Category Archives: Maple Syrup Information

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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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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Using the New Maple Syrup Grading System as a Marketing Tool

Les Ober

Geauga County OSU Extension

 

Two years ago this Fall the maple syrup industry completed the adoption of a new system for grading syrup. It took a long time to get everyone on the same page to complete the process that was officially started in 2011. The International Maple Syrup Institute took the old USDA Standard grades that included USDA Grade A Light, Medium and Dark and Grade B and transformed them into four Grade A categories that would include all saleable syrup. Two important additions were the flavor descriptors and the Tc (light transparency) range. This allows consumers to compare grades on flavor and it also opened the door for the use of instruments in the grading process for color determination.

The four Grade A categories are Golden Delicate, Amber Rich, Dark Robust and Very Dark Strong. You will find that Golden Delicate parallels the old Light Amber Category. Amber Rich includes all of the old medium and the very top of the Grade A Dark Category. Dark Robust includes the rest of the of the Grade A Dark category and the very Top of the old Grade B Category. The Very Dark Strong Category includes the rest of the syrup that was formally classified as cooking syrup. Most very dark syrup that is produced and does not have an off flavor or a density problem will fall in this category. If syrup has an off flavor or does not meet the above minimum of 66 brix, or the below maximum 68.9 brix density standard it will be sold as commercial syrup and priced accordingly. It should be pointed out that the retail price in most markets does not change for any of the top 3 grades and many producers sell their very dark syrup for the same price.

The new grading system allows us to not only sell syrup on color but also on flavor and after all, flavor is what sells maple syrup. Flavor is a component of maple syrup judging that is very subjective. Everyone has their own idea of what maple syrup should taste like. It is almost unfair to put maple syrup in a jug that has not been graded. It would be like labeling a cut of meat as beef. You as a consumer would be buying the package of meat and not know if it was a Porterhouse Steak or Stew Meat. That type of marketing went out the window with the anticipation of finding out what the prize was in a box of Cracker Jacks. Today’s consumers are getting smarter about what they buy. Why would you try to sell them syrup that could be Very Dark Strong, Golden Delicate or something in-between? If you are just putting syrup in a jug you are missing out on an important part of marketing, interrupting and understanding what the consumer truly wants. You maybe marketing high grade of Golden Delicate syrup when the consumers is looking for a darker more robust flavor. The comment you often hear about Golden Delicate is that it is very sweet with little or no maple flavor. If this were case, do you think you will have a return customer; even though you put what you believe is your best product in the container?

There is however, one caution about selling graded maple syrup; it had better be graded right. That is where spectrophotometry comes in. Today for 60 to 80 dollars you can buy a Hanna Checker. There is also a more accurate and expensive model available for commercial packers, contest and grading fanatics. It is all based on the transmission of a beam of light through the sample. As the product darkens the percent light transmission drops. Once you have a reading you match the %Tc light transmission reading on the device to the %Tc range of one of the new grades. Each grade has a % Tc range. The end results are similar but a lot more reliable than a temporary grading kit. Over the last two months putting, together my maple syrup evaluation programs, I have had a chance to look at dozens of samples of maple syrup, some graded and some not. Many times these samples were so close it would be impossible to grade accurately on a hand held temporary grading kit. This new instrumentation makes it easy to grade syrup. This proves once again that maple syrup production is pure science from start to finish.

Generally overall the new grading system has been well received at various locations where we introduced it to the public. At many fairs and shows we have been able to stimulate conversation about the characteristics of each individual grade. Using sample tasting is a great way to interact with your customers. Generally overall potential consumers liked Amber Rich but more and more are trying and enjoying Dark Robust. This has been a learning experience for both the producer and the consumers alike. Ultimately I think many of the producers end up learning a little more about consumer preferences and the product they are selling. Grading in many states is not mandatory and Ohio is one of them. The other factor here is that consumers are really not familiar with how maple syrup is graded. The only thing they can compare it to is your average table syrup which has no identity. This is where maple producers can take a lesson from the wine and craft beer industry. They have built a whole marketing program around identifying the various characteristics of their product. Is it out of the realm of reality that we might someday include a tasting room in our sugarhouses where potential customers could sample the various grades of syrup and other value added products? Think about it, this could add a whole new dimension to the way we market maple syrup.

If you want to learn more about how you can use the new grading system to improve your marketing and your production practices I will be teaching a 4 hour workshop at the Lake Erie Maple Expo on Friday November 11th in Albion Pa. For more information on the workshop  contact  www.pamaple.org

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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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Save the Date for the 2015 LEME

Planning has already begun for this year edition of the Lake Erie Maple Expo. Daryl Sheets planning committee chairman says that the intention of the Committee is to raise the bar even higher than last year. One of the things that make the LEME unique is the ability to hold workshops on Friday in specific areas of maple production. Preliminary plans are to expand the Friday workshop program schedule. Over the last several years workshops have been held on maple tubing installation, managing a vacuum tubing system, making value added maple products and a beginner workshop. These topic areas will all return along with the expansion of the hobby maple production area, a Boiling 101 Workshop, and a grading session. All of this is in the preliminary stages of planning and subject to change and the instructors are to be announced. Based on past accomplishments this has to be one of the most ambitious maple educational programs being put on in North America. Couple this with a full complement of speakers on Saturday that will include Dr. Tim Perkins, Steve Childs, and Glen Goodrich along with other maple researchers and Industry leaders. Do not forget the trade show that will feature every major maple equipment manufacturer from across the USA and Canada. I have even heard rumors of the possibility of a live boiling demonstration some time during the program. All of this, in place, at one time, at a great time of year, in one very central location, in Albion Pennsylvania. You do not want to miss this one, so mark your 2015 calendars for November 6th and 7th and join the fun at this year’s LEME.

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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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