January 26, 2021 | By: Carol Lea Spence

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LEXINGTON, Ky., (Jan. 26, 2021) — To celebrate and educate are the goals of the 2nd annual Kentucky Maple Day, sponsored by the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service and the Kentucky Maple Syrup Association. From Livingston County in the west to Pike County in the east and parts in-between, maple syrup producers will open their farms and sugarhouses to the public Feb. 6, during the peak of the maple sugaring season.

While many people don’t associate maple syrup with Kentucky, its history goes back to the region’s first settlers.

“Prior to World War II, there was a lack of available sugar in many parts of the state,” said Shad Baker, agricultural and natural resources extension agent in Letcher County. “Especially in the mountainous, timbered part of the state, there were a lot of folks who produced their own maple syrup.”

When people started shifting to refined sugar, the old ways died out.

“People kind of forgot this was something their grandparents regularly did,” Baker said. 

Activities will vary at each location. Producers will showcase their operations and offer pure maple syrup for sale. Some operations will also offer tours of their sugar bush, which is the stand of maple trees, and sap-collecting systems.

Seth Long, president of the Kentucky Maple Syrup Association, said the day will be an excellent opportunity for families and interested future producers to tour a local maple syrup operation, gain interesting knowledge and purchase syrup and other maple-related products.

“The process and history are fascinating, because it was not a unique experience. Everyone was doing it up and down these creeks and hollows in the mountains at one time, but they were doing it using old-fashioned technology, collecting the sap with pails and buckets and boiling it in open cast-iron pots out in the front yard,” Long said. “What excites me is all the technology we have today to make maple syrup into an economic driver that can really help Kentuckians with their agricultural pursuits.”

Maple syrup production at Southdown Farm in Letcher County

Sheryl Long of Southdown Farm in Letcher County checks the sugar content of the maple sap as it boils down. Jeremy Williams watches the process.

Maple trees are prolific in Kentucky. Though sugar maple is the tree people traditionally think of as a source for the syrup, red maple is a choice tree as well, with no difference in the taste or the quality of the syrup.

“We have more red maple that are 1-inch or greater in diameter than any other species in the state,” said Jacob Muller, assistant professor of hardwood silviculture and forest operations extension in the UK Department of Forestry and Natural Resources.

Muller encourages landowners to think of their woods as an asset.

“It all comes down to the landowner’s objectives and what they want to accomplish. Certainly, take advantage of the trees that you have on your property as a resource,” he said. “There are many folks who have a lot of maple on their property.”

Kentucky's premiere maple sugaring event is a day for the whole family to get outdoors and enjoy one of Kentucky’s locally produced products. Each maple syrup producer is different, so if visitors plan carefully, they will be able to tour several sugarhouses to enjoy a variety of methods in turning sap into syrup.

Guests should plan to wear masks and practice social distancing. Organizers recommend that people call producers ahead of time if they have any questions about what to expect.

More information, including event times and a map of all participating farms, is online at https://ky-maplesyrup.ca.uky.edu/ky-maple-day.

The Kentucky Maple Syrup Association developed from the Kentucky-Virginia Maple School offered by UK Cooperative Extension in 2016. The UK Cooperative Extension Service is part of the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. With its land-grant partner, Kentucky State University, the UK Cooperative Extension Service brings the university to the people in their local communities, addressing issues of importance to all Kentuckians.

Contact: 

Shad Baker, shad.baker@uky.edu; Jacob Muller, jacob.muller@uky.edu

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