Wednesday, 13 March 2019 11:58

Gorr’s Maple Syrup of Harrowsmith

“They don’t always have a tree where you want to put the line,” says Gary Gorr, maple syrup producer and philosopher who’s been tapping 45 acres (“pretty much all hardwood”) on the family farm since 1985.

He says “the weather is unpredictable” so he focuses on what he can control, keeping his lines “straight, tight and downhill. (His operation is all gravity fed.)

“Besides, the summer before is when the sugar is made for next spring.”

His dad started tapping the trees in 1972.

“I just watched then,” he said. “But in 1985, his knees were bothering him.

“He said ‘everything is there’ and it was time for me to take it over.”

He’s 75 now and it’s still a one-man operation.

“When I started out, I was still doing some renovation-construction work but in 1986, it was a slack time,” he said. “Then more and more people started wanting our syrup, so we gradually started adding more and more.”

For example, in 1991, the County and Township paid to send 58 four-litre cans of syrup to Canadian Forces fighting in the Gulf War.

He’s seen a lot of changes, mostly to equipment as regulations change.

“In 1995, we had to get rid of all the old lead stuff,” he said. “All the metal, milk tins, sap buckets.”

But, of course, the biggest changes tend to be in the weather.

“Twenty-five years ago, I had syrup made in April,” he said. “Any more, you have to be tapped by the second week in February.”

He said he started looking through his records and in 1988, he started boiling March 19 and that ran through til April. In 1995, he started March 8 and that ran to March 22.

“In 2001, we started later, March 19 and through to April 8,” he said. “But it ran everyday.

“In 2002 and 2004, it was March 2 to April 8.”

Regardless, he soldiers on, and still enjoys when people come to the house at 3596 Quinn Road E. to buy syrup in bottles featuring the logo his daughter designed. “I added a few trees around it,” he said.

His syrup is also available at the Foodlands in Verona and Sydenham, Wilton Cheese and the Limestone Creamery as well as Pan Chancho Bakery and Cafe in Kingston. (Call 613-329-4252 or 613-372-2601 for information.)

He has no ideas about giving it up, enjoying the exercise and being out in the bush.

“You have to become a woodlot manager, doing this,” he said. “Some of the old trees are dying but I don’t cut green trees.

“The other day, a couple of wolves came through and there are lots of squirrels, chipmunks and red squirrels.

“We have a red-breasted woodpecker and a pair of cardinals.”

As for predictions for this season, Gorr is pretty non-committal. But when pressed, he grinned and said: “I thought it was going to open up there. But I think it’s going to be a long season.”

Published in SOUTH FRONTENAC

One of the most popular – and tastiest - annual events in the Kingston area begins Saturday, March 9, as the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority presents Maple Madness at the Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area. Take a tractor-drawn wagon back to the sugar bush to see how maple syrup was made by the early settlers of the region and how it’s made today. Enjoy delicious pancakes with maple syrup and even purchase some maple syrup or maple sugar to take home.

Check out some of the special activities taking place during Maple Madness, including all-new puppet shows for 2019, tree tapping demonstrations, self-guided Sugar Bush Tours, First Nations Display, the annual Conservation Foundation bake sale and ‘Old Tyme Sugar Bush Chores.’ With so much to do, you will want to visit the sugar bush more than once. A new activity this year is Face Painting, which will take place each Sunday throughout Maple Madness.

Back by popular demand is our photo contest. There will be ‘frames’ set up throughout the sugar bush. Take some fun, family photos in some of the frames, and post them to social media accounts such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram with the hashtags #MapleMadness and be eligible for maple-oriented prizes as well as a CRCA annual pass.

Maple Madness runs over the March Break, March 9 to 17, and the weekends of March 23 and 24 and March 30 and 31, with the sugar bush open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Check our Maple Madness page for the schedule of special events at www.crca.ca/events/maple-madness.

Help us reduce our waste. Planning on having pancakes or a hot drink during your visit? Bring your own reusable plate, cutlery or mug and you will be entered into a draw for a CRCA Annual Pass ($85 value).

Admission to Maple Madness is $15 per vehicle – fill your car or carpool!

The Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area is located on Division Street just two km north of Highway 401.

Published in General Interest

Maple syrup season is right around the corner, and the Lanark & District Maple Syrup Producers’ Association (LDMSPA) is getting ready to kick the season off right, with a Tapping Out Party on Saturday, March 9, 2019. This annual event is hosted each year at a Lanark & District sugarbush, and this year’s event will be held at Golden Moment Farm, in Athens.

Open to visitors and producers, the tapping out party has been taking place since 1991 and is a way of commemorating the ceremonial tapping of the first maple tree of the season. The event typically includes family-friendly activities, and a maple-oriented theme.

This year, Golden Moment Farm will be offering a fun-filled day of activities for all ages, with maple syrup and candy demonstrations, taffy on snow, trail walking, wagon rides, samples, and more. The official tapping of the first tree of the season will take place at 11 a.m. by local MPP, Steve Clark.

Other activities throughout the day will include an Algonquin College display with information about a new agricultural program beginning in 2019, and a truck display by Tackaberry Construction. A barbecue lunch and live music by Fred Brown & Friends will take place between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., with a cost of $6 for the meal.

Golden Moment Farm has been operating for more than 20 years, and has grown from a 300-bucket operation to a 1,200 tap system with pipeline and a stainless steel evaporator. Sugarbush owners, John and Norma Banford, explained they are pleased to be hosting this year’s event for LDMSPA, and are looking forward to marking the start of yet another maple syrup season, producing the very first farm crop of the year.

"We’re looking forward to offering visitors a fun time at the event this year,” John Banford said, “The tapping of the first tree of the season if always special, but after such a long winter it will have extra meaning this year.”

Visitors are invited to be part of the event at Golden Moment Farm, 140 Mother Barnes Rd., Athens, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on March 9, 2019, for a full day of activities and maple fun.

Admission is free for this family-friendly, wintry event. For more information please visit www.goldenmomentfarm.ca or www.ldmspa.ca.

About Lanark & District Maple Syrup Producers’ Association:

LDMSPA is a group of over 90 maple syrup producers located in the Lanark, Frontenac, Leeds and Grenville Counties, as well as the Ottawa-Carleton areas of Eastern Ontario. LDMSPA is one of 11 local organizations that make up the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers’ Association (OMSPA), a provincial organization that represents maple syrup producers across the province.

As a membership-based organization LDMSPA supports its members by providing a forum to promote the production of maple syrup products, assisting members to stay current on changing industry regulations, and providing opportunities for networking, and education on the maple syrup industry in Ontario. For more information please visit www.ldmspa.com.

Published in Lanark County

Maple syrup producers in the Lanark & District area gathered at the Glad Tidings Pentecostal Church in Perth on Saturday, January 26, for the Lanark & District Maple Syrup Producers’ Association’s (LDMSPA) Information Day and Annual General Meeting.

This annual event celebrates the accomplishments of member producers in the industry. This year’s event attracted more than 80 participants interested in obtaining additional resources and education for new and existing maple syrup producers.

Honoured at the event was Dwight James of Jameswood Maple, who received the Sugar Maker of the Year Award, a prestigious award presented to long term maple producers, or those that encourage and support start-ups in maple production. Recipients of the award demonstrate a willingness to share with a hands-on, innovative approach, and have worked towards the betterment of the maple industry as a whole. The award is sponsored by Springdale Farms.

Another local maple syrup producer, Jasper Norwood, was presented with maple syrup equipment by Leader Evaporator, Zoeller Maple Producers, and Bruce Leggett at the event. Norwood is a high school student who has been making syrup using homemade equipment and he was brought to Leader’s attention as a dedicated young maple syrup entrepreneur deserving of support.

In recognition of his achievements, Norwood was gifted with a small arch evaporator, finishing pans, and associated equipment, in addition to paying Norwood’s membership with the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers’ Association for 2019.

The meeting also featured presentations by industry leaders on a range of topics, including the economics of maple syrup production, syrup grading and judging, and updates on the forest tent caterpillar and its impact on the maple syrup industry, among other topics.

Equipment dealers were on hand to discuss equipment needs and new technology impacting the industry. An annual general meeting was also held during the event.

LDMSPA is a group of over 90 maple syrup producers located in the Lanark, Frontenac, Leeds and Grenville Counties, as well as the Ottawa-Carleton areas of Eastern Ontario. LDMSPA is one of 11 local organizations that make up the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers’ Association (OMSPA), a provincial organization that represents maple syrup producers across the province.

As a membership-based organization LDMSPA supports its members by providing a forum to promote the production of maple syrup products, assisting members to stay current on changing industry regulations, and providing opportunities for networking, and education on the maple syrup industry in Ontario.

Published in Lanark County

The Perth Road Maple Syrup Festival got postponed a week due to inclement weather but last Saturday turned out to be a beautiful day and people turned out in droves.

“Well, we’re not rushed but it’s been steady all morning,” said one of the organizers, Dave Kuhn (“I’m in charge of a lot of stuff but I don’t have any official title”).

Kuhn said the festival, which consists of a pancake breakfast, bake sale, raffles and various displays, including Bill Votary’s sugar bush, etc, has been going on since 1991 but “it’s gotten bigger in the last 10 years.

“We’re really blessed in that Bill provides the syrup for the breakfast.

“Some other guys provide other things and we get a lot of support from the community when we do things.”

The festival is a fundraiser in support of the Sunday School Hall but “the greatest part is all the people involved,” said Kuhn.

“I think the first one was in ’85,” said Vera Shepherd, another organizer. “We used to go through 100 pounds of pancake mix but I couldn’t tell you how much we’ve used this year.

“However, we have 15 cases of sausages and there’s 12 pounds in each one.”

She said the bad weather the previous weekend may have been a blessing in disguise.

“People were getting sick of being shut in,” she said.

Next door, the Leland Ladies Group were selling pies and crafts just like the grandmothers of the current group were doing 60 years ago. They went through close to three dozen pies.

No doubt they’ll sell plenty more next Saturday when the annual craft and bake sale sponsored by the Sunday School Hall committee goes on.

And then, on July 21, it’s the famous Giant Pie Sale which regularly features more than 200 pies for sale.

Doors open at 9 a.m. but there’s usually a lineup forming well before that.

Published in SOUTH FRONTENAC

Paul Pospisil, president of the Maberly Agricultural Society, was optimistic last Saturday morning as the 26th annual Maberly Maple Syrup Festival was getting underway.

“We’re blessed with the weather holding,” he said.

Outside, one of the worst April storms on record was building steam.

Nevertheless, the pancakes and syrup were being served up, and baked goods were being sold.

“This is our 26th year for this,” Pospisil said. “The brunch is one of three fundraisers each year for the Maberly Fair (the other two being the Ham & Bean Dinner in February and the other the Pie in the Sky pie sale).”

The fundraisers are necessary, Pospisil said, because of how much it actually costs to put on a fair.

“The Maberly Fair costs about $15,000,” he said. “We bring in about $2,500 at the gate and another $500 or so in entry fees.

“The fundraisers bring in $1,500 - $2,000 each and we have people canvassing and some donations so by the time the fair rolls around, we have enough funds.”

The first Maple Syrup Festival was held at the home of (former South Sherbrooke Reeve) Carl Ferguson.

“There was no running water at the first ones,” Pospisil said. “And you know the Ham & Bean Dinner used to be part of the Winter Carnival.

“But we had to end the Winter Carnival because Eastern Ontario is not the place for stable weather conditions.”

But, as the weather outside was worsening, Pospisil waxed philosophical.

“About a quarter of the directors on the Maberly Ag Society are in their 80s,” he said. “But the more you age, the longer you live.

“And we get lots of help like Dave Yerxa over there (who was also signing up people for his swimathon the last Monday in May in support of Community Living North Frontenac — call 613-279-2343 or 613-390-2343 to sponsor).

Published in Lanark County

For the last three years, the first Saturday in April has meant a trip out to Conboys’ Maple Syrup operation to see how it’s done. And last weekend, a steady stream of visitors did just that.

This year’s strange freeze-thaw cycle has played havoc with production schedules but in the end, things should be like most years.

“It should be an average production this year but it’s taking a long time,” said Ryan Conboy. “It was a warm February, a cold March and it’s starting out as a cold April.

“The sugar content is a bit lower but the quality is on a par with most years.”

For the Conboys, an average year means about 6,000 litres. Most people hope to do about a litre per tap and the average in Ontario is about 1.1 litres per tap. Because of their advanced operation and techniques, the Conboys usually get around two litres per tap.

“We’re probably around 5,000 litres right now and I think it’s an average year,” said Conboy. “But we could still have two more weeks.

“It all depends on the weather.”

But it’s unlikely the visitors on this Maple Syrup Weekend care about any of that. The Conboys have been averaging more than 500 visitors on these weekends and most are there for the experience and to have a day out after a long winter.

“There’s lots of room for the kids to run around and this year we two trails.”

Once again, the Frontenac Blades tomahawk and knife-throwers were there to let people try their hand a the historical pass time as well as Cota’s Mobile Catering.

Looking around at everybody taking things in, the self-confessed “oldest one of the bunch,” Ron Conboy reminisced about how things used to be. Conboy grew up with the maple syrup business but left home at 17 to become a teacher and eventually a principal.

“I guess the biggest difference now is the plastic piping,” he said. “It used to be that if you got a wet, messy snowstorm, you had to go around and empty buckets.

“And there was a tank on the back of a sleigh that horses pulled along the trails.

“But the actual process is not all that different.”

Published in CENTRAL FRONTENAC

Five Star Farms on Scanlan Road have only been hosting public events (one in the spring and one in the fall) for a couple of years but already they’ve become a go-to destination. And their Easter Family Fun Day this year was no exception.

“I brought 400 frozen perogies as well as fresh and cookies and I was sold out by 1 p.m.,” said Barb McLeod of Barb’s Perogies.

Other vendors reported similar results. Conboy’s Maple Syrup ran out of candy and Perry Family Farms went through 9 ½ dozen donuts and 40 packages of butter tarts.

“This is fantastic,” said Tracy Parker, farmer-in-charge of the day. “It was crazier this morning and we even had some lineups but everybody was having fun.”

Parker and her partner Curtis Moore own the farm and operate it with their five kids. She refers to it as a homestead but it’s a working farm in just about all respects.

Although most farms don’t invite the public in a couple of times a year.

“I really think there’s just not enough opportunity for kids to just get out and see animals,” Parker said. “We love to teach and hang out with kids.”

To that end, they have lots of animals on the farm, and all of them are specially selected/bred to be able to handle lots of attention.

“We’re not a petting zoo,” she said. “We have a wonderful group of regular volunteers now who get to know the animals and help visitors get to know them as well.”

She said it’s important to have animals that don’t get stressed around large groups of people, and safer for the kids too.

“For the chicks, we have an incubator in our bedroom and they’re handled from birth,” she said. “We can’t take in rescue animals because we’re not sure how they’d react and that’s not good for the animal or the visitors.”

And then there are the born hams — critters who just seem to take to the whole thing naturally.

Take Felina, a miniature horse.

“She’s our rock star,” Parker said. “She likes getting attention so much that she’s taken to rolling in burr bushes and then coming to us to get them taken off — primarily for the attention.”

Parker said that it’s important to them to maintain the feel of a traditional farm but also to ensure a pleasant experience for guests.

“We have to bridge the gap between the true dirty farm to what the urban expectation of what a farm is,” she said. “It has to be safe.”

Buoyed by the success of her ‘events,’ Parker said they’re planning to be more full-time, especially in the summer and are currently in the planning stages of various workshops and such. They’ve also done some renovations in the loft area of the barn and plan to make it available for various meetings and functions and probably the odd barn dance.

Published in SOUTH FRONTENAC

There are a range of syrup makers in our part of the world. Syrup is, at its core, a very simple process, a lot of home syrup makers are able to make enough for family and friends with a one time investment of anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars to a few thousand depending on how they want to go about it.

It is also a bigger business. Commercial syrup makers can invest in the hundreds of thousands and bring in extended family or paid labourers for several weeks for 10,000 + tap operations, reverse osmosis machines and high end tanks and evaporators. We have the whole range in our area, and from the most basic to the most sophisticated, they are all equally dependent on the weather.

Not that long ago, winter weather patterns were a lot more predictable in this part of the world. The beginnings of spring, when the temperature rose above zero in the daytime for more than a day or two, tended to be sometime in early to mid March. Those who put up lines in the bush would work away in the second half of February to catch the earliest run and maximize the coveted early sweet sap, from which they produced the coveted, subtle extra light and light syrup that consumers loved so much.

There are now a lot of small scale, hobby operations around, and this is reflected in the local hardware stores carrying more and more syrup supplies each year, and even a dedicated store that has been set up by Northway Home Hardware, which sells evaporators and boiling pans, etc.

But for hobbyists, and professionals alike, the last couple of years have been a challenge because the season has been so early, and so extended. It’s all about hurry up and wait. Before the February long weekend is over it’s time to get the buckets out, find the drill bit and get ready to get started.

One local producer, who keeps records, said the last two years were the first time they started boiling sap in February (the 22nd in 2017, and the 21st this year) in at least 40 years with one exception, a first boil on February 28th in 2000.

You see where I am going here. Are these record early starts to the syrup season indications of the impacts of climate change?

The answer seems to be that on their own, two years of an early syrup season do not indicate climate change. But when we look back at the past 10 – 15 years and see that the start date, the length of the season, the stop and start nature of it as we go through warmer and colder spells each December, is different than it was before. This has an impact on the way syrup is produced, but fortunately it has not had a severe impact on production. For us hobbyists, it is not a big deal, there is not that much at stake, but for commercial producers who are constantly investing in their business and spend time in the off-season managing their sugar bush for the long run, the un-knowable impacts of climate change on syrup production over the next 25 to 50 years are something to think about.

We do know that sugar maples are resilient, the sap may run better and sweeter some years, based on a number of factors such as water in the ground, heat units in the previous summer etc., but even when stressed for a year or two the trees tend to recover and the sap has kept flowing for millenia.

Syrup producers have noticed that, with longer summers and shorter winters, trees are growing faster than they were, and the medium term impact of this change is not known.

We do know that sugar maples have a limited range. Is the limit of that range going to move north, as long term weather conditions change?

There is something special about syrup season. The milky colour of the early sap, the smells as the weather warms up, etc., the fleeting beginnings of spring.

I must say it was odd to be tapping this year in February as the ground was already softening up from heaving frost, snow was retreating everywhere and streams that normally break through in mid-season were already bubbling.

We don’t know if there is any reason to speculate that our maple based syrup culture may become a victim of climate change, but even those of us who have only dabbled in syruping for 15 or 20 years are becoming aware of changes in the seasons, and it is impossible not to wonder whether the tradition that predates us by a long, long time will continue into the near future or not.

Published in Editorials

The Lanark & District Maple Syrup Producers’ Association (LDMSPA) is hosting a Maple Syrup Beginner’s Workshop on Sept. 30, 2017, an all-day event to educate those looking to enter into maple syrup production on a home or commercial scale, as well as veteran producers looking to expand their knowledge base. The course, which runs from 9:15am to 4pm, will be held at the Lanark & District Civitan Hall, at 2144 Pine Grove Rd., Lanark Village.
Participants in the workshop will get the basics on identifying maple trees and tapping, sap handling and storage, equipment and supplies, boiling, density, filtering and bottling, and regulations and grading. A panel discussion and information on maple syrup production resources will also provide valuable information for syrup producers.

“Everyone can learn something from this workshop,” Dwight James, LDMSPA Director said, “Maple syrup production is one of those industries where there’s always more to learn, and for beginners getting started the learning curve can be intimidating.”

LDMSPA’s workshop is intended to reduce or eliminate that steep learning curve for entering maple syrup production, while offering experienced producers access to resources and information for expanding production or keeping up with changing regulations.

LDMSPA is a group of over 90 maple syrup producers located in the Lanark, Frontenac, Leeds and Grenville Counties, as well as the Ottawa-Carleton areas of Eastern Ontario. LDMSPA is one of 11 local organizations that make up the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers’ Association (OMSPA), an organization that represents maple syrup producers across the province.
As a membership-based organization LDMSPA supports its members by providing a forum to promote the production of maple syrup products, assisting members to stay current on changing industry regulations, and providing opportunities for networking, and education on the maple syrup industry in Ontario.

Registration for the Maple Syrup Beginner’s Workshop can be completed online at maplesyrupworkshop.eventbrite.ca or by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. While pre-registration is strongly recommended as space is limited, on-site registration will also be available between 8:15 a.m. and 9:15 a.m. on Sept. 30.

Cost for the event is $20 for OMSPA members, and $30 for non-members. Registrants who join OMSPA will receive the discounted price of $20. Registration fees include lunch during the event. For more information visit ldmspa.com.

Published in FRONTENAC COUNTY
 

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