ATWOOD – The chilly conditions didn’t keep maple syrup enthusiasts away on Friday, Feb. 24, as about 40 people gathered at Hoover’s Maple Syrup operation on Line 78 north of Atwood for the ceremonial first tree tapping of the season.
Kevin Snyder, president of the Waterloo-Wellington chapter of the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers’ Association, welcomed the crowd gathered to the event.
Snyder spoke briefly of the maple syrup production process, saying all producers “basically start with the same trees and hope they end up with the same product.”
“It’s just a little different process in the middle on how things get done,” he said.
Snyder spoke of how the warm weather in early February gave producers an early start to the season.
He joked the event last week was “close to being the last tapping ceremony” of the season.
“I believe that 80 to 90 per cent of the taps in our region have been tapped already due to the warm weather the last couple of weeks,” said Snyder.
“I’m not sure which groundhog is to blame for the early spring; maybe it’s a positive maybe it’s a negative. But it definitely caught some producers off guard.”
Snyder then commented that maple syrup is perhaps the most local food product on the market.
“All we’ve taken out of these maple trees is the sap all we do is remove the water. That’s all we do to it. You can’t get much more local or pure sugar (than that),” said Snyder, adding that honey producers will argue that statement.
“They will say their (product) is equal, and I will say. ‘You guys just steal the honey from the bees; the bees actually do all the hard work.’
“Syrup producers actually have to do the work.”
Added Snyder, jokingly, “We’ll agree to disagree on that, but both are awesome sources of local sugar.”
Several local dignitaries attended the event, including North Perth councillor Allan Rothwell, Perth-Wellington MP John Nater, Perth-Wellington MPP Matthew Rae, and Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Tim Louis.
After bringing greetings from their respective levels of government, Terry Hoover of Hoover’s Maple Syrup asked for a volunteer to tap the ceremonial first tree of the season. Rae, whose grandfathers both produced maple syrup, offered his services.
“This brings back memories,” quipped Rae.
“Some of my earliest memories – not as high tech as all the maple syrup producers now – are carrying buckets… boiling the syrup and making maple syrup with my grandfathers, so it’s a special place in my heart.”
Producer of the Year
Another highlight of the Feb. 24 event was the announcement of the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival’s Producer of the Year Award.
The festival presents the award to the winner of its maple syrup competition. In addition to being recognized as the best maple syrup of the year, the winner receives a featured booth in the vendor market at the festival, as well as the title of the official maple syrup of the 2023 event.
Matt Jessop, chair of the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival, was on hand to announce Snyder Acres of Breslau as the Producer of the Year.
This was the first time since 2020 that the award has presented due to the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival being cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2023 festival takes place on Saturday, April 1 in downtown Elmira.
In addition to the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival taking place the first weekend in April, 68 maple syrup producers will open their sugar houses to people on April 1 and 2 as part of Maple Weekend.
The annual event invites people to tour a maple syrup operation, try some tasty treats, and learn more about the production of maple syrup.
A complete list of participating operations can be found online at ontariomaple.com.