Maple producers on the cutting edge in the Finger Lakes

Walter and Vance Kannapel, a father-and-son duo making maple syrup at their sugar shack in Farmington, started boiling sap from sugar maples around their cabin in the Adirondacks some three decades ago.

These days, their sugar shack is at the Kannapel home on Rushmore Road. They boil sap from a forest of sugar maples on the property into syrup, which they share mainly with family and friends.

“It’s a small operation,” Vance said about the production, which uses a wood-fired stove to boil sap from about 350 trees.

From small-scale hobbyists such as the Kannapels to producers who use the latest technology and tap thousands of trees, the maple syrup industry in New York state is thriving. In 2017, New York state maple producers made over 750,000 gallons of maple syrup, making New York the second-largest maple-producing state.

Over at Cornell University — with its multitude of experts, scientists and students of agriculture, food science, natural resources and such — maple production shines.

Just ask Stephen Childs, Cornell’s Sugar Maple Program director. A New York state maple specialist, Childs provides producers statewide with education and resources. Think sustainable forest, sugar bush management, sap collection and processing technology, product quality improvement and grading, and value-added product development. Research involves sap tubing collection and vacuum system design, and improving the quality and marketing of maple syrup and related products, along with tap sanitation and evaluation of maple syrup grading tools.

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