Maple farm helps others get in the business with coaching and equipment

Mahlon Hoover heads into the woods as soon as possible when Mother Nature hints a new maple sugaring season is about to begin.

He likes to get going early with syrup production because the Hoover farm becomes a very busy place this time of year. There are the thousands of taps to tend in the maple trees whose sap must be collected, boiled and bottled for the maple sugaring operation. Then, there’s the bustle of buyers and sellers who converge on the farm. Pulteney Valley Farm on Pulteney Road in Steuben County is home to Hoover Maple Supplies, one of just a few dozen maple supply dealers in the state.

Hoover and his wife Emma, with their children in tow, showed their shop and showroom filled with maple sugaring equipment, from tubing to packaging to evaporators, and where they produce some 500 gallons of syrup a season.

Mahlon Hoover said they’ve been in maple sugaring for about six years and Black Buggy Bulk Foods in Hopewell is one of the places selling their syrup. They had help getting started from fellow producers in nearby Italy Valley, Malcolm MacKenzie and Lane Clute. Mahlon now helps others get started and sells supplies and equipment as a dealer for companies such as Canada-based Dominion & Grimm Inc.

“I can pretty much get them anything they need,” said Hoover, who is one of 28 maple supply dealers statewide listed on The Maple News dealer directory.

New York state is second in the nation for maple syrup production, after Vermont, and home to the largest resource of tappable maple trees nationwide with over 2,000 maple sugar makers. An abundant and sustainable crop, New York’s gourmet maple industry is vibrant and growing on an annual basis, according to the New York State Maple Producers Association.

The state’s climate and forestry “make it naturally perfect for maple syrup production,” according to the nonprofit industry advocate.

Hoover said he sees a lot of interest locally in the process of maple sugaring, to learn about how it’s made and to try producing it, as well.

It takes labor, time and technique to make maple syrup, which is an entirely North America product. Not all kinds of maple trees can be harvested and the sugar maple is the preferred kind because it has a high sugar content, of about 2 percent. Cold freezing nights and warm days are required for the sap to flow properly.

Like most producers, Hoover said weather poses the greatest challenge. A thaw in late January, as seen this year, is often when sap begins to flow. Then, a return of freezing temperatures, day and night, before another change in the weather puts the harvest in a kind of roller-coaster effect. The entire tree-tapping season is short — usually not more than about four to six weeks.

A pure and natural unrefined sweetener, maple syrup is made by removing water from the sap to concentrate the natural sugars and nutrients made by the tree. One of the lowest-calorie common sweeteners, it contains vitamins and minerals including calcium, potassium and manganese.

The annual Maple Weekend events coming next month will give people a chance to tour and taste at various maple producers. Maple Weekends will take place on March 17-18 and March 24-25. Events will include pancake breakfasts and special activities at many sites. For more information, visit https://mapleweekend.nysmaple.com/.