A Sweet Tour: Bonhomie Acres Maple Syrup
Recently, ODA’s Division of Food Safety took a tour of Bonhomie Acres Maple Syrup, located in Fredericktown, Ohio. The Brown Family, owner of Bonhomie Acres, has been operating for four generations making high-quality, pure maple products.
Dan Brown was kind enough to show us the ropes of their operation. Our first stop on the tour was an introduction on how to tap sap from a maple tree. Sap can be collected from any native species of maple tree in Ohio; however, sugar and black maples tend to be the first choice for producers.
It may be hard to believe, but little has changed over the years in how maple syrup is produced. Trees are still tapped and clear sap is collected using bags or pails. Many producers, including those with larger operations, now use vacuum systems that suck the sap out of the trees to increase yield. The sap is sent through tubes, which run throughout the sugar bush– Bonhomie Acres uses over 6 miles of tubing on their farm!
Once the sap has been collected, making maple syrup requires boiling off water from the sap until the desired sugar concentration is achieved. This step is accomplished by using an evaporator. Additional water can be removed before boiling through a process known as reverse osmosis.
Sap is boiled to become syrup then the syrup is then filtered to remove any “sugar sand” and the final product is hot packed into containers at 180 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition to our tour, Dr. Gary Graham, State Maple Syrup Specialist for OSU Extension gave an interesting history lesson about maple syrup.
According to Dr. Graham, Native Americans are widely recognized as the first to discover the sap from broken maple trees, it was originally boiled down in hollowed out logs by placing hot rocks into the sugary solution.
When the first Agriculture Census came out in 1840, Ohio was the number one maple producer in the country and the state kept that ranking as top producer until the early 1900’s.
North America is the only place in the world that maple syrup is produced. In the U.S. there are 12 maple producing states and, in recent years, Ohio has been ranked 4th or 5th in maple production consistently.
Maple producers add 5-6 million dollars to Ohio’s economy yearly, helping to make food and agriculture Ohio’s top industry.
Here are some additional Ohio Maple Facts:
- About 40 gallons of sap are needed to produce a gallon of pure maple syrup
- Ohio produces 100,000 gallons annually
- Ohio is home to 900 maple producers
- 70% of maple syrup is sold “farm gate” meaning directly to consumers.