Those accustomed to driving the winding back roads of Chautauqua County have likely already seen a handful of maple trees tapped for sap. However, compared to the amount of maples which are available for tap, the county can hardly be considered an efficient maple syrup producer.
According to data collected by Michael Farrell, Ph.D., member of the Cornell University Department of Natural Resources, only .8 percent of all maple trees in Chautauqua County are being utilized for syrup production. Although Farrell stipulated that this percentage should only be considered an approximation, most people will still find this number very small, given the vast wildernesses that are located in the county.
"(This is) data on the tapping potential for Western New York from some research I did a few years ago," said Farrell. "It should be noted, though, that the industry has been growing steadily, and the number of reported taps is less than it should be, as not all producers report their activities to the government. However, you can see there is tremendous potential (for growth)."
Pictured, from left, Lewis Rice of Brookside Maple Grove boils down sap into syrup; Doug Rice of Brookside Maple Grove drills a tree for sap; Brian Haskins of Brookside Maple Grove in Kennedy fills a jug of maple syrup.
Out of its neighboring counties, Chautauqua sits in second to last place in potential maple utilization, ranking behind Allegany (.9 percent), Erie (1.8 percent), and Wyoming (10 percent). Only Cattaraugus County placed behind Chautauqua with a .4 percent utilization rate.
What is more interesting about these numbers is that the county with the highest utilization rate, Wyoming, is also the county with the fewest tappable trees, with roughly 1,444,000 in the county and 144,000 being tapped.
"Interestingly, Wyoming County has the fewest number of tappable maple trees of any of the western counties, yet it has the greatest number of taps," said Farrell. "Therefore it is the only county with a high utilization rate."
To give comparison, the other counties mentioned have the following numbers:
Erie: 2,484,073 potential taps, 44,739 actual taps;
Allegany: 5,083,078 potential taps, 45,773 actual taps;
Chautauqua: 5,894,315 potential taps, 47,885 actual taps;
Cattaraugus: 13,372,187 potential taps, 51,429 actual taps.
All numbers are approximate and could vary slightly.
TAPPING INTO CHAUTAUQUA
While some property owners simply don't realize they have an abundance of maple trees on their land, others intentionally choose to not utilize them. Many people do not realize that they can lease their trees to maple producers, and in return receive payment.
"There are so many reason to lease out unutilized trees to syrup producers," said Farrell. "The biggest is that maple owners can get syrup and income out of their land without really putting forward any work. Syrup producers who lease tree sometimes compensate owners with just money or a percentage of the syrup produced, but usually it's a combination of both."
According to Farrell, the amount paid to owners who lease out trees often varies too much to pinpoint. However, he did say that owners are often paid per tree tapped. Additionally, residents who lease out trees can sometimes qualify for state agricultural assessment. More information on ag assessment can be found at www.tax.ny.gov/research/property/assess/valuation/ag-overview.htm.
Owners who are interested in leasing out trees can find interested parties by purchasing a private advertisement. However the most extensive list of maple producers can be found at www.nysmaple.com, according to Farrell. Additionally, information about local producers can be found at www.nysmaple.com/mapleweekend.
Finally, interested persons may contact their local Cornell Cooperative Extension for more information. The Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County can be reached at 664-9502.