A Legislative Column by Assemblyman Will Barclay
According to the New York State Maple Producers Association, New York is home to the largest source of tappable maple trees in the U.S., making New York an ideal producer of maple syrup.
Maple syrup production has been steadily increasing since the late 1990s.
In 2016, New York ranked 2nd in the nation, producing more than 700,000 gallons of syrup and second only to Vermont in terms of production.
New York maple producers have not only collectively increased production of syrup but have embraced the chance to educate the public about how to make maple syrup through agri-tourism events.
During these open houses, farmers take the time to invite the public to their farms and facilities, teach the history and techniques used to make maple syrup, and offer samples of their products, which has all helped to increase sales opportunities for producers.
In 1995, the New York State maple producers began hosting Maple Weekend in an attempt to capture the excitement and celebrate the fresh harvest with the public.
When it began, it was only one Sunday a year in March.
Since then it has grown to two weekends and spans four days in March.
During this time, farmers host open houses, show how trees are tapped and allow visitors to see sometimes thousands of feet of sophisticated tubing throughout the farms that feed into sap collection areas.
Many host pancake breakfasts and, obviously, serve the meals with their fresh maple syrup.
These visits allow the public to get a behind-the-scenes look at the steps it takes to make the syrup, meet the producers, and to hopefully, turn them into maple syrup fans.
For many visitors, it becomes an annual tradition to go to the maple farms, which helps support local businesses.
The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets helps promote the weekends.
The department estimates more than 400,000 visitors make stops throughout the weekends at various sugarhouse events held throughout the state.
New York Maple Association is an organization that is comprised of 500 members who produce and/or sell maple products.
Their website, http://www.nysmaple.com, allows visitors to learn some facts about maple syrup and users can also find maple farms nearby with a map locating tool.
There is also an app people can download on the site.
The site also features a number of videos for young children so they can learn about maple syrup and links to curriculum for teachers.
There are also resources for people who would like to learn about becoming a producer.
Cornell Cooperative Extension provides assistance to those who would like to start producing syrup or for those who would like to make products with syrup like candies or cream.
More information on value-added products and maple workshops can be found here, http://blogs.cornell.edu/cornellmaple/
As sap collection is nearing a close, many producers can be found at local farmers markets in the upcoming months selling their harvest.
The New York maple producers also have a booth at the State Fair that features maple-flavored popcorn, cotton candy, walnuts, peanuts, almonds, cashews and of course, syrup.
In the past, the New York State maple producers have received state funding in the budget to help with educational outreach and tourism opportunities.
I support this funding because I have seen firsthand how a small investment can make a big difference for many farms and small businesses.
If you have not had the chance to taste New York’s maple syrup or many of the maple products, I highly recommend you do so.
If you have any questions or comments or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.