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Old June 25th, 2014, 05:47 PM

Location: SW Ontario
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Default Newbie Questions

Hi All.

I've been tapping a couple of trees in the backyard for a few years and quite enjoying it. However we are considering purchasing a property with 5 acres of mature bush on it, mostly maple trees. If we purchase the property, I'd like to ramp this to somewhere between crazed hobby status and tiny side enterprise. But....I have some beginner questions.

1) Regulations: What regulations do I need to be aware of? I think there might be three areas - one is food/cooking type regulations. The second is maple syrup grading and quality. And the third one would be syrup industry specific, i.e. if there's any sort of maple cartel in Ontario that I need to join for 'protection'. :)
2) Estimate of trees: The acreage is mature trees. Like really mature - I don't recall Trees are all huge, and go all the way up. And they're all huge trees, not much undergrowth. Can anyone tell me how I might estimate the number of trees/acre in a bush like that? I would assume most of the trees would handle 3 taps based on what I'm reading. I'm trying to estimate how much syrup I might produce, because that will impact my marketing plans. It'll also dictate how stupid I get with tapping in the first year.
3) Vacuum or bucket? My intention is to balance starting small with an eye to growing into some small enterprise with a focus on marketing. I read that vacuum will double production. Should I start with a small vacuum operation? or start with a small bucket operation and move to vacuum later (I'm wondering if there's any drawback to switching collection methods).
4) It's not clear to me what type of maple trees are there, and since I haven't yet purchased, can't go back and check. In SWOntario, any idea what type of maple I would expect in a really old bush? Sugar maple? red maple? something else?
5) What's it take to get organic status? Any other certifications?
6) in terms of collection/storage, how long can I store sap? Can I collect and store in a big tank, and then boil every 3rd day or on the weekends or something?

Anything else I should be considering as I start a preliminary business plan/dream?

Last edited by waterwheel; June 25th, 2014 at 06:15 PM.
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Old June 29th, 2014, 02:14 PM
Bryan Ex's Avatar
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Lots of questions there waterwheel so I'll try to get you going in the right direction.

As far as maple regulations go you will start with the Ontario regs which are summarized on the Ontario Producers Association website here - Useful Information on Ontario Maple Syrup - Regulations and Inspections . That's all you need to get up and running in Ontario right now. There is no cartel, licensing, or quota system. It's a completely free market. Federal registration and inspection (CFIA) is needed only if you plan to export to another province or country OR if you want to add third party quality inspections to your products. It's way cheaper than organic and tells the consumer your syrup is inspected by a government agency.

Sounds like a forester will be your best friend for estimating tap counts and your volume will vary depending on many different issues. Sugar content, tree crown, size of trees, forest health, vac or buckets, etc. You could always measure out 230 feet x 230 feet and count potential taps in that square. That would be tap count per acre.

Buckets are easier to get started with but require way more labour during the season and will collect less sap. If you are planning under 250 taps then start with buckets to get the rest of the process sorted out first. You will get your money back in full if not more for the cost of the buckets should you sell them later.

There are four or five very common maples in SW Ontario. Post a photo of a leaf and we can identify it right away.

Organic status is easy. It just takes a pile of money and a pile of paperwork. Leave this one until later and only if you have a market that will justify the added cost and aggravation.

Sap storage is a variable. Every third day will work for most of the season providing you keep the tanks clean between uses, out of the sun, and cool as possible. 3 days storage will be difficult later in the season when the days are very warm and sap is already cloudy during collection. For the most part it will mean you need to boil a little longer and your finished syrup will be a little darker.

Check Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association (OMSPA) website this fall/winter for the list of "Info Days" on their main page. These are single day events across the province with a ton of info for producers and usually a great lunch with other maple folks around.

- Bryan
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