By DOUG GRAVES
FULTON, Ohio — The maple syrup season in Ohio runs from early February through mid-March. In order to prepare producers for the upcoming season, Ohio State University extension is holding its Ohio Maple Days event in Morrow County Jan. 24, Wayne County and Holmes County Jan. 25 and Geauga County Jan 26.
The programs, which are the same at each location, offer educational sessions on maple production for both hobby and commercial producers. Three experts in maple production will address each gathering.
First up will be Kathy Hopkins, extension specialist from the University of Maine. Hopkins will share information on quality control and selling quality products. Her presentation titles include “Identification of Fungal Contamination in Maple Syrup,” “Caning Protocols: What Works” and “Visual Displays and Marketing.”
Second to address the attendees will be Gary Graham, coordinator of OSU extension’s Ohio Maple Program. “Production Statistics: Do the Numbers Really Count?” is the title of his talk at this session.
The third address will come from Nate Bissell of Bissell Maple Farm in northeastern Ohio, who will use his technical skills from his professional work and his learned skills as a sugar maker to discuss how to better market Ohio maple syrup. His presentation is titled “Sugar Making, Money Making or Both?”
All three speakers expect to field questions from a large gathering of first-time producers. “Sap season can occur anytime from the end of January to sometime in March,” Hopkins said.
“And the ideal temperatures for sap are around 20 degrees at night and 45 degrees during the day. It needs to be below freezing at night and not more than 45 degrees during the day or the maple trees will start to bud out. The trees that will produce the best syrup must be at least 10 inches in diameter at breast height.”
To tap a maple tree, she said, one only needs the tree, a drill, a hammer, taps and a food-safe container to collect the sap.
“The key when gathering sap is to not hammer the tap too hard into the tree,” Hopkins said. “If the tree is still frozen, it will split down the middle. Once collected, the sap has to be boiled down to syrup and then it is ready to enjoy.
“It’s important that the syrup’s sugar content is not too high or it will upset your stomach or crystallize in the container. The names of the grades of the maple syrup are pretty much the same and sometimes the flavors are different between states, but it is still all good.”
In addition to the three keynote speeches, there will be a trade show, reports from OSU extension and the Ohio Maple Producers Assoc., a question-answer session called “Maple Nuggets” and, of extreme importance, demonstrations on how to test with hydrometers.
“Testing the accuracy of a hydrometer is a good practice,” Graham said. “It helps you make sure you’re not finishing your syrup too light or too heavy. Too light and the syrup can ferment or get moldy. Too heavy and it might crystallize. Either problem can cost you customers, money or both.”
Registration at the door is $35. For more information about this program call 330-263-3799 or visit online http://hocking.osu.edu/news/2013- ohio-maple-days