The conditions may not have been ideal, but local maple syrup enthusiasts braved the cold nonetheless last Friday for the ceremonial tapping that kicks off the season.
Members of the Waterloo-Wellington Maple Syrup Producers Association were joined by area politicians and other guests at Hoover’s Maple Syrup in Atwood.
Just before the tapping, Snyder Acres was announced as the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival’s producer of the year.
For winning this year’s contest, the family-run operation near Maryhill is given access to the prime mall spot on festival day, and provides the pancake tent with 500 litres of syrup.
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Maple syrup has been in the Snyder family for generations. Graham Snyder said that he tapped trees with his father before he expanded and got his own evaporator. He now works alongside his wife Sherry and their son Cody, who grew up producing maple syrup with his dad.
Though the Snyder family has been in the sap-boiling business for so long, this was the first year they entered the contest for the festival’s producer of the year.
“(Cody) put a little more attention to the smaller details to even improve and make things better. And last summer he went to a workshop about how to enter, what to do when you enter maple syrup because we’ve never entered in a contest before. He came home with some interesting things, and he also came home knowing that, ‘hey, our syrup did really good amongst the people that were there.’ So he thought, why don’t we try it? Try entering this competition. So this is the first time we ever entered and won, and it worked out pretty good,” said Graham Snyder.
While the tapping was held February 24, many producers have already started their boiling for the year, said Kevin Snyder, the chair of the Waterloo-Wellington Maple Syrup Producers Association.
When the weather is right, the producers have to drop their plans and start producing. That’s particularly true of the up-and-down conditions this winter.
“You have appointments and stuff that you had planned, and then all of a sudden the weather changed. And we dropped and went back and got tapping. We didn’t get all the bush tapped, because the sap came so fast and so hard that we just had to process it. And so it’s been a good year, we’ve got half the sap that we produced last year already,” said Graham.
“We’re over 4,500 litres,” added Cody, noting the community has been supportive of the enterprise.
When the pandemic hit in 2020, a customer who usually buys a bulk amount of syrup cancelled the order. “So we were sitting on about 30 barrels of syrup,” said Cody.
“That’s a hard pill to swallow, so we just kind of started offering free delivery on Facebook. I’d throw it out there, thinking we’d sell maybe a barrel, and that year we sold probably about 10.
“We’re really grateful for the local people.”
The Elmira Maple Syrup Festival returns as an in-person event April. 1.