Warm, fluffy, golden pancakes are nothing without the drizzle of sweet, delicious, amber maple syrup. And if you’re looking for something more pure and down-to-earth than the sugary artificially flavored syrups found in the average supermarket, the Northwest Pennsylvania Maple Producers Association (NPMPA) has a solution. The association will be holding their 12th annual Taste & Tour event on Saturday, March 14 and Sunday, March 15.
The event will be held on both days from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will take place at maple farms in Erie, Crawford, Warren, Venango and Mercer counties. Along with showcasing various types of maple syrup, many producers will be offering walking tours of their production facilities and featuring many different types of maple products.
According to Jan Wood, head of Hurry Hill Farm in Edinboro and a member of the NPMPA, the long transition from winter to spring is perfect for tapping maple trees. This was even known by the Indian tribes that once inhabited Edinboro who referred to the area as Conneautee, meaning land of the lingering snow.
“There aren’t four seasons, there’s five seasons and the maple sugaring is the season between winter and spring when you can’t do any kind of farming or planting,” said Wood.
Wood operates the Hurry Hill Maple Farm and museum, both located on Fry Road in Edinboro. Along with Pennsylvania Farm Show blue-ribbon winning maple syrup, Wood will be selling maple candy, maple barbecue sauce and even maple hot dogs during this year’s taste and tour event.
“I think what we sell the most of here is free of charge and that’s the experience because the museum is free and it’s an experience that you can’t find anywhere else in Pennsylvania,” said Woods.
Along with Hurry Hill Farm in Edinboro, many other sugarhouses in northwest Pennsylvania take part in the annual celebration including Fort LeBoeuf Maple Syrup in Waterford. Bill Phillips owns Fort LeBoeuf Maple Syrup and has been active in the NPMPA for roughly 20 years and is currently president of the association.
“We had been doing a Maple Sunday for a couple of years at our sugarhouse and I recommended it to the NPMPA that they may do the same thing because I was having quite a bit of success with it,” said Phillips.
Phillips works fast to sell maple syrup, maple peanuts and even maple butter at his sugarhouse. According to Phillips, those products are enjoyed by an average of 200 to 250 people per day during the Taste & Tour weekend. Fort LeBoeuf Maple Syrup is just one of the many sugarhouses that is showcased on the association’s annual event.
“The association aids the people that are in the Taste & Tour. We pay a fee to be on the Taste & Tour and the NPMPA also pays for some of the advertising,” said Phillips. “We’re going to have advertising in The Erie Times coming up next Thursday and hopefully we get some television stations to pick us up and mention that we’re going to be doing this.”
Even though each sugarhouse must pay a fee to enter the Taste & Tour, the association itself does not have a financial gain.Instead, Phillips says that the industry is stronger because of the association’s presentation of how pure maple syrup is produced. According to Phillips, the association has been in existence since the early 1950s when some maple producers decided they should help promote the maple industry. Since then, the association has been helping maple producers attend the Pennsylvania Farm Show that is held every January in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. At the show, maple producers sell syrup, other maple products and syrup production supplies.
The Taste & Tour is in its 12th year and, according to NPMPA meeting minutes, has tried many different advertising methods over the last three to four years including TV advertisements and social media promotions. A pancake breakfast was held by Sweet Traditions Sugarhouse, owned by Casey Catalfu in Corry during the 2014 Taste & Tour.This year, there is a Facebook event page for the Taste & Tour and upcoming press in The Erie Times-News.
Maddie Wickett is a contributing writer for The Spectator.