It’s a brand new year and a new maple season is just around the corner. It is time to fire up the Ohio Maple Blog and get out some information to our producers. Exciting things are happening in the month of January. This upcoming weekend will be the New York State maple Conference in Verona NY. If you want more information go on line to the Cornell Maple Program. On the 13 and 14th Of January from 9am to 5pm Al Baxter announced Stumpwater Farm will be holding and open house. The Baxter Family are Dominion and Grimm, Smokey Lake and Memprotec Dealers located on 29499 Clark Rd. in Sullivan, Ohio. SW of Cleveland. On January 19 to the 21st will be Ohio Maple Days. You can read all about he agenda and how to register in the previous post. Reminder you have until the 12th of January to pre-register without an increase in registration fees.
On Saturday January 28 The Geauga County OSU Extension is inviting local maple producers to attend a three hour workshop entitled:
Using the New IMSI Grading System to improve Maple Syrup Quality
The new IMSI International Grading System is not only a marketing tool it is a guide to producing a better product. On January 28th you will have an opportunity to attend a program on using the new Grading system to improve the quality of the maple syrup you produce.
Les Ober OSU Maple Syrup Program Coordinator for NE Ohio and James Miller Local producer and maple products contest judge will show you how to improve the way you test for density, color, clarity and flavor. You will learn how to recognize the signature flavor that defines each grade and how off flavors can have a negative effect on your syrup quality. You will also learn about processing and sanitation errors that can also impact the quality of the syrup you produce.
The program will be held at the Patterson Center in Burton Ohio from at 9:00 to 12:00 Am on January 28th 2017. The program is free but we are asking that you preregister by January 25th.
Very Soon you will have an opportunity to meet the Maple Producers of Northeast Ohio, a new producer organization that will be helping to promote maple syrup production and marketing in the NE corner of the state. Their goal is to work with the Ohio Maple Producers Association to promote activities like the Maple Madness Tour in NE Ohio. Look for one of their representatives at the local winter meetings and ask them about this exciting new organization.
Backyard producers I am looking for pictures and ideas that we can post on the Ohio Maple Blog Backyard Mapler. We need your ideas on collection, storage, boiling and canning to share in the blog. Hobby maple producers are some of the most resourceful and inventive producers in the industry and we want to hear how you make maple syrup. Send your ideas and pictures to Les Ober at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally I can say now you can say follow us on Facebook. The Ohio Maple Blog now has a Facebook Page which will complement and enhance our Blog. Right now we are promoting all of the maple activities that taking place around the state. This is a great way to find out what we are highlighting and then go to the Ohio Maple Blog for more information.
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
Saturday 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.
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
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.
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 Geauga County Maple Festival Starts today and Runs through Sunday April 26th.