Family and Tradition
With all the commotion of Walmart, Big Business and the corporatization of America, one stalwart industry remains thoroughly in the hands of the family-run business – Maple Syrup Production. On my travels, I have visited dozens of Maple Syrup Farms, and not once have I encountered a large corporate operation. Frequently, however, do I encounter Bill and his brother, John and his nephew, or Phil and his best friend.
The largest and most profitable farms in Quebec, Vermont and here in Ontario all started with humble beginnings and continue today under the stewardship of the descendants of those first producers. Many forests have been tapped for generations by the same family, and in some cases, well over a hundred years. I am always humbled, as a young upstart in the industry, by such tradition and knowledge garnered over so many years. These forests are some of the most beautiful forests I have seen – well cared for, with colossal Maple trees worthy of virgin forests. Forest health and longevity is an utmost priority – Maple Farmers visit each and every Maple on their farm several times a year and care for them in a way that no other land owner would. In some cases, their livelihood depends on it.
Maple Syrup producers are a friendly and congenial bunch, frequently intimately familiar with all the other producers in the area and not-infrequently, across the province. There is no sense of competition, for there is more than enough potential around – Maple Syrup occupies a tiny fraction of the sweeteners market – with corn syrup and refined sugar taking the lion’s share. And for what share it does occupy; a few lowly percentage points, Syrup from Quebec is needed to supplement Ontario’s demand. Such organizations, such as OMSPA (Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association) and the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, work to build the Maple Syrup brand and to sell maple sweeteners against its more corporate counterparts.
In addition to the undeniable and seemly endless new discoveries concerning the health advantages of Maple Syrup, the industry is one that deserves support for its inherent nature – supporting the continued success of small family-run businesses.