Craig Bakay | Apr 10, 2019
Inviting the world to your home and business may not be everyone’s idea of a good thing to do, but after the past four years, George Conboy pretty much takes it all in stride.
Last weekend, visitors from all over made the trek north on 509 to Bell Line Road for the annual Maple Weekend, put on by the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association.
Along with his wife, Darlene, and a host of offspring and grandchildren, Conboy runs Conboy Maple. Down Bell Line a piece, Mel and Joyce Conboy run Oso Sweet Maple. They’ve all been doing it for generations.
And they seem to honestly enjoy showing people how it’s done.
“I look forward to it,” Conboy said. “It’s hectic, but it’s good for business — sales.
“I’m glad I got rid of all the snow (around the sugar shack) and put down some extra gravel (for parking etc).”
Every year is different, he said. And like any farming-related activity, they’re at the mercy of Mother Nature.
“We didn’t have much warm weather until last week,” he said. “But the syrup is excellent quality this year, all light.
“It may not be an exceptional year but I think it’s a good year (and) we’re still looking at a few more good runs, for sure.”
Conboy said they started tapping the last week in February and were done a week later.
“That’s more normal,” he said. “The last couple of Februarys have been colder.”
But really, what determines a year’s maple syrup production tends to be the summer before.
“The experts told us that with defoliation, there’d be a low sugar content,” he said. “They were wrong.
“You need lots of sunshine and sufficient rain (in the summer) so that that the trees produce more sugar.
“The year before last, it was wet and the sugar content was down to about 1 per cent.”
And while area public works managers may be bemoaning the freeze-thaw cycle’s affects on their roads, it’s just what the maple syrup producers need in late winter.
“As far as southwestern Ontario, the season’s over,” he said. “But here, we might just get a couple of weeks yet.”
Conboy said that maple syrup has become more popular in recent years.
“Maybe it’s because it’s a healthier sugar than the refined sugars,” he said. “But it’s also local and people seem to like the experience of coming out to the sugar shack.
“The media and everybody seem to be on board with it.”
And he’s OK with it becoming a popular hobby. People making their own doesn’t seem to affect his business and he sees it as a positive.
“The hobbyists are keeping the equipment dealers in business by buying evaporators and gear,” he said. “But once they find out how much work is involved . . .”
But hobbyist or just a fan of maple syrup, maple weekend brings people out.
“It’s been at least as good as or better than last year,” said Darlene. “We’re seeing a lot of new faces.”