By Emily Stonehouse
The County of Haliburton shared that they are diving head first into the world of maple.
To no one’s surprise, the summer and winter seasons are taking a hit. Between unpredictable weather patterns, spiking gas prices, and an ongoing accommodation shortage, the previously peak tourism times are on the decline.
This isn’t news. This has been a long time coming, despite climate change activists yelling from the rooftops about the inevitability of a major shift. Now, it’s here.
With this change in mind, the Haliburton County tourism department needed to think outside the box. With tourism on the forefront of the region’s economic prosperity, something had to be done with the shoulder seasons.
Enter: maple syrup.
The sweet and sticky resource has been recognized as a Canadian treasure for decades. Everyone in this community knows someone who boils down watery sap from leaking trees; a labour of love truly unbeknownst to many around the world.
There is something cathartic about the act of making maple syrup. Maybe it’s the creation of something out of seemingly nothing. Maybe it’s the fresh air that fills winter-stagnant lungs. Maybe it’s the relationship with the past; the tapping of the trees and the knowledge that others have been thinking the same thoughts that fill our maple-laden minds.
The art and science of maple syrup has been dabbled with for centuries, with records of Indigenous tribes sharing their knowledge of the practice with colonizers as early as 1606.
Since then, the popularity has steadily climbed, with research pouring out about the health benefits, producers making a livelihood out of it, and tourism providers capitalizing on the aura of adventures that surrounds the practice.
It really is the most “Canadian” experience out there.
I had the opportunity to visit a sugar shack this past weekend. As I watched my kids take sips of sap, fresh from the dripping bark; their sticky chins beaming back at me through towering trees while the steady “ping” of drops hitting buckets echoed through the forest, I realized how lucky we are.
Lucky to have this resource in our backyards. Lucky to have access to this experience. Lucky to carry the knowledge of maple; the wisdom that was passed down year after year to eager ears.
It makes sense that the tourism department wants to hop on the buttermilk bandwagon and take off into the mirage of maple.
But that being said, I hope it is done with caution. I hope the touristic approach to capitalizing on this age-old resource is sustainable, respectable, and inclusive. While maple syrup is an agricultural asset, it is also deeply rooted in historical knowledge, personal stories, and the natural world.
As human beings (specifically colonizers), we don’t exactly have a great track record of treating our resources with care. Generally, once we find something we like, it’s been our prerogative to deplete, drain, and dump. Forests have been burned, animals have been hunted, air has been smoked, oceans have been polluted.
Maple syrup carries the magic to connect people together. Whether that be around a roaring campfire on a drizzly March day, or to the generations that tapped trees over the decades before us; it is woven into the fabric of each and every Canadian, and it is our responsibility to keep that magic alive.