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The Times
  • Good season for maple syrup at Clapsaddle Farm

  • In the early spring, just as the buds begin to grow, maple trees produce sap for a short, but sweet maple syrup season.

    This is what Jim Parker, owner of Parker’s Historic Clapsaddle Farm in the village of Ilion, looks forward to every year.

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  • In the early spring, just as the buds begin to grow, maple trees produce sap for a short, but sweet maple syrup season.
    This is what Jim Parker, owner of Parker’s Historic Clapsaddle Farm in the village of Ilion, looks forward to every year.
    Last year, the syrup season was cut short when the nights became too warm, as did the days. Parker said this year the nights have remained cold and the days have warmed up, and when this weather pattern remains constant it makes for the perfect tapping season.
    “It looks as if the trees are going to bud next week, so we’re probably going to have a short tapping season, but we’re going to have a flood of sap this week making for a good maple syrup season,” said Parker on Wednesday.
    According to Parker, the only place in the world where maple syrup can be produced is in the northeastern United States and Canada because of the combination of cold nights and warm days, which allow the sap to rise.
    Currently, New York is only tapping one percent of its sap trees, while Vermont is tapping 22 percent and sells its syrup to places like Asia, said Parker.
    U.S. Senator Charles Schumer is proposing to offer grants through the Farm Bill for those who produce maple syrup and those that want to. Parker said Schumer has a good idea.
    “Here is a product that can be sold throughout the world, unique to the Northeast, and right now we’re not doing anything about it when we really should be,” said Parker.
    If the bill passes, Parker said he would use grant moneys to add on to the evaporator building at his farm and to get a bigger evaporator.
    To make maple syrup Parker uses a wood burning evaporator to boil the sap down to a concentrated liquid. “By boiling 70 gallons of sap, 30 gallons of water are evaporated every hour, which can produce at least three gallons of syrup,” said Parker.
    The evaporation system has been used to produce maple syrup for a hundred years.
    Before that, a flat pan was used to boil and evaporate water from the sap to create sugar rather than syrup.
    “About 150 years ago maple sugar was used for everything from baking to cooking,” said Parker. Although the sugar was used for almost everything it was never given to guests since it had a dark color. “As a sign of honor and hospitality guests would receive white sugar that was usually shipped from overseas,” he added.
    Sap is usually clear if tapped early enough in the season, but as the temperature begins to rise the sap can change to an orange-brown color. “This usually occurs when the buds on the trees face the sun, which produces a chemical reaction causing the sap to turn from clear to color, which gives a bitter taste to the syrup,” said Parker.
    Page 2 of 2 - To avoid tapping the colored sap Parker uses conservative tapping and taps three to four buckets around different sides of the tree, which allow him to choose if the sap is desired or not. “A lot maple production is now done with tubes, but I prefer to use buckets so I can see what has been produced. If the sap is colored it has become too concentrated and I don’t use it,” he said.
    Parker said he does use some tubes to produce sap, but only for trees that are at a higher elevation and are difficult to tap with buckets.
    Throughout his 80 acres of land Parker has room for 400 taps.
    This year, Parker said he plans to have 180 taps.
    “I really enjoy making syrup and at this time of year it’s what you do,” said Parker. “It also makes for great exercise since the buckets of sap can weigh up to 30 pounds a piece, so it really is and excellent work out. Everyone should have a farm.”
    Maple Syrup Weekend is scheduled at the Ilion Farmers’ and Artisan’s Market this Friday and Saturday. There will be demonstrations of new and old maple syrup making, free wagon rides and the regular market, open each Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    There will also be an Easter egg hunt on Friday at 1 p.m. for children five years of age and younger and another egg hunt on Saturday at noon for children from ages 6 to 10.
    Parker’s Historic Clapsaddle Farm is located at 437 Otsego St., state Route 51.
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