Ray Bonenberg samples golden and very dark syrup at the Ottawa Valley maple syrup beginners course to compare grades and illustrate the difference in taste.
Two geographically separate workshops, focusing on producing high quality maple syrup were carried out in Ontario over the span of 1 week. On Feb 4 in Campbellford ( 2 hours east of Toronto) 80 would be and beginner producers attended the 6th Quality Assurance workshop hosted by the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers’ Association ( OMSPA). This workshop conducted by the OMSPA Quality Assurance chair, Brian Bainborough, covered topics like proper density management, bottling procedures and the proper storage of maple containers.
On Feb 11 in Eganville Ontario, ( 1.5 hours north west of Ottawa) close to 50 beginners attended a hands on workshop that utilized a rotational “station” system. 7 stations were set up around a large hall and participants rotated every 30 minutes from station to station to hear and receive direct knowledge on the respective topics. Stations included density, proper filtering, managing your sap, boiling advice, proper tapping tricks, understanding the new grades and labeling and of course a special station for the 4 supporting maple equipment suppliers.
Participants really appreciate the practical knowledge they received from experienced producers and they were able to handle hydrometers, drill a maple tree and smell bad sap. Feedback has been extremely positive and the after workshop follow up has the e-mails buzzing. OMSPA has been focusing on ensuring high quality production techniques are shared with the increasingly growing number of newly arrived producers. The workshops are designed to put the fun in learning and to have these new producers take home the proper knowledge and tools to do it right!
Ontario producers are taking the concerns of the IMSI, and indeed the Provincial Associations’ concerns about producing quality maple syrup to heart. Over the past 3 months the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers’ Association (OMSPA) has conducted 5 quality assurance workshops across the province that addresses the core principles of making quality maple syrup, applicable to all sizes of operations. Members and non members were invited and turn out has been strong.
The most recent event was held in the central Ontario location of Eganville ( 2 hours North-West of Ottawa) on Feb 20. Close to 70 people showed up to participate in a back to basics discussion about density measurement, proper filtering, bottling and general sanitation tips. An expert panel was convened at the end of the workshop that saw general questions fired at a panel of 5 “experts” for their insights and experience on issues facing most producers, no matter what the size. The panel was cut off at 4:00 at the conclusion the workshop, but it could have gone on for another hour!
Session facilitator Brian Bainborough stated that “it was one of the strongest turn out and participation rate to date. Based on the questions and comments, we were able to cater to the information needs of the people in the room” Ray Bonenberg, the organizer of the event (and also IMSI Director for Ontario) shared “many smaller producers were looking for information that applied to their operations, whether it was a bucket operation or tubing on gravity, to proper low tech filtering, we were able to cover it all”.
There was a strong uptake of producers who newly joined OMSPA that day with an interest in future hands on workshops. The focus of OMSPA continues to be ensuring that high quality maple syrup is made by all producers regardless of membership in the Association or not.