/COVID-19 can't stop maple syrup production 
Wendy Wood checks the maple syrup lines on her 25-acre property in Minden Hills.

COVID-19 can't stop maple syrup production 

COVID-19 can’t stop maple syrup production 


By Darren Lum

takes 40 litres of sap to make one litre of syrup and the ideal
conditions for high yields is cold nights and warm days. Haliburton
County has seen its fair share of such weather and area producers have
been the beneficiaries of strong sap flow.
Seeing the snow on their
property is a good sign for producers. Once it melts the season is
pretty much finished, as trees begin to show buds.
In Minden, Neil Campbell of Sapsucker Ridge described maple syrup production as being “like playing the lottery.”
close to two decades, he is finishing his last year of maple syrup
production, using the old school method of collecting with 196 buckets.
was expecting to finish with 221 litres of syrup or a little more than a
litre per bucket and considered this the third consecutive “pretty good
year” for his pre-sold Brown Dog Pure Maple Syrup.
“Getting that
much syrup from 196 taps is more a matter of good luck than good
management. This would give me the third good year in a row after some
struggles during the 18 years I have been making syrup. … this will be
the last year for Brown Dog; it’ll be good to leave on a sweet note if
it turns out that way,” he wrote in a message to his customers.
reason Campbell is hanging up his spigot is he’ll be turning 77 this
April and said he decided two years ago he couldn’t cut wood for his
rustic home in the woods and for his evaporator anymore. He’s thankful
for the help from Randy Beacler, who helped with the boiling of sap.
on Highway 35, retired couple Rick and Wendy Wood were expecting a good
year after experiencing a “big run” of 3,000 litres of sap collected in
the first few weeks at their Colour of Wood property.
This year they
were seeing greater efficiency harvesting syrup by employing a reverse
osmosis system, which draws water from the sap they collect from their
705 taps via lines. Taking water out from the sap means less boiling so
less wood is needed. The only downside, Rick said, is the four-hour
cleanup of the system after each use.
At their hilly property, the two tanks of sap outside the sugar shack have a definitive difference.
The tank collecting the south-facing trees usually contains double the volume as the north.
said this is owed to the greater sun exposure, which brings more warmth
and helps the sap flow from the trees and through the lines. He’s
hopeful this year’s yield will be 800 litres of syrup, which is a little
more than a litre per tap.
Over in West Guilford, Wayne Krangle said
he is seeing a 15 per cent increase from his average yield of the past
10 years. Krangle has 260 trees tapped and produces his Syrup for
Soldiers to benefit the Wounded Warriors fund, which supports Canadian
soldiers and their families and emergency personnel dealing with mental
health issues such as PTSD.
At Cossette’s Maple Syrup in Haliburton, a new family is taking the reins for the first time this year.
and operated by the young farming family of Garrett and Maggie James,
both 27-years-old, son Tupper, 5, and daughter Ana, 3.
This is their
second year of operation, but their first on their own after completing
the transition phase with former owners Rene and Carole Cossette, who
started the operation in 1987.
“This is just another avenue to be
self-sustaining and make a little more money. We like it. We like
anything outdoors,” Maggie said.
Her husband, she said, started making syrup as a kid in the Lindsay area, where they both grew up.
for liquid gold is a sweet passion, as everyone in the family loves to
eat maple syrup, even if the couple can’t agree on amber versus dark.
helped Rene for the past several years before completing the transition
this year. Rene is originally from Quebec, where they produce the most
maple syrup in the world.
The family is living on the lower floor of
the home on the property, but will be completing their full move from
their Loon Lake farm to live and operate a farm on the Hilltop Road
property later this year.
Garrett said he expects an above average yield this season from their 1,800 taps.
the couple has filtered more sand than other years, they don’t mind
because they use it to feed their pigs, who love the sweet sediment.
(All of those interviewed for this story noticed a much greater volume
of sand or nutrients that needed to be filtered from the sap. Some up to
50 per cent more. No one had a theory as to why.)
There is already a
plan to continue to expand slowly towards maximizing the maple syrup
potential for upwards of 5,000 taps for the 101-acre property. The
couple is open to keeping the business going for a long time and have a
willing helper in their son, who has demonstrated an aptitude for the
work and is well-versed in production practices.
In Wilberforce,
Esson Creek Maple’s Josh Bramham said “it’s been a good year” for the
mainly amber coloured syrup he and his family work to produce. He
expects this season to be their best of the past four years of
operation, which can be in part credited to adding more taps – from
1,730 to 1,984 this year – as well as the ideal weather conditions.
Bramhams’ first tap was on Feb. 6, which was part of a plan to be
prepared for their first run of sap. Their first boil was on March 10.
His hope is to continue until the end of April at the Essonville Line
Although the standard of producing one litre of syrup per
tree applied to farms without a vacuum system, he said to truly maximize
the return at Esson Creek Maple is to reach 1.5 litres of syrup per
tree. This year, they are averaging 1.8 litres per tree. If weather
conditions continue for this week, he expects to match what they’ve
averaged so far.
COVID-19 is not affecting their production, but may hurt sales in the coming year.
said he’s concerned about the 15 per cent of sales that won’t be made
through tours and visits at their shack if they must be closed to the
public. Summer sales at farmers’ markets could be hampered if social
gathering restrictions continue this summer. Commercial sales are an
option they’ve considered, but if other producers do the same there may
be more supply than demand and will lower the market price.
Over on
Drag Lake, Bill Beatty keeps doing what he has done for 40 years and
cannot understand why anybody could be bored while self-isolating.
don’t know why anybody gets bored with being isolated because all you
got to do is go out and gather the sap and bring it in and boil it. Then
you get to it, bottle it and label it. So how can you get bored?” he
Late last week he was little more than halfway through his
season of collection of sap from his 229 taps at Beatty’s Sugar Bush,
starting his first tap the second week of March.
“As far as we’re concerned it’s coming along great,” he said.
Other producers he knows have expressed the same optimism for a strong year.
hasn’t been a large run of sap yet at his property and he didn’t have a
prediction for the rest of the season, citing the unusual winter
weather and Mother Nature. The litre of syrup per tree standard is
beyond what he has ever collected. His yield is closer to three-quarters
of a litre per tap.
Beatty, who had his daughter help with bottling this year, doesn’t have any plans to quit despite slowing down in the bush.
keep saying I’m going to quit when I’m 90, but then when I’m 90 I may
take a look at it and say, ‘let’s do it another year,’” he said.