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Ceremonial first tap ushers in sap season

The sugar maples might still be bare, but their sap is almost ready to flow. The official first tap ceremony last week heralded the season that will commence as soon as the weather conditions become ideal.

The Waterloo-Wellington Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association (WWOMSPA) held the ceremony February 22 at Winding Road Maple Products in Elmira. With local politicians and community members on hand, the first sugar maple was tapped on the property of syrup producers Dale and Paul Martin.

Wellington-Halton Hills MP Michael Chong and Kitchener-Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife performed the first tap at a ceremony Feb. 22.[elena maystruk / the observer]
Wellington-Halton Hills MP Michael Chong and Kitchener-Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife performed the first tap at a ceremony Feb. 22. [elena maystruk / the observer]
The ceremony complete, local producers hope to have plenty of the golden stuff on hand for the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival in April.

In the week leading up to the tap, producers were already busily at work, preparing their trees for the start of the maple syrup season, said Paul Martin at the ceremony.

“It’s an exciting day for us. It’s an exciting day for the maple syrup producers. There’s a certain adrenaline that only the syrup producers understand. We had it this week: we had a record day for tapping. The next generation they tapped 3,400 trees in one day. I think we all slept well that night,” Dale Martin added of the family’s efforts.

This year producers are hoping for a good season, noting that groundwater in the region is nearing normal levels again after beginning to recover from last summer’s drought conditions.

WWOMSPA president Fred Martin said last year’s drought is causing some concern among producers.

“Our trees went into the dormancy season very dry,” he explained.

Fred Martin is hopeful that the heavier precipitation this year will make up for last year’s arid conditions.

Some producers are already starting to tap their trees, he said, but many more are waiting for balmier weather.

“Most producers are probably in their woodlots walking their main lines and just making sure everything is in shape. It’s looking like we are going to get a bit of a cold snap here so I’m thinking the bulk of the producers are probably holding off until we get through this.”

Local producer Murray Reist of West Montrose Maple Products said each producer will have his own experience this year, but there is reason to be optimistic provided that future weather brings the fluctuation of temperatures – ideally plus-five degrees in the day time and freezing at night – needed for the sap to flow.

“It’s shaping up. We’ve got moisture in the ground and it’s been raining and we’ve got a lot of snow. It’ll still depend on what kind of weather we get during the season. … We’re pretty optimistic it could be a good year,” he said.

Kitchener-Conestoga MP Harold Albrecht, this year’s EMSF chair Ken Jessop, Woolwich Mayor Todd Cowan and Albert Martin of WWOMSPA were among those witnessing the first tap. Kitchener-Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife and Wellington-Halton Hills MP Michael Chong performed the ceremonial first tap.

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