Sunday, March 16, 2014

North Country Radio - Canton teen is young maple syrup entrepreneur

Canton teen is young maple syrup entrepreneur            
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Joshua Parker doesn't have his driver's license yet, but he's a young maple syrup entrepreneur with big plans. At 16, he's one of the country's youngest maple producers.

Joshua catches rides with his dad and neighbors to check the taps in his sugar bush. And even though he relies on advice from more experienced maple producers, he's the boss and owner of Parker Maple Farm, near Canton. Five years ago, he started tapping sap with 10 buckets, as a hobby. Last year, he got serious and installed a tubing system with 3,500 taps. He created a business plan, borrowed money for state-of-the-art equipment (with help from his parents) and is waiting for the sap to start flowing.

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Josh is tall and lean, and has an eager demeanor. He's a student at Canton high school, and I meet up with him during the Presidents' Day school break. On a relatively mild, rainy morning, Josh wears a sweatshirt with his company's logo on the chest. It's part of his business and marketing plan that includes bottles and buckets with the logo, too.

At one of his two sugar bushes near Pyrites in St. Lawrence County, Parker and his mentor-slash-employee John give me a tour of the of the sap collection process, starting with huge holding tanks in a shack at the edge of his sugar bush. After collecting sap, Josh and John boil it down, "all at once so I don't have to clean everything twice."
John, who helped Josh get started in the maple business, serves as his right hand man or "woods guy," as he says, helping him tap trees, hang lines and monitor the vacuum system for moving the sap from tree to tank.
Josh's dad helped convert a 2,000 square foot barn on the family's farm into the sugar shack. That's where I help him empty a large barrel of sap into a bottle. During the January thaw he tapped his maple trees for about a week and produced 15 gallons of syrup.
The store shelves are empty, for now, at Parker Maple Farm, near Canton. But Joshua hopes to produce 1,000-1,500 gallons of syrup this season. Photo: Todd Moe
The store shelves are empty, for now, at Parker Maple Farm, near Canton. But Joshua hopes to produce 1,000-1,500 gallons of syrup this season. Photo: Todd Moe

Nearby stands the centerpiece of the operation – a shiny, stainless-steel industrial size evaporator, one of only two in New York state powered by wood pellets. It's been cold this month, and the evaporator is quiet. But Josh is optimistic and he tells me his goal this year is to produce about 1,500 gallons of syrup.

He says some people have told him he should have started out working for someone else, to get some experience before going out on his own. How does he respond? "I'd probably say that yeah, I probably should have. But I didn't, so here I am, and it'll be okay…The first year is going to be bumpy, but the second year will be better and the third year better than that." Josh says he has a lot of people he can call on.
This year, as part of an FFA project at school, Josh's classmates will hang sap buckets (with the Parker Maple Farm logo) around town and share in the experience of turning sap to syrup.
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Annual Maple Weekend in New York March 22-23 and 29-30, 2014

Healthy Living: Savor the flavor during Maple Weekend
Posted: Saturday, March 1, 2014 5:00 am
By Jen Reardon  |  The Daily News

New York State Maple Producers welcome you to the Annual Maple Weekend March 22-23 and 29-30, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Visit your local maple producer to see first-hand how sap from sugar maple trees is made into maple syrup. During Maple Weekend, local producers open their sugarhouses to the public. Visiting your local sugarhouse is free and producers will have a variety of maple products for sale, including maple syrup, maple cream, maple sugar and maple candy.

If you have never tasted pure New York state maple syrup, you are in for a treat. It is sweet and delicious and tastes better than any mass-produced pancake syrup. Check out pancake breakfasts being held near maple producers for your chance to try pure maple syrup on your pancakes.

Maple syrup, produced from sugar maple tree sap, is only produced in the northeastern United States and eastern Canada. Native Americans made pure maple syrup before Europeans arrived in North America. Other parts of the world may produce syrup from other types of trees, but no syrup has as high of sugar content as maple syrup. Maple season lasts for about six weeks.

Maple syrup is made by evaporating the water from pure maple sap until the syrup is at minimum 66 percent sugar by weight. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of pure maple syrup. Syrup is graded by color and the darker the color of the syrup, the stronger the flavor. The grade is determined by the amount of light that shines through the syrup. New York Grade A Light Amber is the lightest of the color grades and has a mild, delicate flavor. Medium amber is a bit darker in color and flavor and dark amber is the darkest in color and flavor. Grade B syrup is also made but is sold to be used as an ingredient in other products. Weather conditions, the way the sap is harvested and production techniques all can affect the color and flavor of maple syrup.

According to the Cornell Sugar Maple Research and Extension program, when cooking, maple syrup can be used in place of granulated white sugar. Use 1 cup of pure maple syrup for 1 cup of granulated white sugar and reduce the liquid in the recipe by 3 tablespoons for every cup of pure maple syrup used. One cup of maple sugar can also replace 1 cup of granulated white sugar.

There is no scientific research that shows that pure maple syrup is any healthier than granulated white sugar but because pure maple syrup is less refined it contains minerals and antioxidants not found in granulated white sugar.

Keep unopened containers of pure maple syrup in a cool, dark place. Once the container is open, tightly seal it and store it in the refrigerator or the freezer.

Buy local and support the first local agricultural product of the season by attending Maple Weekend and enjoying the sweetness of pure maple syrup. Visit the Maple Weekend website at for a maple producer near you.


Jen Reardon is a registered dietitian working with Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Eat Smart NY! Program.

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