Eastern Ontario Overrun with Bears

Garry Gallinger and his daughter Sherri sample real maple syrup compared to artificial table syrup.

Despite being surrounded by 1,000’s of bears, 10 brave Eastern Ontario maple producers never wavered from test testing pure maple syrup against artificial table syrup and offering up samples of granulated maple sugar.  The bears were on all sides of the display area and ranged in size, age, and even… colour.  It was the 34th annual Governor General’s Teddy Bear Picnic hosted at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, Ontario, one of two official residences of the Governor General of Canada.  The event is hosted annually by the CHEO Foundation (Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario) as a way to say thank you to the community for the annual support and fund raising they receive through raffles, a telethon, and various cyclist/running events each year.  The event is free to attend as are most attractions and a minimal charge is applied to concessions and food which draws people from all walks of life, cultures, and languages.

Eastern Ontario Maple Producers’ Association (one of eleven chapters of the Ontario Association) regularly attends four to six events each year in an effort to out-reach to consumers directly.  Our goal is to both promote locally produced maple syrup but also to emphasize the health benefits of an all-natural sweeter.  Of all the events we have participated in over the past five years I can’t begin to describe the absolute positive feedback we received from both consumers and organizers on our participation in this event.  Our main roll was to provide real maple syrup for the pancake breakfast typically seeing 1,500 participants.  Current volunteers for the event could not remember a time when real maple syrup was ever offered so it was definitely a step up on their event and extremely well received.

As maple producers we are always hit up for syrup donations every year from groups we have never heard from before but once in a while a group comes along that is worth the effort and expense.  Eastern Ontario Local provided 11 gallons of syrup pre-packaged into ½ liter ketchup style plastic squeeze bottles for the caterer with another 10 gallons on site in bulk if it was needed.  We wanted to ensure no one ran out of syrup and that everyone had their fill for this event.  The syrup was tendered as 1 gallon (4 liter) donations from our members which are currently 72 strong and this process worked out perfectly.

 

In exchange for our syrup donation free display space was provided at the event where we taste tested real maple syrup against

Frank Heerkens, with a little help from a young Princess Leia, successfully defeated the Empire saving consumers from the dark side of artificial sweeteners. Nice Storm Trooper rabbit ears there Frank!

artificial table syrup and also sampled granulated (stirred) sugar along with providing nutritional information. We also had old fashioned styled shoulder yokes adjusted to different heights for the kids to try out and a good collection of free maple recipe cards available.  One of the most popular displays was our magic maple tree that runs sap at every event we attend.  For what it’s worth we had a 95% success rate with the maple syrup taste testing.  The 5% that preferred the artificial table syrup were either Southern US visitors from out of town or very young kids that had never tasted real maple syrup before.  These types of events are a wonderful out reach for producer associations in all regions helping to not only promote local producers but the maple industry in general.  If you are not doing at least one of these types of events a year please consider it because it helps us all in the long run.

 

 

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Ontario Continues the “Quality” Pursuit.

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!

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Eastern Hosts Beginners’ Maple Course

100_4107 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 suga100_4142r 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 mapleinfo@easternontariomaple.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.

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Eastern takes new OMSPA tent for a test drive

WoodFair1Eastern Local once again attended the Glengarry Wood Fair held each year in Dunvegan, Ontario. This annual event is targeted at woodworkers and woodlot owners and typically has about 1000 visitors during the one day event. Eastern local borrowed the brand new OMSPA tent to try out at this event along with our own matching table cloths to see how the added marketing efforts may play out. We were the only exhibitor with a printed canopy which certainly made us stand out but unfortunately our placement on the grounds was very poor which made it difficult to determine the “draw factor” of the printed tent. We suspect that at major events with good sight lines that the new tent available to any local to borrow will be well received and take us up a step in professional presentation.

Woodfair2As always our sampling of granulated maple sugar was well received in an effort to promote local producers to consumers and many interested new producers picked up flyers for our beginners course in September. While this annual event is not large in scale it always seems to help promote local sales and new members for our organization and is one of the several events we participate in each year. This is one of several events that Eastern is out flying the OMSPA flag at to not only promote Ontario maple sales but membership within our association. For any local trying their hand at an info booth I will say the following items get the most interest;

Samples of granulated maple sugar
Sample of Asian Long-horn Beatle
Foodland recipe cards (old or new)
Flyers for any local workshops (Info Day)
New grading card info

Anything else you add to your display is extra info but these ones noted above are the ones we find are the main draws of interest.

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WATERLOO-WELLINGTON MAPLE WEEKEND REPORT

IMG_20160402_120707 (2)Brrrrr, that’s one of many things we’ll remember about our first Maple Weekend. It was a busy couple of days around our sugar house with our syrup season coming to an end a few days earlier, and cleaning and setting up.  Customers were very happy with the thought of coming out and seeing where and how Maple Syrup is made.  The OMSPA Maple Weekend website was a great help for a number of new people to find us. 

 
The Waterloo 4-H Maple Syrup club members’ were there both days of Maple weekend. The 4-H members had a number of displays and a couple of tables full of maple syrup equipment.   The 4-H club had 6 meetings this year, they learned all about maple from the tree to table. Their goal for the day was to pass on what they had learned in the Maple syrup club, to people visiting Maple weekend. They did a great job educating people on the production of Maple Syrup.  

  In Waterloo-Wellington we had a small group of producers take part this year on April 2-3. For the most part producers were pleased with the day’s event. The first year we had a lot of unknowns and it was a little tricky with our producers spread out over 150km. Hopefully in the next few years as Maple Weekend becomes more popular with producers, travel distances will shorten. 

 
The Elmira Maple Syrup Festival was held the Saturday of Maple Weekend. I think these events offer two different aspects and allow people to enjoy more of Maple Syrup experience.

 
Remember the event is open to everyone, so even other producers can go check out the guys next door too! Can’t wait till next year, the Maple Weekend Ball is Rolling. 

Kevin Snyder
Snyder Heritage Farms

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Ontario Maple Quality Assurance Workshops a Success

OntarioQA1Ontario 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.

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Quinte First Tapping

I would like to invite you all out to our first tapping which is going to be held at Walt’s Sugar Shack. The first tapping will take place on Friday February 19th from 11:30-2:00 at Brian’s Sugar Shack which is located at 1671 Salem Road in Consecon. Lunch is being served so we ask that you RSVP to me no later than next Friday the 12th. As far as directions go, if you are coming from the west, head south on Wooler rd to HWY 33, Head south on HWY 33 and turn left onto Salem Rd, watch for an old mill and the left hand side of the road.  If you are coming from the east, head south on HWY 62 to Cty rd 2 and turn right, Cty rd 2 is at the top of a big rock cut, Head towards wellington and turn Right onto Salem Rd, Just past the sand dome on the right hand side of the road, literally just after “Y” in the road, it can easily be missed. If you require further directions, please let me know, my number is 613-961-9304.

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Eastern Ontario Hosts Annual Maple Workshop

Eastern_info_day

Each year the Eastern Ontario Local of the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association hosts a local maple workshop in November.  Once again this year new ideas and speakers where introduced for another successful event.  Along with the usual presentations from the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture there were presentations from Jake Moser of New York State and Dr. Abby van den Berg of Proctor Maple Research Center in Vermont.  Dr. Abby presented on her research comparing RO processed syrup to the same syrup produced using conventional methods and Jake Moser showed off his small producer production techniques for value added products used only items purchased at Walmart.  With 73 producers in attendance the day was considered a success but we also believe there is more room for growth in coming years.

Keeping in stance with the likes of IMSI and the Federation of Quebec the Eastern Local is very much interested in directly marketing maple to the consumer and expanding our local market.  New this year we added a silent auction to our Info Day offering rare and unusual maple items with 100% of that funding being re-invested into local maple marketing efforts.  If you saw the article in the recent issue of The Maple News about Ontario maple producers marketing at the 2015 International Plowing Match you have an idea of what we are after.  With the added revenue gained from the silent auction we will be planning on a presence at the Ottawa Food Show this October.  The Ottawa Food Show is a truly urban event catering to affluent urban foodies that might not otherwise know about local maple producers.  This is a high class (and high cost) event and one that will challenge both our presentation skills and funding but we are determined to be successful.

Given that Eastern is a little different than other Locals by hosting our Info Day in November it leaves us room for other events while the rest of the province is doing their regularly scheduled tour in January/February.  This year we planned a firearms course for the first Saturday in February but due to tremendous demand we quickly added a second course on the following Sunday offering a total of twenty spots to OMSPA members.  Both days were sold out so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a rapid reduction in squirrel populations in the Eastern end of the province sometime soon… but just guessing.

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Write-up for the W/W info day

i-phone  jan  11-2015 182It was a cold and blustery day ! Still lots of highways closed in Grey/Bruce. Never-the-less we had a crowd of 150 out to our Info day in St.Jacobs.!
 
Registration opened at 9am and The day started at 10:00 sharp with our Presidents Opening Remarks. Fred shared his years of wisdom and an overview of 2014 ! A big ‘hit’ every year !
 
Next up was Lorne Brubacher and our Annual Meeting.
Why does the room go ‘Deathly” Quiet when they ask for nominations from the floor??!
 
Our New Executives are listed at the bottom! Congrats to everyone !
 
Dr Curtis Russell
Gave us a very informative talk on Tics and Lyme Disease
 
Terry Hoover  1st Vice of OMSPA
Covered the WOWE day held in Nov 2014…touched on the Focus Groups held by Foodland Ont
AND gave a quick presentation on what it’s like to be on a Summer Tour  which is hosted by ‘US’ on July 9-11 2015
 
Ray Bonenberg
Covered OMSPA activities. All the things we have done in 2014 AND what we are planning on in the near future.
 
Hot Lunch enjoyed by all
Ham and Scalloped Potatoes followed by your choice of  10 different pies !!
 
After lunch a Producer Panel  covered questions from the audience
everything from sustainable tapping to Preventing Mold during packaging.
 
Dr Brenda Murphy gave an excellent speech that covered Maple production from the 1600’s to now.
 
Todd Leuty
covered ‘available water’ and the latest developments from IMSI
 
Paul Bailey
covered the new CFI regs and Dr Miller’s mold study
 
Steve Bedard from Lappierre
Gave a very informative talk on Tubing Installation Techniques.
 
We had an update on the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival
 
Last and certainly the best presentation(I thought so)
Was from the ‘New’ President Terry Hoover
on the Vermont Maple Weekend and all the open houses from the 4 main dealer’s all within a 10 minute drive of St. Albans Vt.
and a quick look at JR Sloan’s maple operation(Largest in Vermont)
Only 130,000 taps ! 
 
OUR NEW EXECUTIVE
President            Terry Hoover
Past President    Fred Martin
Sec/Tres.            Al Murray
Directors          Dan Goetz
                         Dale Martin
                         Kevin Snyder
                         Edgar Gingrich
                         Albert Martin
Provincial Directors   Terry Hoover
                                   Dan Goetz

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The Busy Off Season in Eastern

100_3771 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.

100_3893On 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.

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