Ceremonial tree tapping symbolizes start of maple syrup season

BRESLAU – Sap began running quickly at Snyder Farms on Feb. 23 for the Waterloo-Wellington Maple Syrup Producers and Elmira Maple Syrup Festival’s annual ceremonial tree tapping.

The plus-five-degree weather, which is ideal for maple season, made for a good turnout for the ceremony, announcement of this year’s Producer of the Year and pancake brunch.

Graham Snyder of Snyder Acres won Producer of the Year last year, the reason the tree tapping ceremony was held here.

“We move it around to different locations to showcase different people’s operations,” president of Waterloo Wellington Maple Syrup Producers Kevin Synder told the Advertiser.

Kevin is cousins with Graham and taps maple around the corner at Snyder Heritage Farms.

“Maple season is here and the sugar house is in full production,” Kevin said.

Maple season typically runs four to five weeks, and the warmer weather results in an earlier maple season for most.

Some producers, like Snyder Acres, began tapping even earlier at end of January.

Chris, left, and David Wagler from Wagler Maple Products began cooking up some sausage before the ceremony to be ready for the hungry visitors. Photo by Nicole Beswitherick

Seasons changing

“The last couple of years, the season hasn’t been typical. If we’d had this conversation 10 years ago and said you’re going to make a lot of maple syrup in February, everybody would have thought you’re crazy,” Kevin explained.

“But again, it’s all dictated by Mother Nature. When she gives us the conditions to run, which is plus-five or minus-five at nighttime,” that is when it is best to begin tapping trees.

Cold nights below freezing with warm, sunny days around five degrees is ideal to have the sap flow back into little fibres inside the tree.

It also creates a certain amount of pressure to keep the maple syrup tasting how it is supposed to.

Local producers

Andrew McNamara is a Canadian bush pilot who in recent years has started up a maple production called Setting North, located just outside of Belwood.

McNamara started out with 30 taps six years ago, and has now grown to tap 600 maple trees on his property – and he hopes to expand more throughout the years.

He was unable to attend the tapping ceremony this year due to an early start in maple production.

“I [first] tapped on Family Day weekend,” he said.

“The sap was running quite a bit… I was actually boiling on Friday during the ceremony, otherwise I would have been there.”

He explained maple season typically begins a week before or a week after the first tapping ceremony, more or less, but ends once the trees start budding or “when the frogs start singing.

“Realistically, it’s [over] when the syrup starts tasting buddy, which is just kind of an off-taste.”

Two gentlemen from the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival (red coats) announced this year’s winner of Producer of the Year to Maple Tap Farms. Photo by Nicole Beswitherick

End of the ceremony

There were several producers unable to make the event because of the early season, but there were still many attendees waiting to enjoy the pancake brunch.

Toward the end of the ceremony, Waterloo Region chair Karen Redman took the floor to say “we should all forget Wiarton Willie… and we now know it’s spring because the maple syrup is running.”

Producer of the Year was then announced by members of the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival, and awarded to Maple Tap Farms based out of Elmira; runner up was Snyder Acres.

The 60th annual Elmira Maple Syrup Festival is set to begin on April 6 at 7am. More information can be found at elmiramaplesyrupfestival.com.

To learn more about Waterloo Wellington Maple Syrup Producers, visit facebook.com/wwmspa.