FREDONIA - The process of making maple syrup is a long one, and some producers say, "It's in the blood."
To recognize and promote this intricate undertaking, maple producers and government officials gathered for the annual Chautauqua County Maple Promotion Day on Friday.
Don and Joanne Mansfield of Weatherhill Farms in Fredonia hosted the eighth annual event sponsored by the Maple Producers Association of the Chautauqua Region and the Chautauqua County Farm Bureau in conjunction with the Cornell University Cooperative Extension.
From left, Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Chautauqua County, County Executive Greg Edwards and Donald Mansfield of Weatherhill Farm perform the ceremonial tree tapping to kickoff Maple Production Day.
Photo by Samantha McDonnell
"One of the main focuses of this event is just maple production in general," David Munsee, vice president of MPACR, said.
Maple syrup is only made in the northeast of North American, in parts of the United States and Canada. Most places outside of these areas are not accustomed to maple products. Munsee, who also runs Big Tree Maple in Lakewood with his father, Lloyd, said he attended a lobby day with the farm bureau in Albany last week. He said many legislators and representatives knew little to nothing about maple syrup.
"It was just surprising to me the number of representatives, legislators and their staff that came by and had no clue about maple or maple cream," he said.
Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Chautauqua County, was also in Albany and was surprised how many stopped by to sample an "amazing" product.
"It's amazing the number of people who went by and tasted maple syrup, the candy or the butter. It's just an amazing product," Goodell said.
Both Mansfield and Goodell said on trips abroad, maple syrup is a big hit. Goodell sent maple syrup to a host family on behalf of his step-son in Europe. He said the family had never tasted maple syrup prior. Mansfield and his wife traveled to Italy recently to a restaurant. The chef was not sure what to cook with the syrup and never saw the product before.
There are several ways to collect sap from the trees. Weatherhill Farm uses a traditional system for collecting sap. Mansfield uses a bucket to collect sap and uses wood burning to boil out the water. This season the farm has about 320 taps. Mansfield remembered his father making syrup from when he was a young child.
"When I was a little kid as far back as I can remember, my father made maple syrup," he said. "It gets in your blood."
While Weatherhill Farm uses a traditional way to collect sap, Fairbanks Maple in Forestville, owned and operated by Linda Fairbanks, uses a more modern approach. The 4,400 tap farm, which has been in operation for about 50 years, uses vacuums and tubing to collect sap and transfer it into a tank.
"There is such a range of producers ... from the very early, basic traditional method to the very sophisticated to the jumping in with two feet. ... It is really encouraging for Chautauqua County," Joanne Mansfield said.
Also attending the event was County Executive Greg Edwards and representatives from Congressman Tom Reed's office.
"I encourage all of us to not be bashful talking about (maple syrup)," said Edwards. "You just need to be exposed to it. There's something unique about maple production that encourages you to get into it deeper and locate places where you can have an experience. Every place is different."
Jacqueline Chiarot, a representative from Reed's office, spoke on behalf of the Congressman who was unable to attend. She spoke of how neat it is to hear the history involved.
"We travel quite a bit and I've been able to see different facets of agriculture. ... Then you come and see the maple producers, it is so neat to hear (producers) talk about their grandfathers doing it and their fathers doing it. That's part of the beautiful side of agriculture - you hear about the families, the history," she said. "It's a pretty neat industry and we really appreciate all the work that you do."
Maple Production Day is a kickoff to the annual Maple Weekend. This year the 18th annual New York Maple Weekend will be held on the weekends of March 16-17 and 23-24. For more information on Maple Weekend and a list of participating producers, visit www.mapleweekend.com. For more information on MPACR, contact Fairbanks at 965-4208.