Take a sugarbush tour during Maple Weekend

It’s mud season, although I prefer to think of the time of transition from winter to spring as maple syrup season.

This is sap producing weather, and experienced maple producers, as well as beginners, are busy making maple syrup. Sap buckets can be seen hanging on aging roadside sugar maples, and blue sap lines, which are used to extract more sap than can be obtained with pails (without harming the trees), can be seen in the forest beyond.

Maple syrup is produced only in the northeastern United States and eastern Canada, and every year, with the coming of spring, many North Country homeowners tap and set buckets on yard and roadside trees. Farmers and landowners tap trees in their pastures and forests and large production sugaring operations use modern, state-of-the-art tools, machinery, technologies and equipment to produce hundreds (and in some cases thousands) of gallons of quality maple syrup of exceptional flavor.

I have good news for those who’ve never visited a working sugarhouse or seen maple syrup being made, but are curious and would like to. This coming weekend is Maple Weekend. On March 19 to 20, more than 150 New York State maple syrup makers, all of them member-producers of the New York state Maple Producers Association, will be opening their sugar houses to the public. Several of our region’s member-producers will participate. They’re inviting us to come and see, firsthand, from tree to table, how their homemade, delicious maple syrup is produced, and to sample and take home some of the best-tasting maple syrup in the world; pure, freshly made New York maple syrup.

Maple Weekend is an annual event championed by NYSMPA and supported by Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Cornell maple program. The Maple Weekend initiative began in the mid 1990s when NYSMPA producer-members across the state, in the first coordinated effort of this type, opened their doors for the first time. The event was called Maple Sunday.

The objective for this year’s Maple Weekend event is the same as it was then; to provide an opportunity for interested persons to see, firsthand, how maple trees are tapped and sap is collected and boiled into pure, delicious maple syrup.

The sweet smell of boiling maple sap has beckoned the arrival of spring here for many generations. Making maple syrup is a popular hobby, growing in popularity, in fact. Larger-scale maple syrup production is a time-honored practice, and an ever-increasingly more important part of farming to many hard-working North Country families. Maple syrup makers continue to turn out quality maple syrup of exceptional flavor. And because of their hard work, we can all enjoy the finest quality syrup, cream, sugar and candy, products they take great pride in producing using traditional methods and modern equipment.

Each maple sugar producing family’s situation is unique, as are their values and their operations. Nonetheless, these families are united by a shared commitment to quality, self-sufficiency, sustainable forestry and environmental stewardship.

Please feel welcome to visit one or more of these family-run sugarbushes on March 19 to 20. Weather permitting, you’ll be able to experience the sap to syrup process as it unfolds right before your eyes.