It’s been a very busy summer and fall for our local this year. Thanks to a bunch of volunteers we managed to be out at AG and food events almost every second weekend from June right through to October. These events across Eastern Ontario were used to promote local syrup, local producers, and the Ontario maple producers association itself and we are seeing results because of it. New members are joining now, preferring not to wait for the New Year or Maple Info Day. We have seen some small bulk orders being tendered and an increase in interest for value added maple products. Media inquiries are frequent and our business networking has grown into new opportunities and ventures for the coming year. Not bad at all given much of this effort had a learning curve involved and we were starting from scratch with our booth display. Great people, a bit of imagination and creativity, and a bunch of dedication just made it work. Thanks to everyone involved this past year and hopefully we will see a few new folks step up for 2015.
Speaking of 2015 the big news is that the International Plowing Match will be hosting in Finch, Ontario… right here in our own backyard. This is a golden opportunity for the Ontario Maple Producers Association and our regional local to really shine in the face of local consumers and will out do anything we’ve done in the past year. I will be honest and say the maple representation at the IPM has varied a lot over the years. Sometimes we’ve had a good presence but other times not so much. Given our group and our experience I fully expect to knock the socks off attendees next year. I am already involved in planning meetings with the 2015 IPM committee and we are looking at two different tent displays. We will need people to help on this so be prepared for a call as we get going. We want to host a historical display in the history area and a “science of maple” display in the educational tent. Both displays will need at least two people per day which includes admission to the grounds. With an expected 100 000 people attending, 80% or which will be local, this will be a 4 day marketing blitz like nothing else we have access to.
Bulk syrup continues to be a hot topic of discussion for Eastern Ontario producers. While we managed to drum up a little extra sales (pardon the pun) we still do not have access to a big buyer without exorbitant shipping costs involved. Some local dealers are exploring bulk options and I have heard of some manufacturers accepting syrup in exchange for equipment but neither is a real solution for our excess capacity and the overwhelming desire to grow. One option might be to partner with First Nations at Akwesasne to develop a maple export business to be marketed overseas. Our member producers would not need to be federally registered to sell to Akwesasne and First Nations has the marketing branding to be successful worldwide. Just ideas at this point and much would be needed to go from good idea to good business but we are aware of the situation and looking for solutions.
On a final note I want to comment on the disappointing situation taking place in the ByWard Market of Ottawa. This area has been known as a farmers’ market since Colonel By set it up in 1826 yet these days only about 6 vendors are actual real life farmers. Our local recently participated in a marketing event in the ByWard Market only to find out that there was only one real maple producer selling products (OMSPA member Robert Hupe) and everyone else was simply buying bulk and repackaging. Most real producers were driven out by the resellers buying bulk Quebec syrup and then “low-balling” the retail price. One liter of syrup was selling for $15 the day I was there and reportedly has been listed lower. Local farm gate syrup is selling at between $20 and $25 per liter in comparison. $15 in the heart of the Nation’s Capital catering to bus loads of international tourists and we wonder why people buy at Costco or Wal-Mart? There is a true injustice taking place here. A big part of the blame lay with the City of Ottawa bureaucracy but perhaps part lays with our own branding and promotions. The good news is that a new plan is in the works at the provincial level that should help set Ontario producers apart from the Quebec maple factories. No matter what develops in the near future Robert Hupe and other producers like him need support from our organization.