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Sour Season for Local Maple Syrup Producers

Paul Ronk explains the operation of an evaporator which he employs to convert sycamore sap into sycamore syrup. Ronk’s maple sap evaporator is pictured in the background.

Saturday, March 18, was WV Maple Syrup Day at the Ronk Family Farm at 725 Whispering Pines Drive in Alum Creek. The event was originally scheduled to be a second Maple Syrup Day at the farm but the first day, February 18th, was canceled by flood waters.

The actual sap-gathering season ended prior to February 18 when several days of continuously above-freezing temperatures caused maple tree buds to break dormancy. When buds come to life, an off flavor develops and the resulting syrup cannot be marketed.

The season for area maple syrup producers is always short — usually from mid-January to late February. This year’s early ending caused Paul Ronk’s production to be one-third of 2022.

Visitors to Saturday’s event were treated to a free pancake and sausage breakfast, a complete step-by-step explanation of maple syrup making and an education of why maple syrup producers do what they do. The early season shutdown prevented live demonstrations of syrup production which past Maple Syrup Days have featured.

In addition to maple syrup production, Paul Ronk is experimenting with sycamore syrup manufacture. Sycamore sap is lower in sugar content than maple sap and requires much more sap to produce a marketable syrup. Ronk says that sycamore syrup has a distinctive butterscotch flavor.

Maple syrup products on sale at the event included maple cotton candy and whipped maple cream in addition to made-on-the-spot syrup.

Putnam residents do not need to visit the farm to make purchases. Ronk Family Farm Maple Syrup is available at Area 34 in Teays Valley.

Ronk uses plastic taps and tubing to collect sap.
A visitor awaits a free breakfast of pancakes and sausage topped with fresh maple syrup.
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