With the approach of fall weather and cooler temperatures the Eastern Ontario Local of the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers’ Association hosted their first ever maple syrup for beginners course in Moose Creek, Ontario on September 24th. By all accounts the day was deemed hugely successful with 68 people in attendance and 9 new association memberships purchased during the full day course. The idea to host the course was prompted by the many people asking about how to get started in maple as Eastern Local has been out promoting the maple industry at various agricultural and woodlot events over the past couple years. Organizers, volunteers, dealers, and attendees alike all provided very positive feedback on the day’s events and enjoyed themselves immensely.
Given this was a first time attempt at a beginner’s course for our region Eastern Local had to start from scratch on both developing content and deciding on the format. In an effort to get away from the usual Power Point type presentations Eastern decided on setting up seven individual hands-on type work stations with some indoors and others out and a different topic and presenter at each one. The group was divided equally between each of the seven stations to start and moved on to the next station every 30 minutes. The day was wrapped up with a panel discussion of producers that had built their maple operations from the beginning and whom had made an interesting collection of mistakes along the way. The producer that purchased an arch the same size as his sugar shack was likely the most unique mistake shared during the discussion.
All of the basics of maple were covered during the day with a strong emphasis on quality, grading, and Ontario regulations. Work stations included identifying maples & tapping, proper sap handling and storage, boiling, filtering & bottling, density, grading & regulations, and one station was devoted to local dealers to display beginner’s equipment, hand out catalogues, and answer general maple questions. Each station presenter had the challenge of how to develop an interesting demonstration for their assigned topic which can sometimes be difficult outside of maple season. Items such as spoiled sap were duplicated to show first-hand what it looks like along with samples of what buddy sap would smell like while boiling. Taste tests were given comparing golden syrup to very dark at the grading table and samples of moldy under density and sugar crystal over density syrup were shown at the density station. The tapping station had a maple log strapped to an existing tree to allow everyone to try their hand at setting a tap and the boiling station had everything from an Aboriginal hollowed out log to a high efficiency arch on display.
With much misinformation readily available both online and in outdated maple books the beginner’s course was intended to give new producers a helping hand to start off producing a quality maple product, source local supplies, and point them in the right direction to get more information as they need it. Any local maple groups interested in hosting their own maple course are more than welcome to contact Eastern at email@example.com for advice and suggestions. The way we did things is not necessarily the best or only way to do it but it certainly worked very well for our group and everyone involved.