Maple Producers Gather in Connecticut

12/1/2012 7:00 AM
By Steve Damon Massachusetts Correspondent

MYSTIC, Conn. — Every year members of North American Maple Syrup Council and International Maple Syrup Institute gather together in the fall to discuss (in English and French) sugaring techniques, compare syrup colors and tour area sugarhouses.

This year’s festivities brought maple sugar makers to the seaport town of Mystic, Conn., for the “Tapping Into Connecticut” conference.

Registrar Joyce Wenzel, who also doubles as secretary and first lady of the Maple Syrup Producers Association of Connecticut, welcomed all attendees (and whomever else appeared) to the conference.

Sessions were presented on topics such as invasive plants and their danger to sugarbushes, the timing of tap removal and its impact on tree health, and the impact of reverse osmosis on syrup composition and flavor.

Fresh maple soft drinks, maple popcorn and maple cotton candy were also discussed. Steve Childs, a Cornell University Extension maple specialist, gave statistics on these value-added maple products with the help of a PowerPoint presentation. The slides’ numbers made the participants ooh and ah at the profitable possibilities.

Childs ended his sessions with a question: “What are we going to name the maple soda, pop, tonic, stuff?” He offered some possibilities: Maple Dew, Lightning Sap, Nature’s Perfect Pop.

A participant yelled out, “How about Bull Sap? You know, like Red Bull.” Childs agreed to add Bull Sap to the consideration list.

Along with the presentations, exhibitors also set up at the conference. Etched-glass bottles (some filled with maple syrup) sparkled in the room’s lights. Sugarhill Containers had its display expertly set to catch the room’s brightness.

Tubing, syrup presses, evaporators, reverse osmosis machines, and spigots were spotlighted next to displays by USDA and Connecticut Department of Agriculture, and visitor guides to Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada — next year’s conference host.

When Sugarhill Container’s Chris Russo was asked if he would be attending next year’s conference in New Brunswick, his ready smile answered the question.

As is tradition for maple conferences, “companion tours” were designed for the families. This year, the companions toured The Mystic Aquarium and Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center on day two and three, respectively. With sugaring work complete, day four was “Connecticut Tour Day” for all attendees. Everyone got to visit nearby attractions, including Clyde’s Cider Mill, Uncle Buck’s Sugar House, The USS Nautilus and Mystic Seaport and Maritime Museum.

The Ashaway Grange, celebrating its 100th anniversary, served lunch to the robust eaters.

Sugarers, well fed, headed home to start winter’s major sugaring tasks — wood chopping and praying for high sugar content sap.

Nous nous attendons au Nouveau-Brunswick (See you in New Brunswick).<\c> Photos by Steve Damon



English- and French-speaking maple producers gathered in Connecticut for the annual conference.



A display of printed glass containers by Artisan Printing of Vermont.



Chris Russo shows off a collection of Sugarhill syrup containers at the “Tapping Into Connecticut” conference.



Conference attendees check out new syrup presses.



This slide drew a positive gasp from maple producers learning about value-added possibilities.



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