March 15th, 2016
MINER MAPLE: A TRADITION WITH DEEP ROOTS
It is unclear if the Miner maple tradition extends back to the days when William Miner’s Uncle John Miner was running the farm, but maple production was certainly prevalent at Heart’s Delight Farm. According to records submitted by the assistant superintendent of Heart’s Delight Farm, in 1918 there were 12,000 tapped maple trees and six sugar houses. One of those sugar houses was located in the area of the farm behind where our dairy barn now sits. The sugar house is long gone, but the stone ramp where sap was delivered to the sugar house is still visible.
The maple industry has changed substantially since William Miner’s day of collecting sap in metal buckets and hauling on a horse-drawn sleigh. But William Miner would have undoubtedly embraced the technology that has increased production to a 5-year national average of .273 gallons per tap according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). New England’s 5-year average is .289 gallons/tap.
In the late 1960s, Miner Institute built a sugarhouse in West Chazy. The sugarhouse was used as part of a maple program that operated until the late 1990s. According to a report filed following the 1968 maple season, the sugar house had more than 2,000 visitors that season. Most of those visitors were regional maple producers or school groups visiting the sugar house for a class field trip. That 1968 season was not a great one; according to the report the Institute’s 2,250 taps produced 12,640 gallons of sap. Maple research, data collection, and extension activities were key components to the Miner maple program. The 1968 “maple project” looked at the effects of weather conditions on sap flow, paying particular attention to wind velocity and temperature. Data on sap production, syrup production, tree thinning, evaporator efficiency, and production costs were also recorded.
Today, Miner Institute rents roughly 10 thousand taps to two prominent North Country sugar-making families: the Parkers and the Atwoods. Both families have been producing maple syrup in Clinton County for generations. The Parker Family Maple Farm rents 7400 trees and is one of the largest maple syrup producers in Clinton County. Robert Atwood rents about 3,000 trees and also the Miner sugarhouse where he has been boiling his syrup for more than 12 years.