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Shelburne savours the sweet taste of the first sap tap

February 27, 2016   ·   0 Comments

The Simcoe and District Maple Syrup Producers’ celebrated the approach of the sweet days of spring with the annual maple syrup tapping kick off just east of Shelburne on Saturday, February 20.

The event, which was attended by Simcoe and District Maple Syrup Producers and local politicians MPP Sylvia Jones, Dufferin County Warden Laura Ryan, and the Deputy Mayor of Mulmur Heather Hayes, included a tour and tapping of the maple sugar trees at the farm of Ken Mikoliew and Caroline Mach in Mulmur Township.

The Simcoe and District Maple Syrup Producers’ Association covers a wide area, which includes all of Simcoe County, York Region and Dufferin County. It is one of 11 local chapters of the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association formed in 1966 – making 2016 their 50th anniversary.

The Simcoe and District Chapter has about 30 members with nearly 500 members provincially.

The annual tapping-off event generates excitement around the industry and gets the public thinking about the upcoming season.

Delicious maple syrup treats began the day, as well as a viewing of the Mikoliew-Mach maple syrup operation. David DeVillers, President of the Simcoe and District Association officially welcomed everyone “to the start of the season.”

DeViller called syrup “the farmer’s first crop of the season before going into the field to plow.”

Ken Mikoliew thanked the crowd for attending and admitted that making syrup was “a terribly expensive hobby.”

He has been the owner of the Mansfield Outdoor Centre since 1983, and he and his wife began the operation two and a half years ago when they bought the 93 acre farm with syrup production in mind.

Mikoliew said he “got the bug” in high school with his friend Phil Bonnick while visiting Phil’s godfather’s farm.

The pair of teens made a steel evaporator from a 4 x 8 piece of metal in shop class and fashioned sap buckets from recycled McDonald’s pickle cans.

“We spent seven magnificent days watching spring come to the forest and life returning to the woods,” said Ken. “Ever since, I wanted to do this. It is the part I love.”

Last year Ken and Caroline had 150 taps. This year, however, they have increased the number to 600 and are using what Ken fondly refers to as “fancy high tech equipment – a long way from that sheet of steel 40 years ago.”

The farm has about 10 acres of sugar maples running downhill into a valley on their property – making it tough going in the bush and a “real labour of love” for the family and friends who help to run the operation.

If you are wondering if the mild winter will effect this year’s syrup crop, the producers’ predictions for the season on Saturday morning were that “as long as the weather is good during syrup season, with temperatures in the +5 to -5 degree range in a twenty-four hour cycle, the mild winter and lack of snow will not affect the outcome.

“It was a good summer with lots of rain so the trees are not stressed,” they said.

However, the lack of snow does mean that “when the sap starts to flow it will come quickly.” According to the producers, in South-Western Ontario, production started two weeks ago in areas like Waterloo with syrup season about two weeks ahead.

By Marni Walsh



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