Tapping Into A Sweet Industry

By Senator Patty Ritchie
With spring just around the corner, New York State is entering one of the sweetest times of the year, maple “sugaring season.”

As winter begins to wind down, the Sugar Maple, our official state tree, becomes ready to be tapped and the process of making maple syrup begins.

In the past several years, I have made it a tradition to kick-off the sugaring season by attending ceremonial tree-tappings throughout Central and Northern New York.  This past weekend, I paid a visit to the Kenny family’s Sweet Creations maple farm in Madrid to help them celebrate the start of the season.

But that was just the beginning.

During the next two weeks, maple farms throughout Central and Northern New York will take part in “Maple Weekend;” a program where the public can visit maple farms to learn about the art of maple sugaring, enjoy community breakfasts, and purchase fresh-made maple products directly from the source.

The full schedule of local events is available at my website, www.ritchie.nysenate.gov

But maple is more than just a tasty topping for pancakes.  According to recent numbers, New York is the #2 state after Vermont for maple production, responsible for 20 percent of all U.S. production. In addition, the value of maple syrup and other maple products in New York State was $22 million in 2011.

While maple is a large part of the agricultural industry, there’s tremendous room for growth.

As chair of the Senate Agricultural Committee, I am continuing to help find ways to tap into this growing industry where only 2 percent of our available maple trees in New York are being used to produce syrup.

This week, I will be joined at a meeting of the Senate Agriculture Committee by representatives of the New York Maple Producers Association.

There, I’ll be updating producers on my work to gain increased funding for promotion of maple products as well as new research being done to help the maple industry grow. I’ll also have the opportunity to hear from producers their ideas on ways to grow the industry and help strengthen bottom lines for our hardworking farm families.

As your senator, I’m committed to continuing to help grow and support all sectors of our state’s agriculture industry, and I encourage you to do your part, too.

As the cold nights and milder days start to become a trend and the sap begins to flow, make time to  visit a local maple farm during Maple Weekend, to not only to satisfy your sweet tooth but to help our state’s agricultural industry at the same time.