Verona, New York, January 8-9, 2016

Held at the Vernon-Verona-Sherrill (VVS) High School, Verona, New York, the New York Maple Producers Winter Conference, sponsored by the VVS Future Farmers of America (FFA), New York State Maple Producers Association, the Cornell Maple Program and Cornell Cooperative Extension, has always been geared for sugarmakers who like to think outside of the box.

“In the past, we tried to bring speakers outside the maple world,” said Keith Schiebel, Future Farmers of America advisor with VVS and event organizer. “For example, we had brought in Jim Trezise, president of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation. We strive to bring in a specialty look from a different venue on an agricultural item.”

Schiebel noted that they are planning to feature more like speakers for the January event. In addition, up to 40 workshops are scheduled for the weekend with a handful on Friday and the rest commencing Saturday.

The New York Maple Producers Winter Conference attracts attendees from the Northeastern United States and Canada.

“Part of our success is that we offer much more than any one person can take in at one conference,” he said. “The criticism is that there’s too much to see and do, and hopefully that keeps them coming back again.”

The workshops will cover a wide array of subjects such as maple wines, reverse osmosis, product maintenance, operation, marketing, advocacy and other maple-related topics and trends. One trend – maple water – Schiebel mentioned, has proven to be a notable item worthy for discussion.

“When you look at health beverages in the maple industry like maple water, which is in its infancy, trying to tap into that consumer product market, you’ll see the dilemma,” he said. “The production window is narrow during maple syrup season. Yet, consumer demand would be year round. How do you meet those demands from a production bottling warehousing standpoint?”

Schiebel said that such discussions, as well as improved U.S. maple syrup production, draw our neighbors from the north in Canada to attend the conference.

Steve Bedard of Lapierre discusses tubing installation techniques.

“We do have quite an influx from an international perspective. Maple co-ops from Canada come hear what we are doing in the U.S. and what we are developing,” he said. “Certain projection on taps and yields plus regional trends have been on the increase. We have more and more producers taking on larger number of taps.”

The conference will also host its fifth annual auction sponsored by the VVS FFA. Show times are 4 p.m – 9 p.m., Friday, January 8, and 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Saturday, January 9. For additional information contact V.V.S. FFA advisor Keith Schiebel at kschiebel@vvsschools.org, or visit http://www.nysmaple.com or the Cornell Maple Program website at http://www.cornellmaple.com.

Covers and photos by Keith Schiebel