Maple Weekend Begins Saturday In Region | News, Sports, Jobs

Bottles of maple syrup will be available during the weekend events. Submitted photo

After a two-year absence related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Maple Weekend is returning to Western New York with 54 maple producers across 15 counties opening their facilities and allowing visitors to see how maple syrup and related products are made. Sugarhouses will be open on Saturday and Sunday and March 26 and 27 from 10 am to 4 pm each day, with free admission.

“We are really looking forward to welcoming people back into our sugarhouses,” said Greg Zimpfer of Zimpfer Maple in Attica, a co-founder of Maple Weekend. “But we’re still practicing safety too, so all producers will be following New York state’s health guidelines.”

Maple Weekend provides an opportunity for families to experience the American farm and family traditions of making syrup, with the maple producers there to explain the history and production process. Many locations will also be sharing recipes using syrup and other products.

Maple Weekend has served as the primary marketing campaign for maple producers since 2000, and it has been the driving reason that maple syrup production has become a powerhouse crop in New York state. Therefore, Maple Weekend serves as a boon for local maple producers, and having been without a state sanctioned Maple Weekend for each of the last two years has left a mark on the local producers.

Brandon Mead of Fairbanks Maple at 1968 Shaw Road in Forestville said they had to get into a few more markets to help compensate for the loss, but nothing compares to having the weekend itself. “It’s our life’s dream to have a lot of our customers come through on Maple Weekend,” said Mead. “We sell syrup all year round but a lot of people come just for maple weekend and get their yearly supply of syrup that one weekend. We definitely lost a lot of retail the last two years.”

Maple Weekend is likely to attract a crowd, such as this gathering at Fairbanks Farms. Submitted photos

Fairbanks Maple has been participating in Maple Weekend for around 15 years now, and the success it brings them is notable. Three years ago, during the last sanctioned Maple Weekend, throughout the four-day span, Mead said that Fairbanks Maple served a total of 1,200 breakfasts, remarking they buy hundreds of pounds of pancake mix at a time to fill the need. And this year, while the turnout could go either way, Mead is expecting a big Maple Weekend.

“I think it’s going to be a boom,” said Mead. “I’m preparing for our biggest maple weekend we’ve ever seen. From everything else I see; people are ready to get out and enjoy themselves. The weather doesn’t look quite so good this weekend but we’ve always been blown away on rainy days or colder days in the past.”

In preparation for what he projects as a boom, Mead is working relentlessly to ensure they have the product to sell. For Mead, who does all kinds of work around the sugar house, preparation is the key to a successful Maple Weekend.

“I do all the boiling, collecting, tubing and woodwork,” said Mead. “I do everything but sleep. We’ve been bombarded with sap the last few days; we’ve made 400 gallons of syrup over 48 hours. That’s the biggest production I can remember. You’ve got to be prepared. I never complain about too much sap, but the timing could be better. Mother Nature doesn’t like me; it never happens how you wish.”

But at the end of the day, Maple Weekend is about the people who come in. Mead said that he’s most looking forward to seeing a full house, giving the tours, and having people enjoy themselves. “I love the looks on people’s faces when people come in,” Mead said. “When they’re spinning in circles looking at everything going on. I can’t wait to see everybody’s faces in this sugar house. It’s not a maple season without Maple Weekend.”

Another local place participating in Maple Weekend is not a traditional venue. Johnson Estate Winery in Westfield has been participating in Maple Weekend for the last seven years, when they first began making their maple liqueur. This year, Chef Andy Smith, Johnson Estate’s new Food Service Manager for FLIGHT, their outdoor location for flights of wines and cheese and charcuterie, will be making the French crepes with fancy ground nuts in the Tasting Room. Visitors can get them paired with the Maple Liqueur for $5 per person. Should people want to stay at home, yet still enjoy the treat, there is a French crepe kit available to make them at home.

Other participating sugar houses in Chautauqua County include: Big Tree Maple on 2040 Holly Lane in Lakewood; Clear Creek Farms, LLC on 5067 Morris Road in Mayville; Lily Acre Farms on 7768 Parcell Rd. in Stockton and Scott Farms & Greenhouse on 6029 Rt. 60 in Sinclairville.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, New York Maple Producers manufactured 647,000 gallons of maple syrup in 2021, while the 2019 crop was valued at $27.65 million with an estimated economic impact of around $124 million. The value of the 2021 crop will be released this June. New York is the second largest maple producing state in the US, accounting for 18.9 percent of the syrup made in the US in 2021.

Perhaps the best news though is the room for expansion. The US Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis data shows that more tappable maple trees are in New York than in any other state.

Not only does maple syrup taste sweet, but a recent study from the University of Rhode Island has revealed 20 compounds in maple syrup that possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which have been shown to fight cancer, diabetes, and bacterial illness. Other health benefits include calcium and potassium content, as a quarter cup of maple syrup has more calcium than the same amount of milk, while having more potassium than a banana.

For more information on maple production and purchasing maple products visit www.mapleweekend.com.

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