Agribusinesses are abundant in the north county with none sweeter than the maple industry.
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During the next two weekends maple producers statewide were to open their sugarhouses for tours and samplings. However due to the coronavirus pandemic, the New York State Maple Producers Association has decided to cancel the 2020 NYS Maple Weekends.
An announcement from the association stated this decision was made “out of an abundance of caution.”
Maple production has not ceased, however, and the public is urged to contact producers in their areas to order maple products.
“NYS Maple Producers Association is already preparing for an alternative series of open houses later in the year to showcase both producer and product,” the announcement states.
According to Shawn Massey, owner and operator of Massey Ranch, 20605 Combs Road, Watertown, the cancellation was a “major blow.”
“We rely on this weekend,” Mr. Massey said. “We draw a lot of people, and this is a big letdown. We have been stockpiling our product so we have stuff on hand for the weekend.”
The maple producer said he will probably step up his mail-order sales to help reduce his stock.
In business since 2009, the sugarhouse utilizes an evaporator and reverse osmosis machine to produce sap from about 1,100 trees and purchased sap.
In addition, Massey Ranch produces maple candy, maple cotton candy, maple cream and its newest product, maple bourbon barrel-aged syrup. Mr. Massey said normally he welcomes visitors during sugaring season, posting a “boiling today” sign roadside, but with the ever-changing state regulations on business closures he was unsure how the situation would affect visitations.
Holding a Maple Weekend outside of sugaring season would not be the same, Mr. Massey pointed out.
“We won’t be boiling, that’s what people come to see,” he said.
Karen Pierce of Pierce’s Sugar Spigot, 11603 Route 812, Croghan, agreed.
“It won’t work,” she said of holding Maple Weekend at another time. “We won’t be boiling, our arches (sugaring equipment) will be torn down. We’re not optimistic.”
Despite the cancellation of Maple Weekend, Mrs. Pierce said they “welcome visitors with open arms.”
“I don’t know what to expect, I don’t know how much product (sugar cakes) to make,” she said, noting it has been a good syrup season with warm days, cold nights and moisture.
Maple syrup has a long shelf life, but products such as sugar cakes do not.
Pierce’s Sugar Spigot has been family-owned and operated for three generations with more than 45 years of experience making syrup. According to Mrs. Pierce, her business depends on home sales.
Yancey’s Sugarbush, 7981 Long Pond Road, Croghan, despite the virus, is keeping with its policy, “If we’re boiling — we are open.” The sugarhouse has curtailed some of its activities, including not having tastings or horse-drawn wagon rides, but still will welcome visitors.
Yancey’s produces maple syrup as they have since 1884, utilizing a draft-horse wagon to transport sap from the woods and traditional methods of making syrup in two large wood-fired evaporators. Maple cream, maple sugarcakes and maple granulated sugar are produced.
“We are sad that they are not having Maple Weekend,” Jane Yancey said. “We enjoy the experience.”
She said to help people “get a little flavor” of what goes on in maple syrup production, they will be posting videos to their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/yanceys.sugarbush/.
Those wishing to order syrup for pick-up at a later date or for shipping can call 315-346-6356.
“We usually have syrup year-round, but it is best to call first,” she said.
Barbara Zehr of Swiss’er Sweet Maple, 6242 Swiss Road, Castorland, said she understands the state’s position but is disappointed.
“It was the safe, responsible thing to do,” she said. “We want everyone to be safe. We are disappointed since the weekend is a chance to see our regulars, but we understand.”
The Zehr family has produced maple syrup for many generations and continues to do so using both old and new sugaring methods.
“We will follow the state’s lead. We want to be socially responsible,” Mrs. Zehr said. “We have customers all year long. We are still making maple syrup, the trees are still running.”
Mrs. Zehr said their products, including maple cream, sugar and candy, are available online at www.swissersweetmaple.com.
Although they will honor the state’s directives, their seasonal store will remain open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday through the end of March. She encourages customers to call ahead to 315-346-1034 or 315-286-1095, and their order can be picked up in a drive-through fashion.
Other area maple producers are also continuing production and can be contacted individually for information. For a listing of maple producers statewide visit https://nysmaple.com/places/category/retail/.