Rob Berkvens is seen outside his Monkland store, holding a bottle of maple syrup. He explained how when an evaporator is purchased from him, he requests that a sample of the first boil is sent to him. Thompson Goddard Photo

MONKLAND – There is nothing quite like the taste of freshly produced Canadian maple syrup in the spring. There are few who would stop to think about how the syrup made it from the maple tree to your kitchen table, but there are many steps in the process.

As the days become warmer, and the nights remain cold, pressure builds in the tree which results in the sap to begin flowing. Maples are relatively slow growing trees and is generally accepted when deciding when a tree is ready to be tapped, size is a better indicator than years of growth. The industry standard for beginning to tap a tree is when it reaches 25 cm in diameter at breast height being the industry standard for tapping to begin. Sap producers drill a small hole in the tree, a spout is inserted into the tree, and the sap runs either into a bucket or a tubing. The sap is collected in a collection tank and the process of turning maple sap into maple syrup begins. The sap can be processed through a reverse osmosis machine, which removes some of the water from the sap before it is boiled in the evaporator.  As the water evaporates the golden colour and maple flavour develop as the sap thickens. Upon reaching the correct temperature it is drawn off. After being filtered, graded for colour and flavour it is poured into containers and ready to be enjoyed. 

When passing a sugar bush, one can’t help but notice the sugar shanty with the smoke billowing from the chimney. When glancing into the forest, the trees either have sap buckets or tubing collecting the maple sap and beginning the process which will result in the delicious maple syrup. Where are the maple producers able to purchase the supplies, they require to harvest, process and supply maple syrup to the public?

Since 2004, Rob Berkvens has provided information, advice, and access to maple syrup production-products to producers at CDL Eastern location in Monkland, Ontario. Information on the CDL Sugaring Equipment website explains the company “develops, manufactures, and distributes equipment for maple syrup production and maple product processing.”

Berkvens explained his area is between Highway 417 and the Quebec border, he commented how “85 per cent of my producers are 1-100 taps with 15 per cent at 500 to 10,000.” Products sold include everything necessary to produce maple syrup from the “tree to container”. While the larger equipment can be ordered and delivered direct to the customer from CDL manufacturing facilities in Quebec, items such as reverse osmosis machines and smaller evaporators are available for purchase in [the] Monkland store, noting “I’m always most satisfied when I see a big smile after the customer purchases an evaporator.”  

He mentioned how rewarding his work in the maple industry has been, noting that one of his goals is “to convince people to harvest syrup and protect our remaining forests.” He continued it is an exciting time to be involved in the maple syrup production field as there are several research projects currently underway, coupled with the creation of new products and working to protect the health and sustainability of our forests.

“Maple producers are hardworking, innovative and deserve every penny they earn! So please, as the season is now upon us, take the time to visit a maple producer, sample one of nature’s near perfect wonders from syrup to taffy, candy, cotton candy, granulated maple sugar and much more.”

The Ontario Maple Syrup Producers’ Association mentions on its website how over 600 “sugar makers” are represented by the organization. There are 11 local chapters in the OMSPA including The Eastern Chapter, The Ottawa Valley District and The Lanark District.