The 2016 IMSA and NAMSC Annual Meeting and Maple Conference took place Oct. 26-29 in Burlington, Vermont, on the shores of Lake Champlain. Back in Vermont after 16 years, this event offered visitors three full days of maple-related technical sessions, meetings, tours of maple operations and a trade show. Bill Scott, one of the volunteer organizers for the event, said that over 400 people attended and Saturday’s special dinner event at the ECHO center raised $10,231 for the endowments of future maple research grants.
The Maple 2016 Program Book was dedicated to the scientists, researchers and educators at the University of Vermont who began their work in the early 1800s. They also established the Proctor Farm in 1947, the first permanent maple research facility in the world. The UVM Proctor Maple Research Center members consist of researchers and scientists that led technical sessions at the show.
Dr. Timothy Perkins, director of the UVM Proctor Maple Research Center, was one of the speakers who lead several sessions on the effects of climate change on the sugaring industry. Abby van den Berg, research assistant at the center, led two sessions on The Flavor of Syrup from Ultra-High Reverse Osmosis Processing. Other session speakers and delegates came from all over New England, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana and Canada.
This year’s keynote speaker was Melanie Olivier, a sports nutritionist/dietitian and president of Vivai, a company that provides customized nutrition strategies for individual athletes and entire teams like the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens. Her opening presentation elaborated on the opportunities to use real maple products on the team training tables and the benefit of maple to athletes. Her message of expanding opportunities for maple was later echoed in a session led by Mark Harran and Ray Bonenberg, who both encouraged sugarmakers to use their resources to try to expand their maple product lines rather than convincing non-maple users to buy their products.
The trade show included some large pieces of sugaring equipment: filter presses, reverse osmosis machines and evaporators as well as smaller outfits that produce custom labeling, bottling, evaporators and tubing. Big names were represented, such as: CDL, Leader, Lapierre and Grimm. Representatives handed out literature on farm insurance and energy saving programs. Maple-themed jewelry and bird houses made from recycled maple syrup jugs rounded out the show.
According to Scott, the high number of maple samples submitted for the syrup contest is testimony to the success of the conference. The last time the event was held in Vermont, 70 samples were tested and this year the number doubled.
“All 140 samples were judged as excellent,” Scott said.
This speaks to both the growth and evolution of the maple industry over the past decade.