Farrell spreads the word about sugarmaking’s many benefits
LAKE PLACID – Lake Placid resident and sugaring expert Michael Farrell has penned a new book called, “The Sugarmaker’s Companion: An Integrated Approach to Producing Syrup from Maple, Birch and Walnut Trees.”
Released in early October, the 327-page book contains information “on sugarbush management, the economics of sugaring and marketing strategies to ensure a profitable enterprise.” There are also several chapters dedicated to topics such as the positive aspects sugaring can have on a community.
Farrell said the market for the book is basically for anyone who wants to tap their trees, although it is primarily geared toward business owners in the industry.
“That’s where the biggest need for information was: how to do sugaring profitably and more sustainably. So that’s where I focused on the book,” Farrell said. “(But) if you just want to do it as a hobby, you could get this book, and it’ll teach you everything you need to know and a lot more.”
Farrell said the book was written in such a way that it could be a companion text to the “North American Maple Syrup Manual,” another respected book for maple syrup producers.
“Some of the topics overlap with that,” he said. “(But) this has lots of stuff that’s not in the manual, that hasn’t been talked about elsewhere. For instance, I have a chapter on drinking sap as a beverage, a healthy beverage and the worldwide market for that, because I think maple sap is the best beverage. It’s the purest water there is – filtered by a tree.”
Since January 2005, Farrell has served as the director of Cornell University’s Uihlein Forest, a maple syrup research and extension field station located off Bear Cub Road in Lake Placid. There he taps approximately 5,000 maples, 600 birch trees and a couple dozen black walnut and butternut trees every year.
Farrell has authored more than 50 articles on maple syrup production and forest management and often gives presentations to maple producers and landowner organizations. He earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from Hamilton College, his master’s in forestry from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, and his Ph.D. in natural resources from Cornell University.
Although this is a book that is written for a national audience, there is a good amount of local content because Farrell lives and works in Lake Placid. Both the Shipman Youth Center in Lake Placid and The Wild Center in Tupper Lake are prominently featured for their sugaring operations in a chapter called “Community Sugaring.” In addition, many of the photographs were taken by Lake Placid photographer Nancie Battaglia, so there are plenty of snapshots of Adirondack sugaring on its pages.
In the section about the Shipman Youth Center, Farrell describes the maple syrup project he spearheaded as a member of the board of directors for the youth center.
In the first two years of the project, local youth under the guidance of adults tapped and collected sap from trees around the village of Lake Placid. The sap was then taken to the Cornell sugarhouse, where it was processed into syrup.
The third year, one of the board members who has his own construction business, built a mobile sugarhouse for the youth center. The sugarhouse was eventually moved downtown to the parking lot of the Golden Arrow Resort, where a variety of maple products were sold to the public.
“The spin-offs from this project have been remarkable,” he wrote. “Seven other families in Lake Placid have started to collect sap from their trees and bring the sap to us in exchange for some syrup back. Two private schools – National Sports Academy and Mountain Lake Academy – also decided to tap trees on or near their campuses to have us process it until syrup. Upon hearing of this project and seeing the kids in action, several residents decided to take up syrup production as a hobby themselves.”
The project got a big boost in 2010 when Randy and Sibyl Quayle heard about it and decided to get involved. The Quayles let the youth center tap trees on their woodlot and process the sap. Other landowners have also come forward to offer assistance.
Farrell points out the positive impact it has had on the participating kids.
“The greatest benefit from this project has been the impact it has had on the kids who have gotten involved,” he wrote.
Farrell is a firm believer that processing maple syrup can not only be a profitable business, if that’s what one is looking for, but also a hobby that will have numerous benefits.
“That’s one of the best things about maple, is that it brings people together around a common goal, and it gets people outside after a long winter when the weather is nice, collecting sap,” he said. “It’s really a great community builder.”