With the sun shining, birds chirping and temperatures well-above freezing, last Saturday couldn’t have been a better day to be outside, learning all about maple syrup production. Despite the steady flow of sap and their busy schedules, local producers Eben Hancock and Merridy Senior (Trees ‘N Bees), along with mentor Peter Kennedy somehow managed to fit in an informative tour of their production facilities for 18 new and aspiring maple syrup producers from across the region.
Eben showing the group some of the equipment he uses.
To start things off, Eben and Merridy described the different types of equipment they use at Trees ‘N Bees to make sure their maple syrup meets all of their quality standards. Along with the various types of spiles and lines used for tapping and collecting sap, Eben and Merridy talked at length about how they grade their syrup at different stages in the production cycle, as well as how they test for sugar content along the way.
Peter Kennedy stoking the fire.
Next we heard from experienced producer and mentor Peter Kennedy, about the boiling process and the different methods of converting maple sap to syrup. Peter gave the group an in-depth tour of his wood-fired evaporator and explained the different types of filtration systems used in commercial maple syrup production.
Talkin’ wood-fired evapouration
With mugs of warm hot chocolate in hand, the group made its way across the highway for a glimpse of Trees ‘N Bees’ sugar bush and sap collection system. Despite the knee-deep snow and a bit of mud, we huddled up and heard from Eben about their intricate system of taps and lines that criss-cross the 40 acre bush, and about all the walking involved in regular line maintenance and repairs (apparently the coyotes, squirrels and woodpeckers have been an issue this year). Eben also talked about the pair of vacuum pumps he uses to gently extract the sap, and the various tanks he uses for temporary sap storage.
The sap at Trees ‘N Bees is gravity-fed into this tank for temporary storage
Here, Eben is explaining one of the vacuum pumps he uses to gently extract sap from his sugar bush.
After allowing everyone a chance to purchase their share of syrup from the Trees ‘N Bees farm store, the group assembled in their vehicles to convoy over to Squirrel Creek Farm to hear from Dave Brackenridge about the types of equipment available for different scales of maple syrup production. As a well-known supplier of maple sugaring equipment, Dave showed the group a couple of small- and medium-sized evaporators that could be used in small-scale production. He also led the group through the beautiful and relatively new sugar shack that he uses to demonstrate the production process to tour groups and aspiring producers.
Dave Brackenridge gives the group his two cents on syrup production and wood-fired evapourators.
“This one’s a little more my size!”
Dave also brought the group through his supply warehouse, where he sells everything from spiles, lines, buckets and filtration systems, to retail jars and labels for syrup producers. He also talked a bit about the regulations that require producers to place nutritional content labels on their retail products and briefly toured the group around the shop where he and his son repair and test reverse osmosis filtration systems.
Farms at Work would like to thank Eben, Merridy, Peter and Dave for taking time out of their very busy schedules to offer such informative tours of their facilities. It`s safe to say that the day left many of us inspired and wanting to go home to get tapping! Stay tuned to our Facebook page and blog for more updates on future farm tours and workshops coming soon!