By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
At 820,000 gallons of syrup in 2019, New York ranks second in the nation behind Vermont for maple syrup production. Beyond producing a sweet commodity, the maple sugaring industry also provides an opportunity for a fun and educational family outing.
While many venues for family entertainment have closed during the pandemic, most farms offering tours and agritourism have remained in operation because of their easy ability to space out visiting groups to thin crowds and because they are largely outdoors. Compared with many venues, maple farms are likely among the safest places to go. Maple farms usually offer farm tours and outdoor demonstrations of how they turn sap into syrup.
Producing maple syrup relies upon when sap begins to flow. That is usually in late winter/early spring — sometimes as early as January.
The state’s official Maple Weekend dates for 2021 are March 20-21 and 27-28.
During these weekends, numerous farms throughout the state welcome visitors to watch sap boiling and tapping presentations, tour their sugarhouse, check out their evaporators and reverse osmosis equipment, and perhaps join in hands-on activities, such as tree tapping. Many farms also provide pancake breakfasts for sale, free samples and a fully loaded gift shop for picking up treats from the tree.
Like most other activities since the pandemic began, expect your visit this year to be a little different from other sugarhouse visits you may have experienced in the past. Call well in advance to ensure that the sugar house is participating in Maple Weekend or is otherwise open to visitors. Many agritourism businesses have begun selling tickets online or taking reservations to ensure that they can safely accommodate that many visitors at a time. This strategy also allows them enough time to clean commonly touched areas between household groups.
Of course, wear a mask. Although many of the activities could be outdoors, you should be prepared to cover up.
Wear appropriate clothing and footwear. Usually, these events carry on rain or shine, so dress for the weather and wear non-skid boots. Maple farms often have uneven ground and slick, wet leaves underfoot.
Support the business by picking up a few items at the gift shop. In addition to maple syrup, most maple farms also sell maple cream, maple candy, maple sugar, pancake mix and other local goods.
Snap a few photos of your family on the farm to post on social media. This kind of promotion helps farms generate more interest in their operation. Plus, you can relive the memories made on the farm.
To learn where to go to tour a maple farm and to learn more about the state’s maple industry, visit the New York State Maple Producers Association website at https://nysmaple.com.