|By JANE HOUIN
LUCAS, Ohio — Warm weather rains may have resulted in muddy roads and trails, but the mud was no problem for the many draft horse teams working Malabar Farm’s 26th annual Maple Syrup Festival March 2-3 and 9-10.
Visitors to the festival were thankful that horses and not tractors provided the transportation from the main working farm area of Malabar Farm State Park in Lucas to the Sugar Bush where the festival was held. Instead of the sound of engines and splashing mud from tractor tires, they were able to enjoy the beauty of the park while getting a good look as the tapped maple trees with the clop of huge draft horse feet and an occasional snort from the horses blending in with the sounds of nature.
The Central Ohio Draft Horse Assoc. provided the horse-drawn wagon rides to the sugar camp. Owl Creek Farm of Fredericktown was one of the farms that provided draft horses for the event, bringing two teams to give the horses a break and chance to rest after making the long uphill drive to the sugar camp.
“We pretty much show these horses all over North America,” said Steve Wickersham of Owl Creek Farm, home to 13 Clydesdale geldings and one stallion, who is currently breeding in California. “We show in the Classic Series Shows with six-horse hitches; it’s like the Nascar series for horses.”
Park personnel drew well over 1,100 gallons of sap from the farm’s sugar maple trees prior to the event, and taps were still collecting as the festival was underway.
The festival featured demonstrations of sugaring techniques from the time of the Native Americans through present day. Self-guided tours of the sugar camp and sugar shack highlighted the evolution of sugaring equipment and how maple sap is transformed into maple syrup. A peek inside the bell house, behind the Pugh Cabin, allowed visitors a look back in time to a pioneer’s cabin (decorated and hosted by the Richland County Museum).
At the sugar camp, visitors were offered free samples of maple sugar, maple syrup and even maple sugar cotton candy. The pure Ohio maple syrup, homemade maple walnut fudge, and other maple products that were on sale during the event are also available in the Malabar Farm Gift Shop throughout the season.
Malabar Farm is located 12 miles southeast of Mansfield, just one mile west of State Route 603 on Pleasant Valley Road. Louis Bromfield, a world-renowned novelist and conservationist, created the farm in the early 1940s as a showcase for progressive conservation practices.
Malabar Farm State Park is the only working farm in the Ohio State Parks system. Programs and special events are offered year-round, including their upcoming Spring Plowing Days, which also features the farms’ draft horses on May 13-14.
This farm news was published in the March 22, 2006 issue of Farm World.