Sunday, February 26, 2017

Opportunities Abound in Maple Industry

From Empire Farm & Dairy magazine


GOUVERNEUR — There are plenty of opportunities for success in the maple industry.

That was the message stressed by Ryan Caldwell, director of sales for Parker’s Real Maple of Canton, St. Lawrence County, during Maple Expo on Jan. 28 at Gouverneur High School.

“Everybody can be successful in this business,” Caldwell said. “People want it (maple syrup) and it will not not sell.”

The event, in its fifth year, was hosted by the Gouverneur FFA and attracted more than 120 maple farmers ranging from hobbyists to large-scale producers.

Workshops were offered by Cornell University maple and forestry experts, maple producers, Farm Credit East and Family Farm Insurance agents.

Helen Thomas, executive director of the New York Maple Producers Association, was the keynote speaker. She explained what the organization is doing to promote the maple industry and assist maple producers in growing their businesses.

Michael Farrell, director of Cornell University’s Uihlein Forest, a maple syrup research and extension field station in Lake Placid, discussed marketing ideas in one of his workshops.

“The more we put into marketing the more we will sell,” Farrell said. “There is a huge opportunity to get people to consume it.”

In the United States the annual consumption of maple syrup is only 2 to 4 ounces per capita.

Doug Thompson of Gouverneur produces maple syrup from 9,000 tree taps. He also buys sap from neighbors. He sells most of his syrup in bulk and sells maple candy and cream.

Thompson chose not to boil sap in mid-January during a warm spell because of the size of his operation. He intended to spend most of February drilling taps.

Mike and Sharon McConlogue of Macomb tapped some trees on Jan. 15 during a warm stretch and produced about a gallon and a half of syrup from 40 taps.

The McConlogues, originally from Forked River, N.J., are just learning about maple syrup production. Mike says this is just a hobby for them, and he doesn’t intend to tap all of their 350-400 trees at once.

Mike said people from their area of New Jersey are aware of real maple syrup but are not familiar with other maple products.

Joshua Parker, CEO of Parker’s Real Maple, was scheduled to speak about finding success in the maple industry at a young age. He was unable to attend due to a delayed flight in New York City, and Caldwell filled in on his behalf.

Parker was producing maple syrup at age 11 with 100 buckets, 3,000 taps in 2015 or at age 15? started selling maple syrup at age 15. 

Last fall he appeared on the TV show “Shark Tank” to try to get investors interested in his maple butter and cotton candy products. He did not secure an investment but the national exposure did help his business sales.

Parker, now 19, has 15-20 people involved in the production of the company’s products.

Caldwell, 20, said the company’s success is due to their persistent marketing efforts.

They attend food shows across the country to help attract buyers to their products.

More than 120 people attended the program, said Gouverneur FFA President Kennedy Hayden McGill.

Maple Expo was supported by Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County and St. Lawrence County Maple Producers Association.

“There’s a lot to be said to make sure you put out the highest-quality product,” Farrell said. “If it’s not the highest quality it shouldn’t go in a bottle.”

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