Farming Magazine - February, 2009

SUGARING

Pennsylvania Maple: State Maple Tour Wrap-Up

By Peggy Clark

The Potter Tioga Maple Producers Association hosted the Pennsylvania State Maple Tour in October. The host county was Tioga County, and the headquarters were located at the Ossea Masonic Lodge in Wellsboro, Pa.

October 2 was the social hour and trade show, with the state council meeting held that evening.

October 3 started with a pancake breakfast served by the masons. At 8 a.m., the group boarded the buses for a tour of Lycoming and Tioga counties. The first stop was at the Brion Crest Elk Farm. Currently, they have a herd of 120 elk.

Next was the Raker’s sugar camp. Robert, Clesta and their son David were there to greet us. The Rakers family have been making syrup for generations, continuously since 1837 with the exception of 1888. Robert is a wine maker, and we had the pleasure of tasting his homemade sap wine, which was very sweet and very good. They made us feel at home in their sugarhouse. They have some tubing and many buckets, and their evaporator is wood fired.

The next stop was Heyler’s sugar camp. The sugarhouse sets down in the woods in the middle of their sugar bush, a beautiful setting. Some people walked down to the sugarhouse from the buses while others rode on wagons. Everyone in our area reported a good production year, and Heyler’s said they made 477 gallons of syrup from 1,100 taps—and they are all buckets. They quit several days early because they had run out of wood. Their wood-fired evaporator is still much like it was over 100 years ago. Their sugarhouse has no electricity and they still work by kerosene lanterns. Six generations of family have lived on the farm and produced maple syrup.

Our next stop was lunch in Nauvoo. The ladies of the church put on a nice luncheon for us. We ate in an old school house that had been remodeled into a beautiful hall for church and community functions.

Next, the tour took the group to Jim and Dora Tice’s sugarhouse in Mainesburg. They have made syrup for 40 years—10 years for their own use and selling sap to other producers, and 30 years selling commercially. They have 2,600 taps on rented land, and a 5-foot-by-16-foot wood-fired Intense-O-Fire evaporator. The Tices participate in the CREP program (Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program), which includes trees and bush plantings. Many people are involved in this program, and thousand of acres in our area support this program. A representative talked to the group while at Tice’s about CREP. The Tices then gave the group a tour of their sugarhouse, then it was back to Wellsboro to get ready for the banquet.

The masons put on a delicious meal of barbecue pork ribs and chicken. Our new state sweetheart was chosen, Stephanie Herron, and Emily Vinson was chosen as alternate. Erica Wilson, the reigning state sweetheart, was there to crown Herron and give her farewell speech. The entertainment for the evening was Penny Eckman who sings Patsy Cline.

On Saturday morning, everyone enjoyed another pancake breakfast by the masons. The group again boarded the buses at 8 a.m. for another tour day. Our first stop was Brookfield Maple. Owners Jim and Jackie Mills and Bud and Tina Bowers started business about 12 years ago in an old sugar shack in the woods. The building burned and they soon improved on other buildings to make maple syrup. They have a 3-foot-by-12-foot oil-fired evaporator and reverse osmosis machine. In 2004, they were certified organic through the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York.

The second stop was Patterson Farms. Richard Patterson is a third-generation sugar maker. His grandparents started in the early 1920s on the same farm with 600 wooden buckets. Patterson is now the largest producer in Pennsylvania with 70,000 taps in 25 sugar bushes. He has two oil-fired evaporators, 6-foot-by-16-foot and 5-foot-by-16-foot, and two reverse osmosis machines with eight membranes. In the near future, he is looking to buy more new and improved equipment.

Our last stop was Misty Morning Maple owned by Wayne and Peggy Clark. They started in 2001, boiling on a cast-iron pan with 50 buckets. In 2002, they purchased a 2-foot-by-6-foot with 150 taps, later purchasing 3-foot-by-8-foot wood-fired evaporator. They now have 900-plus taps and a 3-foot-by-10-foot wood-fired Intense-O-Fire. They use a small reverse osmosis machine and they now have vacuum on part of their sugar bush. The group had lunch at Misty Morning Maple.

Friday morning was a time to picture how sugaring was done in the past. Friday afternoon and Saturday was a time to see how it is done now, and will be done in the future. Everyone involved in maple from 100 years ago to now was, and is, dedicated to making the wonderful natural sweetener we know as maple syrup, and hope it will continue for generations to come.

The author is co-owner of Misty Morning Maple in Wellsboro, Pa., with her husband Wayne. She is also secretary/ treasurer of the Potter - Tioga Maple Producers Association. Visit www.pamaple.com for more information.