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Tapping into the start of syrup season

Cheryl Peterson drills the tree as Albert Martin looks on during last week’s ceremony. [Elena Maystruk / The Observer]
Cheryl Peterson drills the tree as Albert Martin looks on during last week's ceremony.[Elena Maystruk / The Observer]
Cheryl Peterson drills the tree as Albert Martin looks on during last week’s ceremony. [Elena Maystruk / The Observer]
Already looking forward to the thaw-freeze weather necessary for the maple sap to flow, a crowd of aficionados gathered last week at a Lobsinger Line farm for the ceremonial first tap.

The frigid temperatures in evidence February 28, in keeping with most of this winter, didn’t put too much of a damper on the anticipation for this season’s upcoming bounty, the focus of next month’s Elmira Maple Syrup Festival.

Every year the ceremony is held at a different producer’s sugar bush to showcase what local maple syrup operations can offer and give other producers a chance to pick up ideas, explained Fred Martin, president of the Waterloo-Wellington Maple Syrup Producers’ Association.

This year, George and Salema Martin’s 45-acre tapping operation was chosen. The Martins have been making use of four different woodlots with about 2,200 taps for the last 25 years, Fred Martin said.

“Maple syrup for some may seem like a pale bit of sap but this has truly become a huge part of Ontario’s agri-business community and we’re here to highlight the start of that season,” said Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris.

Among other visitors to the ceremony were provincial Progressive Conservative candidate for Kitchener-Waterloo Tracey Weiler, Elmira Mayor Todd Cowan, Wellesley Coun. Paul Hergott, and regional Chair Ken Seiling.

It’s high time for new batches of syrup, Seiling said.

“I went down to the freezer the other day to get some syrup and, last jar, so it’s time for new syrup. Quite often I talk to people about the region and they always talk about high-tech and manufacturing and banking. I have to remind them that agriculture is actually one of the biggest components of our economy here in this region and how important it is; the syrup industry is a part of that. I just want to say, have a good season, I’m looking forward to more syrup, were running out.”

In honour of the celebration of the 50th outing for the EMSF, this year’s first tap went to two festival volunteers: Cheryl Peterson, who did the drilling, and Doug McLean, who followed up with the tap.

Visitors were treated to a breakfast of pancakes and sausage with fresh maple syrup. Todd Leuty

of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs held a seminar for other producers present to measure their maple syrup testing equipment against apparatus borrowed from the University of Guelph food science lab.

Cowan reminded the crowd of the upcoming mayor’s maple syrup tasting contest, asking producers to submit samples of their offerings for judging at the upcoming festival. The winner receives a trophy as well as purchases of maple syrup from the municipality for the year’s events.

“It’s going to be a fabulous year, especially with the weather; we’re going to have a quick spring,” he predicted.

After the long winter, the syrup should taste that much sweeter, added Martin.

The Elmira Maple Syrup Festival takes place April 5, starting at 7 a.m.

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