Maple syrup industry growing in Comox Valley

Standing at the base of Mount Washington, the steady drip of sap can be found in a clump of big leaf maples.

HAROLD MACY EXAMINES a tree he is using to produce maple syrup.

Standing at the base of Mount Washington, in a grove of Douglas fir and red cedar trees, the steady drip of sap can be found in a clump of big leaf maples.

From mid-January until late February, the sap is collected from the ‘sugar bush,’ then taken to an evaporator/processor, bottled and sold as Vancouver Island’s own maple syrup.

In an industry generally associated with Eastern Canada, maple syrup production on Vancouver Island is quickly becoming a burgeoning industry, explained forester Harold Macy.

Merville-based Macy and his wife Judy own Headquarters Creek Woodlot, a small sustainable forest on Crown land just off the Strathcona Parkway that provides timber to niche markets such as house logs and crossarms for power lines.

Macy also focuses on non-timber forest products such as mushrooms and berries as well as sap.

Recently, with Macy’s help, maple syrup production was included as an acceptable farm crop under the BC Assessment Authority regulations.

He explained this means someone with an appropriate existing stands of native maple can now apply for farm status, opening the door for a significant increase of West Coast maple syrup production.

It also means increased economic spinoffs for farmers who focus on other primary agricultural production, such as beef or veggies who have maple trees on their land.

“This is really exciting to have this door opened,” said Macy. “It’s one of the most exciting things to have happened in forestry in years.”

Macy noted now that rural landowners who have the appropriately sized maple trees, and who develop a management plan and apply for farm status can now be treated similar to those who produce cherries or apples.

He added that, with the change of regulations, there is a new sector for the interface between forestry and agriculture, and co-operative partnerships for production.

Depending on the season, one maple tree on the Island can produce between 80 and 90 litres of sap, and with a 38:1 L ratio, can translate into approximately two litres of maple syrup.

Once a tree is tapped, the sap is transported to an evaporator, boiled down to remove water, and filtered.

“The more you boil it down, the darker the colour, and the more flavour is produced,” explained Macy, who said if the market increases, he foresees a potential for production co-operatives, or third parties who process the sap.

He described the flavours of syrups similar to wine — every region produces a different flavour with a different scent and taste. He noted West Coast maple syrup has a smoky flavour and many layers.

“Like a West Coast forest,” he added.

Macy explained the Vancouver Island Sapsuckers organization as well as the Cowichan Valley are helping shed light on syrup production on the Island, as more than 2,000 people attended the Bigleaf Maple Syrup Festival this February at the BC Forest Discovery Centre in Duncan.

He said the event focused on tapping, syrup making tasting and demonstrating the variety of products that can be used with maple syrup, including candies and even maple pop, fabricated in Port Alberni.

Macy, who also works in forest education with the University of British Columbia research farms and teaches forestry courses on the Island, said one his former students, Gary Backlund, has even written a book on tapping the western maple.

Macy said for those in the forestry industry, maple syrup production now means a more immediate economic production from woodlots.

“It shows that you can have your forest, and you don’t have to cut it down or wait another 80 years for your trees,” he said.

For more information on Island sap or to order Backlund’s book, visit www.blmaple.net or the BC Forest Discovery Centre at www.bcforestmuseum.com.

For more information on maple syrup production in the Comox Valley, contact Macy at hqcreek@telus.net.

photos@comoxvalleyrecord.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

85-year-old Comox sprinter competes in worldwide virtual track meet

Toronto was slated to be the host city for the 2020 World… Continue reading

City of Courtenay 2019 annual report available for review

The City of Courtenay has released the draft 2019 Annual Report highlighting… Continue reading

Scaled-down Comox Valley Exhibition set for Aug. 28-30

The Comox Valley Exhibition is a go for 2020. The annual event… Continue reading

Military personnel relocation producing many foreign licence plates in the Comox Valley

Comox Mayor Russ Arnott is asking the public to consider the possible… Continue reading

VIDEO: Otter pups learn to swim at B.C. wildlife rescue facility

Watch Critter Care’s Nathan Wagstaffe help seven young otters go for their first dip

Crews work overnight to try to put out wildfire on Pender Island

Fire department and B.C. Wildfire Service crews extinguishing fire in ‘extremely difficult terrain’

Police find used, uncapped needle tied to handrail in Vancouver Island Park

Officers believe the needle was put there with the intent to harm someone

Michael Buble among 13 British Columbians to receive Order of B.C.

Ceremony will be delayed to 2021 due to COVID-19

U.S. border communities feel loss of Canadian tourists, shoppers and friends

Restrictions on non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border have been in place since March 2`

Rollout of COVID-19 Alert app faces criticism over accessibility

App requires users to have Apple or Android phones made in the last five years, and a relatively new operating system

Alleged impaired driver sparks small wildfire near Lytton after crash: B.C. RCMP

Good Samaritans prevented the blaze from getting out of control

Most Read