Although exceptionally warm weather has disrupted a number of winter pastimes this year, one age-old Canadian tradition is off to an equally exceptional early start.
Local politicians joined producers from the Simcoe and District Maple Syrup Association Friday morning, driving the ceremonial first taps into maple trees at Backwoods Maple Syrup’s new facility near Coldwater.
The maple syrup season historically began in early April or late March, slowly pushing its way back into February over the years, said association president, Jack McFadden.
However, he said he doesn’t remember a year where maple syrup production began as early as late January in the area — which was the case for a number of local producers this year.
“This is unheard for this part of Ontario, but it gives us a chance to see what it's like (for) the folks in New Hampshire and Vermont are used to doing,” he said.
With the vast majorly of Canada’s "tappable" maple trees located in Ontario, McFadden said there is tremendous opportunity for growth within the industry, noting that Quebec, despite the amount of trees in Ontario, produces around 90 per cent of Canada’s maple syrup.
“Ontario has by far more potential tappable trees than all of the rest of Canada combined,” he said. “We know that the market is way beyond what Ontario is producing — lots of opportunity we look forward to.”
Backwoods’ Paul Partridge is one local producer who is taking advantage of Ontario’s abundance of maple trees.
Since beginning as a “small production” nearly 20 years ago, his business has since grown dramatically, and opened a brand-new facility last year.
“We started about 18 years ago, just as a small production of 40 pails, and as you can see, we've grown quite a bit over the years,” he said. “We're very proud that we have over 6,000 taps now in our bush.”
On Friday morning, politicians from around the region tried their hands at tapping maple trees.
Oro-Medonte mayor Randy Greenlaw said he was impressed with the Backwoods facility, calling it the “Taj Mahal of maple syrup.”
“It's great for the whole area,” Greenlaw said, pointing out the tourism and economic benefits of local businesses like Backwoods.
“There's a lot of great opportunities for the tourism business in Oro-Medonte … we are perfectly situated between two urban centres … (and) people like to get out and enjoy the more rural cultural heritage.”