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March 25, 2010

Sap is oozing at The Farmers’ Museum


BY MICHELLE MILLER
STAFF WRITER

Do you know how many gallons of sap it takes to make a gallon’s worth of maple syrup? At what temperature does the sap turn into syrup?

How long does the maple syrup season typically last? All of these questions can be answered at The Farmers’ Museum’s Sugaring Off Sundays.

The annual event honors the maple sugar season by featuring historic and contemporary sugaring demonstrations, a pancake breakfast, children’s activities and more. Festivities take place each Sunday in March and will include Easter Sunday this year.

Admission includes the pancake breakfast, which is served in the Louis C. Jones Center from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. All other activities, such as getting the chance to taste Jack Wax (hot syrup poured over snow), see the blacksmith working in his shop, and taking a spin on Empire State Carousel, are held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

According to Garret Livermore, vise president of education at the museum, maple syrup activities can be traced back to the 1950s when a governors’ dispute ended up in a taste-off amongst several states at The Farmer’s Museum.

While pointing toward the Bump Tavern, Livermore said the museum still has the maple tree that Vermont Gov. Joseph B. Johnson gave as a gift at the time. He said New York Gov. William Averell Harriman gave Johnson a tree from New York in exchange. Sap from the Vermont tree is used for a portion of the sap that is used to boil down into syrup during Sugaring Off Sundays.

Farmer Wayne Coursen said he has been boiling sap into syrup and providing information about the maple syrup making process at the Sugaring Off Sundays event for 13 years. He said he tells visitors that the process dates back to the Native Americans.

``Although they never got it to the point of syrup they did get something sweet,’’ said Coursen.

ôIt was when we got kettles that we could really boil,’’ he continued. According to Coursen, there were political ramifications for producing maple syrup. He said when the North was against slavery Judge William Cooper tried to convince people not to buy sugar cane from the south because that would promote the use of slaves for labor. That plan fell through however, said Coursen.

Although there has been much progress throughout the years, the principals of turning sap into syrup has always been the same, said Coursen. He said the objective is to evaporate the water from the sap and the longer it takes to do that, the darker they syrup will be. Coursen said sap officially becomes syrup when it reaches seven degrees above boiling.

Tyler Koffer, 10, and Anthony Birch, 11, were visiting the museum last Sunday and said they liked the maple candy (the hot syrup poured over snow). The boys, both of Hartwick, said they also enjoyed the breakfast earlier that morning. Marshall Bowmin, 10, of West Winfield said he also enjoyed the breakfast. His plate was empty as he waited for the rest of his family to finish.

``I love the pancakes that they make and I love they syrup,’’ he said. Bowmin said it was his third time attending the event. He said it is a good educational opportunity and a family outing.

Fred Coffer of Cooperstown said he and his family have been to the Sugaring Off Sundays several times. He said he decided to get the family out this year because he was feeling a little bit of Spring fever.

``We thought it would be fun to get out and run around and see some things,’’ said Coffer.

``It reminds you of the way things used to be,’’ he added.

Livermore said the weather has been good for getting people out and about, but it has not been good for getting sap from the trees. It has been too warm for that, he said.

According to Todd Kenyon, spokesperson for the museum, Sugaring Off Sundays has become very popular and attendance continues to grow.

Admission is $8 for adults, $4 for children 7 to 12 and free for children 6 and under. Admission included breakfast and no reservations are required. Facebook fans receive free rides on the carousel.

Sugaring Off Sundays is sponsored in part by Wal-Mart, Otsego County Maple Producers, Sysco, Quandt’s Foodservice, Don Olin Reality and Gordon B. Roberts Agency.

The Farmers’ Museum and Fenimore Art Museum will open for the season on April 1.