconsin with 200,000 and New Hampshire with 154,000 gallons. Ohio continues to slide in its ranking to a disappointing   9th place. However, Ohio producers did increase production over 2016 by 10,000 due to an early start. The earliest recorded start date in Ohio was January 1, 2017, 25 days earlier than 2016. The problem is that when you look at the average start date across the state it was February 11th. That was problem given the mild weather conditions we experienced in January.  You also have to consider that the temperature reached 77degrees F at CLE on February 24th and the season ended early around March 16th. By comparison Vermont recorded their earliest start on January 1, their average starting date was February 24th and their average closing date was April 10th , that translate into 2 million gallons of  syrup produced over a 3 month period. Both New York and Maine had similar scenarios.

There were not many changes in the weather pattern experienced in 2016.  Weather, once again had a negative effect on production in the Buckeye State while the mild weather in the East boosted production in that region. Increasing tap numbers and warmer weather early in the season has allowed producers in that region to dramatically increase production.  Climate change is definitely opening up opportunities to make syrup in the northern regions of states like Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire. Production is being expanded in regions that are at a higher elevation where traditional maple production was once hampered by steep slopes and short seasons. Now with the advent of vacuum and 3/16 tubing systems along with the trend toward early tapping, production has exploded in the form of huge 100,000 plus operations. Modern sugaring operations in the eastern states are not only big but they are efficient. The amount of Syrup per Tap in the big three has steadily increased and stayed around .300 gallons of syrup per tap. This has pushed the average syrup produced per tap in the United States to over .300 tap. This was an area where Ohio was once a leader but recently Ohio production has declined to .200 per tap. You can clearly blame, two poor production years in a row for this decline.

One final statistic that has shown a modest improvement over last year, but is still below 2015, is the number of taps recorded in the Buckeye State, showing only 400,000 taps in 2017. For anyone working closely with the Ohio maple industry this statistic is mind boggling given that expansion going on in sugar bushes across the state over the last 5 years. The only explanation for this is that a large portion of the syrup being produced in Ohio is going unreported. Another statistic that tends to cast suspicion on validity of Ohio’s maple production statistics is how Ohio producers choose to market their syrup. In 2015 44% of Ohio producers sold to the retail market. That number has dropped to 30% in 2016. At the same time the Bulk sale market share has gone from 32% in 2015 to 43% in 2016 ( note these numbers are always one year behind the current year).  Look at the marketing trends of big three (VT, NY & Maine) you will see that in the areas of expansion and big  production the largest percentage of their syrup is sold on the bulk market,46% in NY,  86% in  Vt. and 93% in Maine.  Now take a look at a state of Connecticut and you will see they sell over 50% retail. Makes you wonder how much syrup is actually being produced in Ohio and is being sold out the backdoor to eastern and western packers. If this true, it is sad, because the demand for maple syrup is on the increase in Ohio and the stores are flooded with Canadian and Eastern States syrup.

So what have we learned from the last several maple seasons and how can we improve our maple production?  The one thing that is clear is that the last five years have not been normal seasons for producing maple syrup. 2017, 2016 and 2013 were all warmer than normal and if you wanted to maintain average production for your operation you had to start early to get the early runs. This was especially true in 2017. Even the Polar Vortex Years of 2014 and 2015 presented their challenges due to the extremely cold winters and late starts that we experienced. The fact is, when the weather is right make the move and tap the trees. In most cases you will never make up for production lost early in the season by trying to extend the season at the tail end. Another factor is syrup quality. It is much easier to make a quality product in the first half of the season rather than struggling to make quality syrup while battling warm weather and increased bacterial contamination at the end. Hopefully 2018 will be a banner year for Ohio Maple producers, we are long overdue for a good one.

 

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A Funny Thing Happened to My Sap on the Way to the Evaporator

The following article was written and published in The Maple News May edition. In the article I took  a look back at the 2017 maple season. In Ohio it was very different and in many ways very educational.

The 2017 syrup season saw Mother Nature throwing just about everything at Ohio maple producers. In years where everything seems to go as planned, and production is good, we tend to overlook what can happen when we have deal with extreme conditions.  2017 was a year of extremes; we were constantly exposed to either extended warm or cold weather. The season started early for many and never really got off the ground for others.  February 20th was the beginning of a warm spell that ended on February 24th with the temperature in Cleveland, Ohio reaching 77 degrees, breaking several records in the process. The first two weeks of March were cold with minimal sap flow; this was followed by a warm up that ended the season on March 27. After a year like 2017 many Ohio producers are still wondering what actually ended the season.

When sap comes from the tree, the sweet liquid is sterile. Once the sap is exposed to the environment colonies of bacteria begin to grow in the liquid. A 2003 research study done in Quebec, Canada by Legace, Pitre, Jacques and Roy isolated 32 different t isolate groups of bacteria found in maple sap. As producers we often think of bacterial growth as bad because many of these bacterial strains cause maple sap to spoil (Morselli and Whalen 1991 & 1996). The ironic fact is that not all bacteria are bad and several strains of bacteria and yeasts are needed to give maple syrup its unique flavor and color (Wilits and Underwood). This was reconfirmed in a 2011 study done in Quebec Canada by Filteau, Legace, Lapointe and Roy. The Maple syrup is almost 100% made up of the sugar known as Sucrose. When bacteria are introduced into the sweet sap solution fermentation occurs via hydrolysis that results in the breakdown of a small percentage of the sucrose into fructose and glucose. This is often referred to as the invert portion of the maple sugar complex. When heat is introduced, there is a thermal reaction (Millard Reaction) that causes the browning of the liquid during the boiling process. This gives maple syrup its signature amber color and unique flavor.  As the bacterial contamination increases the result is an intense darkening of the syrup and a pronounced strong flavor. With an overabundance of bacterial growth in the sap results in the formation of acids that can cause a sour smell and taste known as Sour Sap. If boiled into syrup, the syrup often becomes thick and stringy, forming Ropey Syrup.  The highest probability of this type of contamination usually occurs at the end of the season.   However, as many producers found out this year,   it can happen anytime during the season, when environmental conditions are right and bacterial growth is left uncontrolled.

As we reach the end of a season, one of the most often asked questions is; how can I tell when the season is over. During a normal season we have two completely different biological processes that often occur simultaneously at the end of the season.  This can be confusing to producers especially new producers.  The season ultimately comes to an end when the trees begin bud formation and leaf emergence. The presence of abnormal sour sap is often mistakenly associated with the budding process because in a normal season the onset of warm weather not only increases bacterial growth but is pushing the trees closer to the formation of buds.  The off flavor associated with budding is similar but distinctly different than Sour Sap. Buddy Syrup has a chocolate or tootsie roll like flavor and when boiled, the steam will take on an unforgettable pungent aroma. The easiest way to identify buddy syrup is to boil a pot of the suspected liquid on the stove and wait for the aroma. If the aroma shows up the season is over.

February 24th marked the end of the season for many Ohio producers despite the onset of cold weather in the first half of March. Those that tap predominantly Red Maple were justified in their decision based on the premature bloom of their trees. Others simply lost the battle to bacterial contamination. The producers with the best chances of extending the season past the freeze up were those using tubing systems that were run continuously 24/7, regardless of sap flow during the warmup. Continuous operation keeps the sap flowing away from the tap hole and it also has a cooling effect, as a result of air being transferred through the lines. In addition almost all were using some type of tap hole sanitation technology in the form of check valves or regular replacement of spouts and drops. The key word here is sanitation. Producing top quality syrup starts with a tubing system and equipment that is properly cleaned and stored at the end of the previous season.  It continues with constant sanitation of equipment throughout the maple production process.  A good example is replacing plastic sap storage tanks with easy to clean stainless steel tanks. Plastic tanks are one of the worst harbingers of bacteria because the plastic is porous and cannot be easily cleaned or sanitized. Many of the larger operations have now adopted new evaporator cleaning systems that clean not only the front pans but also the flue pan. This involves draining the back pan between runs and recirculating RO permeate water to remove niter and slow bacterial growth in the evaporator.  Cleaning your equipment immediately and processing your syrup as quick as possible is essential if you want to make a quality product throughout the season.

We can control sanitation and processing but the trees are a different matter. Can a maple tree rebound after warm weather and a long shutdown? There is no definitive answer to this question. Each sugar bush has its own characteristics and will respond differently to environmental conditions.    The reality is, you can make a good season better by extending the season, but you cannot make up for the production you have lost as a result of not tapping on time. Across the state Ohio producers were tapping in January, 3 out of the last 5 years.  Only in 2014 and 2015, the years of the Polar Vortex, was tapping delayed into late February and early March. You can never duplicate the flow of a fresh tap precisely placed at the start of the season. Many of those producers tapping early in 2017 learned this lesson the hard way in 2016. As a result those that tapped early in 2017 had an average to above average seasons all because they were able to take advantage of the opportunity.

Late season runs are often marked by diminishing returns, yet some producer pride themselves on the fact that they can make syrup long after everyone else is done. The question is, what are they making and where will it end up. Ultimately the quality of the product has to be the deciding factor in knowing when to end the season. Attempts to make commercial syrup at the end of the season are usually a waste of the producer’s time and money. Sacrificing quality for quantity only results in a surplus of low quality syrup that should never reach the market place.  Unfortunately many times this syrup goes into the marketing pipeline, ending up on a store shelf, headed for the table of an unsuspecting   consumer.  This type of production and marketing practice has no place in the maple syrup Industry.

Les Ober Geauga County OSU Extension

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Filed under Maple Syrup in Ohio, Maple Syrup Quaity, Syrup Producing Weather, Taphole Sanitation

2017 Geauga County Maple Festival is Here

Geauga County Maple Festival

April 27th is the day many people in Chardon Ohio and the surrounding area have been waiting for all year.  Today is the opening day of the 2017 Geauga County Maple Festival. For many this is the first Ohio festival to open every year. A chance to enjoy the festivities , the contests and load up on fair food and of course have more than one maple stir. The maple festival is an opportunity to celebrate the maple syrup industry and what it means to Geauga County. It salutes the men and women who produce one of nature’s most perfect foods.  In 2017 two milestones were reached at the Geauga County Maple Festival Hall of Fame Awards Ceremony. For the first time, a prominent maple syrup producing family  had a 3rd generation inducted into the Geauga County Maple Syrup Producers Hall of Fame.  Also when the awards was announced for the grand champion maple syrup produced in Geauga County a new record was set for the number of times that this award was given to an individual sugar bush.

On April 22, 2017 two members from different sides of the Timmons Family were inducted into the Geauga County maple Syrup Hall of Fame.  Robert Timmons father of Richard and George and Roderick Timmons the father of Sterling Timmons were the 2017 inductees.  Two sides of the family tree living and farming within a few miles of each other in Auburn Township.  Robert’s family grew up on Munn Road Township on dairy farm where they made syrup on a 3000 Tap sugar bush. Down the Road and around the corner the Roderick Timmons family also owned a dairy farm and a 2000 tap sugar bush.  Both sides of the family had seen member inducted previously. Roberts’s sons   Richard and George and their wives Ruth and Clare were the first members of the family to be inducted in the Hall of fame in 1987. Roderick’s son Sterling and his wife Jean were inducted in 2000. Finally Richards’s son Jim and his wife Penny were inducted into the hall in 2010. More than one maple producing family has had 2 generations receive the honor but up until now no family has had a third generation inducted. It is only fitting that this honor be given to the Timmons family for all the support both sides of the family tree have given to the Geauga County Maple Industry. On hand to receive the honor were two of the grandchildren, one from each side of the family.  On hand to receive the award for Roderick was granddaughter, Polly Fenton. Polly’s father, Sterling Timmons moved the family to central Ohio during the mid-nineties when the new St. Rt. 422 was extended through the middle of their farm. Polly remarked that after discovering some maple trees on the new farm, one first things Dad did, was to build a sugarhouse. Today Son Terry runs 500 taps keeping the maple tradition alive.  On the Robert Timmons side of the family Grandson Jim accepted the award. Jim’s side of the family, represents, the third, fourth and fifth generations now producing maple syrup.   Jim now operates a 4000 tap sugar bush  on  the home  farm in Burton Township.  Jim remarked that his grandfather would not believe the way we make syrup today. Congratulations to both sides of the Timmons Family.

This year also marked the first time that any sugar bush has won the top producer award more than more than 8 times. That honor up until this year was held by Rhodes Sisters and their father Anson Rhodes The new honor of 9 grand champion awards goes to Soubousta  Farm of Chardon Ohio.  The first 4 times the honor was bestowed on the original owner of the farm Ed Soubousta.  The last 5 Championship Awards were won by Ed’s Nephew Robert Butler.  This is an achievement and a record that may never be duplicated again unless Bob and his partners add a couple more top producer awards to their list of achievement’s.

Last year the entry format was changed and the In County entries are now judged by individual grade. Awards were given for the top 7 entries in each grade. The Top Winner and overall winner of The Golden Delicate class was Soubousta Farm. First place in the Amber Rich class was Tom Salo of Montville and the first place winner in the Dark Robust class was Carl and Karen Defillippo also from Montville.  The first place winner in the Out of County entry was The Goodell Farm from Mantua Portage County. Stephanie Bartlett of New bury was your Grand Champion Adult Candy Maker. Winning the Grand Champion Junior Candy maker award was Anthony Barham of Chardon.  The Grand Champion Syrups and the top placing syrups in all categories will be auctioned off on Sunday April 30th at 12:30 on the Main Street Stage.  The weather looks like it will cooperate with only a slight risk of showers. Come out and enjoy the festival and all things maple.

Les Ober Geauga County OSU Extension

 

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The Ohio Maple Syrup Season; Moving Forward?

budded-red

Red Maple In Middlefield Township Sugarbush on March 1, 2017

Les Ober, OSU Extension

It is March 2nd and we have just seen the warmest February on record in the Cleveland, Ohio area The 77 degree day that we experienced on Friday February 24th shattered every record for a high temperature in the month of February and it was also the highest winter temperature in Cleveland for any winter month. The way the month of February ended created a dark shadow on our ability to make maple Syrup in Ohio. Now we are in March, the cold temperatures have come back. It looks like we will see temperatures dipping into the teens or low twenties. Where does that leave us?

Many trees have budded out. All of the Silver Maple and many Red Maples that are out in the open have full buds. The Sugar Maples did not budded and this is why we prize and select for this species of Maple. Let me say this going forward. If you are a commercial producer who has not tapped the potential to make significant amount of syrup is gone. The next warm spell will likely end the season for everyone. If you are a hobby producer who has not tapped, it is too late, forget about it. If you are hobby producer who has tapped and your taps are not running, do not re-tap, I repeat do not re-tap. You will most likely not make any useable syrup and you will not be doing your trees any favors.

Now let’s address the producers that have been making syrup and have the potential to make more syrup. If you have Red Maples make sure you look at them very carefully or just pull the taps, especially road side trees. Several producers with large populations of Reds have called it quits altogether due to budding. For those with Sugar Maples the potential is there to make more syrup. You do not want to spoil that sap by collecting sap from a Red Maple that has budded.

At this point your biggest enemy is bacteria. Everything needs to be cleaned out and drained. You could see high levels of bacteria building in the lines and tanks over the previous week of warm weather. Many producers just kept the vacuum pumps running during that period and hoped for the best. Many collected a fair amount of sap due to weather fronts that pushed through. I am sure it paid to operate the pumps regardless of the temperatures and it kept their lines clear. If you shut of the vacuum because the trees just quit running I hope you were using check valves because this gave you some degree of protection from bacteria at the tap hole.

Now that the cold weather has returned what kind of syrup will we make? The answer will come once your fire up the evaporator. If it is buddy you will know it. Most likely you will be producing a darker grade of syrup. That is not bad because most producers produced a good volume of Golden Delicate early on. If the producer chooses the two could be blended but taste will determine that. You can blend for color but you cannot blend for taste. If you syrup has a slight off flavor from sour sap or budding it will show up in the blended grade. There is virtually no way to mask an off flavor in syrup once it is there and no reason to ruin what you have previously made. That is why some producers chose to call it quits rather than trying to sell and off flavored syrup to their customers. Keep the syrup separate and find a market for it. If the flavor is not pronounced there is a market for this syrup but be beware the bulk price may be below the cost of production.

Producers that tapped in early January have had a normal season. The biggest question is, after last year and this year, have we established a new normal for Ohio Maple Syrup Production or maybe the two distinct zones of production in Ohio are consolidating. I say this because if you produce syrup near the Ohio River you would normally tap in January. If you live in NE Ohio you would normally tap in mid-February. Maybe we are now seeing a climate shift that will establish a universal tapping date for the entire state. For sure, after this year producers must realize you can no longer tap by the calendar. If you produce maple syrup in Ohio you need to be ready to go by New Year’s Day. This will require spending time over the holidays getting the sugarbush ready to tap. If the season does not start until February so be it, but at least if we have established a new normal you will be ready. Climate change is just that, change and the only certainty in life is change. We change our systems, we change out tapping technology, we adapt. This is the only way you will survive in this business or any business.

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Will the Maple Syrup Season Continue?

Les Ober OSU Extension

There have multiple posts on the Ohio Maple Blog Facebook page concerning the weather and how it will affect the maple syrup season in Ohio. Let me say this at the onset, no one is able to predict the weather long range with a great degree of accuracy more than a few days out and this year has proven that. What I do know is that we are faced with up to 6 days of temperatures above 50 degrees. If that does happen it will be the first time in 80 years for the last week in February. It will also push our trees closer to bud break. Right now we have accumulated 20 growing degree days. A Red Maple could experience bud break at 44 growing degree days (Gdd). That means we have to accumulate 24 more days in Burton Ohio to break the buds on a Red Maple. It is possible that we will accumulate almost one third of those this upcoming week. That being said this will change as we move further south in the state.  There are areas right now in the southern part of the state that may very well see first bud break on Red Maples and Silver Maples by the end of next week.

 

Buds coming out this time of year is very early even for southern Ohio. There are many factors that lead to what I will call premature budding of maple trees. Day time temperatures have the biggest influence on budding. Anything above 50 degrees is counted as a Gdd. However, the temperatures in a woodlot tend to be lower than  at the street level. The trees on the street will bud faster than those in the woods. How much snow do you have? Right now we have 4 to 5 inches on the ground and that will keep the woods colder during the first part of the upcoming weekend due to convective cooling, especially at night. The bigger question is how much snow will show up in March? Snow is good not only to cool the trees but slow release moisture for sap flow. How much cloud cover do you have? Cloud cover keeps the warming sun rays away from the tree branches. It is those bright sunny days that move a tree closer to bud break.  Northern Ohio has more cloud cover than southern Ohio especially close to Lake Erie.

 

What will tell the story is the forecast going into the first week of March? Right now it is calling for cold weather. I think the weather pattern that sets up after March first will determine the length of our season this year just as it did last year. Area north of Columbus will survive this warm spell but south of Columbus is questionable. The long range NOAA Weather forecast for Columbus north shows that we will trend below normal up until St. Patrick’s Day after that it will trend slightly above normal. In the Cincinnati area the trend will be to go above normal and will osculate close to the freezing during the night. Northeast Ohio once again appears to have the best chance of making syrup through the end of March due to fact that our average daily lows are in the high twenties throughout the month. If it freezes at night we will be ok.

 

The good news is that the early tappers have reached the halfway mark of a normal season. The run this weekend will be big one. If you have not tapped you had better get in the woods and get the job done and catch this run. Take what is given to you in the days ahead and be thankful for what you have produced so far. We are definitely in era of change in how and when we produce maple syrup. If this trend continues for one will plan on having everything ready to tap on New Years Days. If it sits for a month so be it but if the weather patterns are right the trees will get tapped. “Fool me once shame on you fool me twice shame on me”.

 

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Filed under Hobby Maple Syrup Production, Maple Production, Maple Syrup in Ohio

Should I Tap?

Les Ober OSU Extension

I got up this morning and it was 60 degrees. All I could think of was that a lot of my friends who make maple syrup got up, saw the same thing I did and headed straight to the sugarhouse to find their drills. To say the least this is unusually warm for this time of year and it has everyone scratching their head. I also looked at the internet and questions were coming into the OMB about whether it is time to tap. This is topic that will be address in depth at the Ohio Maple Days but due to the early warmup I will give you my take on the subject.

First a little science! To quote New York Maple Specialist Steve Childs we need to know “How Does Sap Happen”. Sap flow is the result of sap rising and falling in the tree through the vascular system of a maple tree known as sapwood. The sap flows to provide nutrients to all of the vegetative growth above ground. Sap flow from the roots to very tips of the branches nourishing the buds that will develop into leaves. This process is on a phonological clock that limits the amount of time that we have to intercept a very small portion of that sap and make it into maple syrup. Once the buds emerge the sap is no longer useable for syrup production. Sap rises because of a variation in spring temperatures that we call the freeze thaw cycle. The tree freezes, this creates a suction that draws nutrients from the roots along with ground water. Once the temperature rises above 32 degrees F, gases begin to form inside the tree. This pushes the sap up the sapwood the tree up into the very tops of the branches. Considerable pressure is produced in the process. In fact that pressure can reach 40 psi. When you drill a hole in the tree sap leaks out into a bucket and continues until the tree quits pushing sap or it freezes again. We can increase that flow by applying vacuum to the tap with a vacuum pump and tubing. If the temperatures stay warm sap flow will gradually decline. Sap can flow up to 72 hours without the repeat of the freeze thaw cycle. Without freezing the sap level in the tree drop below the taphole and the flow will stop. Once the temperatures drop below freezing the whole cycle starts again. This is a very simple explanation of a very complex process.

What else can cause sap to stop flowing from a taphole? Once a taphole is drilled into a tree the maple season clock starts to run. With buckets and open tap holes that window of opportunity is around 4 weeks before the taphole starts to heal up and the sap flow stops. This healing is the result of the taphole being exposed to air and from the growth of bacteria in and around the hole. Air dries out he taphole and supplies oxygen to bacteria that coat the hole with slime that eventually seals off the exposed sap wood. Similar to what happens when you get a cut. Blood flows for a while but eventually it coagulates and the bleeding stops. A vacuum tubing system is different in that the taphole is not exposed directly to the outside air and sap is kept flowing under vacuum for a longer period of time. If operated correctly the hole will be kept free of bacteria for most of the season. This can be accomplished two ways. First you can keep the vacuum running continuously whenever the air temperature is above freezing. This will keep the sap moving keeping the lines clear and the taphole cool. Producers have found that they will gather enough sap during extended warm periods and make enough syrup to pay for the cost of running the pumps during that period of time. The other method is to us a vacuum system with check valves to prevent bacteria laden sap from the lines being pulled back in the tree. A tree will draw sap from the lines just like a hose will siphon water from a tank when you turn the tap off. This bacteria laden sap will aid in healing and shutting down the taphole for the season. The check valve will close when the vacuum is released and it will seal off the tap. I discussed many of these taphole sanitation techniques along with the use of check valves in an earlier post on this blog. A side note; for those of you using a 3/16 gravity system, research at the Cornell Maple Program, shows that because you are generating a higher level of vacuum a pull back into the tree occurs. Preliminary research shows that using a check valve will increase the yield in a 3/16 tubing gravity system. I intend to discuss 3/16 tubing in an article to be published on the OMB at a later date.

Now to answer the question should I tap or not tap during and early warms spell. My suggestion is to obtain all the information you can about upcoming weather patterns. Then look at your system. If you are a small producer or a backyard producer looking for the ideal 30 day window, January is most likely too early to tap. Your taps may dry out and you may miss some of the really good runs in late February or March. You could re-tap but that is hard on the tree and is never recommended. The best approach is to watch the weather and be ready to get those good runs in February and March. For those of us who have vacuum tubing. We can stretch the season with taphole sanitation techniques. Watch the weather and tap when to opportunity arises. You may get some very good early runs. If you are going to tap now make sure you change out your spouts or use check valves. You have to create a closed system at the tree to prevent taphole healing. If you have enough taps consider tapping the side of the woods that runs early now and the late running sections later on, spread the season. The best you can hope for is two months before your taps start to shut down. I have personally kept my taphole open from the 10th of February to the 10th of April with the use of check valves and continuous vacuum operation. No matter what you decide to do it is a gamble, here’s hoping your decisions pays off.  Here is a little additional information that may help to make you decide. NOAA Weather has now released their 3 month forecast for January, February and March. It is now calling for above normal temperatures during the period for Ohio into New England. I will hedge a little but my taps will be in by February 1st.

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Filed under Maple Education, Maple Production, Maple Syrup in Ohio, Taphole Sanitation, Tubing & Vacuum Systems

Record Crop of Maple Syrup Produced in the United States and Canada

The word came back to Ohio; from producers attending the annual maple manufactures open houses that it was going to be a big year in New England for maple syrup production. Many of the big northern Vermont and New Hampshire producers were not present, they were boiling syrup. When the steam cleared and the last syrup was drawn off, Vermont produced a record 1.9 million gallons of syrup in one season. Let that sink in, it was only 10 years ago that we struggled to produce 2 million gallons in all of the United States and in 2016 the State of Vermont alone produced almost 2 million gallons beating their 2013 record crop of 1.48 million gallons. The United States produced 4.2 million gallons the amount of maple syrup recorded since the early 1900’s. The top 5 producing states included New York with 707,000 gallons, Maine 675,000 gallons, Wisconsin 235,000 gallons and New Hampshire with 169,000 gallons of pure maple syrup.

With all of that syrup produced in the United States   you can only imagine what they did north of the boarder. Yes it was big, it was really big. The Canadian crop is projected at 13.5 million gallons. This would set a new record for Canadian maple syrup produced and because most of that syrup is produced in the Province of Quebec; they set a record as well.  This is a monster crop and no one knows what affect it will have on the price of maple syrup especially the bulk price. You can rest assured that there will not be any shortage of pure maple syrup in the world for some time. What about Ohio, unfortunately we are not sharing in the record crop celebration.

Ohio Maple Producers knew it was going to be a disappointing year for maple syrup production and the USDA NASS report verified their worst fears. 2016 was a real bummer across the entire state. The total production for the state dropped from 115,000 gallons in 2015 to 70,000 gallons in 2016. The Yield per tap is general ly a good production indicator. Over the previous two seasons (2014 & 2015) the average amount of syrup produced per tap was 0.275 of a gallon of syrup produced per tap. In 2016 the production dropped to 0.189 of a gallon per tap. Normally Ohio will exceed most states in production per tap but this year’s production was on the verge of disaster.  The sugar content of the sap (often near  or below 1%) certainly did not help the overall per tap production of syrup.

Another statistic that was very puzzling was the total number of taps recorded for 2016. This year the number of taps put out in Ohio dropped from 450,000 to 370,000 taps.  In the last 10 years the number of taps in Vermont and New York almost doubled Vermont is just shy of 5 million taps and NY is right at 2.5 million. What is going on in Ohio? Why are we in a statistical state of decline? A better question would be is there really a decline? Working with extension and the Ohio maple industry for the last 18 years I have witnessed an overall expansion of the industry. It has not been unusual to see the number of operations with over 3000 taps increasing every year. I know of several that are over 10,000 taps. We will never be in the same category as New York or Vermont but our maple industry is growing.  However, when you look at the statistics we are not a growth industry we are an agricultural industry in decline.

The reality is that a large portion of the actual production of maple syrup in Ohio is not getting reported. There is an old saying that “if it is worth doing, it is worth doing well”.  I believe that Ohio maple producers are doing a good job of producing syrup but for some reason they are reluctant to let the world know how good a job they are doing.  Why is it important to report your crop?  The world rewards those that achieve excellence. In the case of maple syrup production that reward comes in the form of consumer demand for your product and increased retail sales.

Les Ober Geauga Co. OSU Extension

 

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2016 Geauga County Maple Festival Maple Contest Winners Awarded

SaturdaCurtis cooky April 16,2016

It is not very often that a sample of syrup entered in to a maple syrup contest scores 100%. The syrup enter by  Curtis Cook of Bainbridge, Ohio did just that. His sample had perfect scores across the all of the scoring criteria. What makes this even more remarkable it came in a year when  many producers struggled to make any syrup at all. Congratulations to Curtis and his family for a job well done.

This years contest used a new format for judging the in County entries. For the first time awards were given for 3 grades of maple syrup. In the Golden grade Curtis Cook was the winner. In the Amber grade Charlie Soltis took home the honors and in the Dark Grade Robert Freeman was the first place winner.

Awards are also given in two other categories for best out of county entry and best Hobby producer entry. The Goodell Family Farm of Mantua Township in Portage County won the to[p honors in the Out of County Division. In the Hobby Division Skip Lazancich won the top honors.

The Maple Candy Contest has always been a favorite at the festival. For many of the producers this has become a culinary art that is pasted down through the generations. Because of this transition the festival gives award in three categories in a junior division. Out of these winners they come up with a Grand Champion Junior Candy Maker Award. This year champion junior candy maker was Ethan Bartlett from New bury Township. In the Adult Candy Contest 6 categories are judged. Points from each category are totaled and an overall winner is awarded.This year the Grand Champion Adult Candy Maker went to Ellen Gingerich of Middlefield Township.

Tinner John induction

Jim Patterson presents the Hall of Fame award to Tinner John H Millers Son John Miller

 

The highlight of the Award ceremony is the annual induction into the Geauga County Maple Syrup Hall of Fame of a producer a person who has supported the Geauga County maple industry over the year. The 2016 award goes to the late, “Tinner” John H. Miller of Middlefield, Ohio. The award was accepted by his family at this years Hall of Fame Brunch. Tinner John as was best known as the one person maple producers could not live without. You see John was tin smith and he repaired the majority  of the evaporator pans that without notice suddenly developed a leak. As all maple producer know you cannot operate an evaporator with  a leaking pan for very long. Because of this invaluable service and his support of the local maple syrup industry John was inducted into the hall of fame.  Normally a portrait of the honoree is placed in the hall of fame but in the case of Amish inductees a wood carving of his tin shop will be placed in his honor.

While you are at the 2016 Maple Festival enjoying your maple stir take the time to visit the producers display where all of this years entries will be displayed. More results are posted on the Maple Festival Page in this blog.

Photos courtesy  of the Karlovec Media Group and Geauga County Maple Festival
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Geauga County Maple Festival Maple Syrup Contest Winner Announced.

The Geauga County winner of the Top Producer Award Soubousta Farm; Sugarmakers Robert Butler and Kevin Vouk Presented by Jim Patterson

The Geauga County winner of the Top Producer Award Soubousta Farm; Sugarmakers Robert Butler and Kevin Vouk
Presented by Jim Patterson


In the 2015 Geauga County Maple syrup Festival Maple Products Contest, there were 74 maple syrup entries representing 45,209 taps. The contest is divided into 3 divisions; Geauga County Producer, Out of County, and the Hobby Divisions. Maple Confections are also judged. The winners of this year’s contest were as follows: Geauga County Producer; Soubousta Farm, Robert Butler and Kevin Voulk operators, Out of County Division; Goodell Farm Mantua, Ohio, Nathan Goodell and Family operators, and Skip Lazanich winner of the Hobby Division. In the Confections Division the overall winner was Paul Janoske Jr. from Chardon and in the Junior Division was won by David Gingerich from Parkman Township. This year’s inductee into the Geauga County Maple Hall of Fame was the Moseley Family from Thompson Township. The Moseley Family just celebrated the 200th anniversary of their farm in 2014. The farm has been involved in maple production for the better part of two centuries. They are truly one of the pioneer families of Geauga County and have played a major role in the county’s maple heritage.

The Moseley Family; 2015 Geauga County Maple Hall of Fame Inductees

The Moseley Family; 2015 Geauga County Maple Hall of Fame Inductees

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The Geauga County Maple Festival Starts today and Runs through Sunday April 26th.

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It’s Official, March is Maple Month in Ohio.

The Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate passed legislation making March Maple Month. Governor Kasick then signed the bill making it law. The reason for this important designation is that in March Ohio produces thousands of gallons of maple syrup. People spread out across the state looking for a sugarhouse to visit and see how maple syrup is made. This increases tourism and pumps dollars into the economy.

In his statement introducing House Bill 418 in the Ohio House of Representatives, Representative John Patterson, 99th House District, Ashtabula, stated, “The maple syrup industry is booming in Ohio. It is my hope that by designating March as Maple Syrup Month, we can bring more awareness to the industry, and, in turn, sweeten Ohio’s economy with increased maple tourism.”

House Bill 418 also recognizes and supports the Ohio maple industry as it continues to provide benefits to all of Ohio. Each year Ohio ranks somewhere from third to fifth in maple syrup production in the 13 maple producing states.

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Filed under Maple Education, Maple Syrup in Ohio