Radiant sunshine and warm temperatures helped bring out hundreds of people for the 46th Annual Schoharie County Maple Festival Saturday.
Michael Broadwell, owner of M&M Maple Farms, sold maple syrup, maple cream and maple candies at his table for the event at the Cobleskill Fairgrounds. He said all of the bad weather preceding the festival, which included cold nights but mildly warm days, helped him produce 213 gallons of maple syrup, the highest total in the 15-year history of his business.
“That’s 100 gallons more than we produced last year and the quality of the syrup has been excellent,” he said.
In addition to ideal weather, Broadwell said his operation also got a boost this season from some new technology. His farm has long used vacuum tubing to help suck more sap out of maple trees but for the first time this year he installed “check valve spout adapters” to all 400 of his taps. The new valves, which cost about 25 cents apiece, only allow sap to flow out of the tree, never back into it, which prevents bacteria from getting into the trees, which can shorten a tree’s sap season.
“When you have cold weather at night the trees actually create a negative pressure that can draw the sap back into the trees. Bacteria can form in the lines and flow back into the tree and cause it to stop running. The check valves prevent that and gives you a longer season,” he said. “The industry has really had great success with these in the last few years. We had more sap flow and the season was probably extended a couple of weeks for us. At the end of the season when we pulled the taps I noticed the holes were still nice and clean as the day we tapped them, where before they would be discolored.”
Saturday’s festival included educational information about maple syrup production as well as crafts, vendors, several bounce houses, a pancake breakfast served by the Cobleskill Fire Department and a parade down Main Street. Cobleskill resident Denise Snyder and her 4-year-old son Ryan Wilkinson came out for the parade and the festival. She said she loved the weather Saturday and he loved the tractors in the parade. They both love maple syrup.
“The atmosphere is always fun here,” she said.
For the first time the Vernon-Verona-Sherrill Central School Future Farmers of America maple syrup trailer was on display. Keith Schiebel said his students produce about 1,000 gallons of maple syrup each year using trees owned by the school district, leased from other farms and raw sap purchased from many of the program’s former students who have gone on to be successful syrup producers.