LORDA Park gives first syrup production tour of the season

Amanda Jess
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LANSDOWNE – It’s been a slow start to the season, but the sap is now trickling out of the trees at LORDA Park.

The cold weather has been a setback. So far this year, they’ve tapped approximately 80 gallons worth of sap, comparable to 240 gallons by this time last year.

“We have to listen to Mother Nature. She’s the boss,” curator Dave Leese says.

The season is typically three to four weeks long with colder evening temperatures and mid-range daytime temperatures.

The weather forecast for next week isn’t looking promising for the non-profit operation either.

“The concern for me, when it breaks, we’ll only have a week to 10 days to get good syrup instead of three to four weeks,” Leese said.

Once the buds come out on the trees, the syrup becomes too bitter, Leese said.

When they are able to get into full-scale operation, production will be better than ever with a new evaporator.

With their last one, they were only able to boil a gallon and a half at a time. Now, they can boil 25 gallons an hour.

“We lost so much sap because we couldn’t boil it,” Leese said. Once the sap is gathered from the trees, it can’t be held for very long before boiling, or else it goes rancid.

The entire process is very labour-intensive. The park in Lansdowne has 450 trees tapped, whether it’s long lines from several trees leading into a barrel, or small buckets by individual trees.

Depending on how much the sap is running, it can be gathered up to three times a day.

It’s put through a filter to get bark out, and put into a giant container before going through reverse osmosis to remove 50 per cent of the water.

From there, it enters the evaporator, heated by wood, and is boiled to a temperature of 219 degrees Fahrenheit before heading to the finisher/bottler.

It’s heated to 190 degrees Fahrenheit in there, and an assembly line is formed to sanitize the bottles with an iodine solution, bottle, cap and label.

“It takes 40 gallons of sap to get one gallon of syrup,” Jim Crawford, one of the directors, said.

On Saturday, they had their first public visit of the season, with 25 to 30 people dropping in, including the Salvation Army from Westville.

 “Anyone is welcome to come see the process,” Leese said, adding that they should call ahead to make sure they’re boiling, as it’s all weather-dependent.

As well as producing on site, they also sell many maple products, including syrup, candy, maple flavoured butter and barbecue sauce.

As a charity organization that offers seniors and persons with disabilities an accessible park, it isn’t feasible for them to sell their product in commercial businesses due to the costs involved.

They have been in smaller stores in the past, such as Ferguson’s in Westville and the Medicine Shoppe in New Glasgow, because the shops sold it without taking any of the profits.

They also have costs to pay off for the new evaporator, and have applied for a grant.

Amanda.jess@ngnews.ca

On Twitter: @NGNewsAmanda

Organizations: Salvation Army

Geographic location: LORDA Park, Westville, Lansdowne New Glasgow

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