Did you know maple syrup is only made in North America and that Michigan produces about 82,000 gallons of syrup in any given year?
In fact, Michigan ranks fifth in the nation for maple syrup production. Why? Our early spring, with its chilly nights and warm, sun filled days, creates the perfect conditions for the first phase of maple syrup production: sap collection.
“If the tree’s internal pressure is greater than the external barometric pressure, sap will be pushed out of a hole drilled into the tree, much like a pressurized garden hose will leak if a nail is punched into it,” according to the Pure Michigan website. “The best daily temperature range for this process is 20 to 41 degrees Fahrenheit, and these conditions are only found during a few short weeks, typically during March in Michigan.”
Other fun facts: The sweet treat is traditionally the first farm crop of the year to be harvested, it’s more nutritious than sugar and can be used as a substitute in recipes in which sugar is an ingredient. (For recipes and to read more on the virtues of maple syrup, click here.)
The production of maple syrup plays a part in local tourism as well. Like cider mills, “sugar shacks” offer a unique opportunity to become a spectator of an age-old tradition, one of the oldest agricultural enterprises in the U.S. To celebrate it, a number of festivals and opportunities for viewing the maple sugar making process will soon being taking place throughout the region.
Closest to home, Blandford Nature Center will celebrate the sweet arrival of spring with its annual Sugarbush Festival, Saturday, March 25, 10 a.m.- 2 p.m.
“This is the first full-scale Sugarbush Festival we’ve been able to have since 2020,” said Community Programs Coordinator, Camilla Voelker. “Our team is so excited to be opening this event up to more people and offering some of the Sugarbush Festival favorites that have been missing in the most recent years, like our Maple Cotton Candy.”
The Sugarbush Festival features the opportunity to explore and learn along Blandford Nature Center’s Sugarbush Trail. Festival attendees can visit stations along the trail where they will learn to identify and tap Sugar Maple trees, explore historic sugaring techniques of Native Americans and Pioneers, and get an inside-look at Blandford’s Sugarhouse and syrup making Process.
The event will also include wildlife encounters, a petting zoo, games, crafts, historical building tours, live music and performances by Beaver Xing and Blandford Environmental Education Program Students, blacksmith demonstrations, food trucks and concessions. Pre-registration is not required to attend the Sugarbush Festival, but is recommended. Walk-in registration will be available at the door. Tickets are $7 per member and $10 per non-member. Children ages 2 and under are free, but must be registered. Blandford Nature Center Is located at 1715 Hillburn Ave NW, in Grand Rapids.
The last two weekends in March, Maple Row Sugarhouse, located at 12646 Born St., in Jones, Michigan will be having its annual Maple Syrup Festival, celebrating all things maple syrup. The public is invited to tour the sugarhouse, where the latest technology in maple syrup production is on view. Other activities include a pancake eating contest, a talent show, a petting zoo and a Civil War reenactment.
Other “sugar shacks” within an easy drive from Grand Rapids are Kazca Sugar Bush, located at 2500 W Buchanan Rd., Shelby; Kistlercrest Farms in Ludington; Mazurek Maple Supplies, in 5056 N Clark Rd, in Woodland. More maple syrup farms and production facilities can be found by visiting the Michigan Maple Syrup Producers Association website.