A "sugarmaker " is a forester, businessperson, chef, and plumber all rolled into one.
Somerset County, Maine is the largest maple syrup producing county in the USA (Yes That Includes Vermont!), and where Strawberry Hill Farms is located.
Strawberry Hill Farms is a Member of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association and is a MOFGA certified organic Maine maple syrup producer. Strawberry Hill Farms is also a member of the Maine Maple Producers Association, bettering the quality and standards of others and ourselves in the Maine maple business, and promoting our great state.
Maple production is sustainable indefinitely on properly managed woods. A periodic light thinning of the trees will maintain good vigor and health. There are many sugarwoods that have been in sustained production for over 100 years and are still going strong.
Our bottled syrup is all Grade A Light, Medium, Dark or Extra Dark 100% pure maple syrup. The grade or color indicates the carmelization of the sugars present, and generally indicates the strength of maple flavor. Lighter syrup has a candy/vanilla flavor, and the darker syrup is the heavier sugar flavor. Every true syrupmaker will tell you the hardest syrup to make is a delicate Grade A Light amber with nice flavor. This is produced in the beginning of the season is followed by ever darker syrup. Medium has a nice flavor without the strong mapleyness of Dark or Extra Dark. The end of season brings "commercial" grade syrup, which sometimes has a strong or bitter flavor; they are blended with the cheap sweeteners at the supermarket.
We collect maple sap during the springtime for about 6 weeks. A small hole is drilled in the trees, and a fitting is carefully tapped in. we tap in excess of 15,000 trees. The sap flows into small lines, then into larger lines that transmit the sap to storage tanks. We have about 400,000 feet of 5/16 inch tubing and 100,00 feet of 11/4 inch tubing. All the tubing stays up year round, and the larger tubing is suspended on cable or wire. After brief storage the sap is concentrated, each 40 gallons of sap yielding 1 gallon of maple syrup. The syrup is filtered, packed hot in barrels, and stored between seasons until orders come in. One or more barrels of syrup is then reheated, refiltered, graded, and repacked in smaller containers, somewhere between 1 oz and 5 gallons. We inventory more than 30 different containers in glass, tins, and plastic, keep a full stock of inventory to ship, and tens of thousands of empty containers ready for filling. If it sounds like a lot of work it is, and I glossed over all the details! Details like 5 feet of annual snowpack, natural disasters, freezing/burning pumps, slow suppliers, brutish shippers, mud season (the 5th Maine season), sap runs that don't stop for sleep or maintenance, conditions of daily freezing and thawing, etc. Any true sugarmaker will tell you all this is part of the fun. All this work makes syrup expensive, but good syrup is worth it.
Growth of the Maple Market
Everyone has been busy. Production and markets have doubled in the last ten years and are expected to double again in the next ten. Quality of syrup is better than ever. Testing by the industry at all stages from tree to shelf for purity and quality helps keep the good reputation of maple products.
Maple syrup is a Better Sweetener! No additives, or preservatives. No fat, or cholesterol. More sweetening power than honey or corn syrup.