It’ll be remembered as the first tap that was more like the last tap.

On Feb. 24, maple syrup producers and politicians gathered on Dan and Heather Goetz’s Woolwich farm, Shady Grove, for the ceremonial first tapping of a sugar maple.

“Today we are celebrating the first tapping of a sugar maple to formally kick off the 2017 season and I said this last year, and Fred Martin said, we should be changing this to the last tapping because most of us have already had two or three boils already. It’s hard to believe. And last year we thought was really early,” president of the Waterloo-Wellington Maple Syrup Producers Association, Terry Hoover, said with a laugh.

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival committee chair Drew McGovern welcomed the crowd and announced the winner of the festival’s maple syrup competition – Maple Tap Farms, for the second year running.

The festival will be buying exclusively Maple Tap Farms syrup to serve at the pancake tent on Apr. 1 – a benefit that comes with the win.

Hoover explained this is the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association’s 51st year, which began because of a need to collectively work together.

“The maple industry contributes over $60 million to the Canadian economy, close to 2,000 direct jobs and over $12 million in taxes to three levels of government and we are growing by an average of five to eight per cent by year,” Hoover said.

Woolwich Mayor Sandy Shantz helped kick off the ceremonial first tap – more affectionately known as the last tap this year – at the Goetz’s farm, Shady Grove, on Feb. 24. Most maple syrup producers in this region have already had a couple boils because of the warmer than normal weather. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]
Wellington-Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott noted in his remarks it’s impressive to see an industry growing that fast and it’s exciting for the future of maple producers.

Maple is also the first agricultural group of the year, which no other commodity group can boast.

McGovern, as well as Woolwich Mayor Sandy Shantz, drilled a hole into a sugar maple at the front of the farm before hammering in a spile and waiting for it to drip into the festival’s red sap bucket.

“The maple syrup industry here in this area is alive and well and we’re just happy to be able to be part of it and wish you all the best in the coming season. And we’re looking for a little bit colder weather for you,” said Shantz.

Region of Waterloo Chair Ken Seiling said the region may be often thought of as just a high-tech sector, but that’s clearly not the case.

“The agricultural sector is actually one of the biggest chunks of our economy here and the syrup industry is a big part of that. I hope you have a good season, we’re looking forward to our new syrup this year,” Seiling said.

Kitchener-Conestoga MP Harold Albrecht finished off the speaking portion of the event before guests were treated to a pancake and sausage breakfast with plenty of the sweet stuff.

Maple Tap Farms was named maple syrup producer of the year for the second year in a row in the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival competition. Andrew, Jennifer and Wally Sallans were given their award on Feb. 24 by festival chair Drew McGovern and Waterloo-Wellington Maple Syrup Producers Association president Terry Hoover. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]
“Special congratulations to Maple Tap Farms, another good year. Thank you for your participation,” Albrecht said.

“And it’s great to see the innovative technology that’s being used to improve the quality and the quantity of maple syrup that’s produced.”

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