Michigan Maplefest 2011

I joined the Michigan Maple Syrup Association a while back. My intent was to associate myself with the folks in Michigan that produce maple syrup products. This, I figured, might help me when it is time to expand, or when I run into a problem I couldn’t figure out on my own. Unfortunately, I’ve not made it to a single meeting until recently.

The North American Maple meeting shifts between the US and Canada. When it is in the US, it is often in the Northeast, where most of the maple activity is centered. This year the big conference was in Michigan, so I decided to go. As a bonus, it was held in Frankenmuth, which is only about an hour away from my parents, so I was able to work in a visit with them.

The meeting kicked off with a dinner on Sunday, October 23. I got on the bus in Baraga around 12:30 am Sunday morning, and arrived in Lansing at about 3:00 Sunday afternoon. From there I caught a city bus to the airport, where I caught a shuttle to the car rental place. I picked up my Toyota Corolla, told the GPS to take me to the Bavarian Inn in Frankenmuth, and settled in for the drive. As usual, the GPS unerringly took me right to the destination. I got a little balled up because the Bavarian Inn has a restaurant on one side of the Cass River, and the hotel on the other side. Since I got to the restaurant first, I assumed it was the hotel, and walked around for a bit until I realized my mistake. I got back in the car and drove across the covered bridge, found the hotel, got checked in and registered for the conference.

By this time, I was pretty tired. I had a headache coming on too. The kickoff buffet was to start in about an hour, so I did one of the smartest things of the trip… I located and availed myself of the hot tub. It was a really nice hot tub, and it was almost deserted. I think I stayed there for most of the hour I had with the jets churning on my shoulders. I then crawled out, up to my room, and took a shower. Then I headed down to the dinner.

The captains of the buffet clearly did not have vegetarians in mind, so pickings were pretty slim for me that night. I did have the good fortune to sit next to a husband and wife that were in the maple business, and that didn’t mind sharing their experiences with an inexperienced maple producer. This guy tapped 6,000 trees. He didn’t own any of the trees himself, however. He made deals with property owners along the road, tapped the trees into collection basins, and then drove his 2,200 gallon 5th wheel tanker to do the collecting. He then drove his rig to his building, pumped out into his holding tanks, and boiled everything with fuel oil. He was proud of the fact that he never lifted neither an ounce of sap nor a stick of wood.

Monday morning there were meeting scheduled, which I dutifully attended. The one I started with was all about the workings of the organization. When the treasurer’s report was given, and he announced they’d spent a bit more than $40 on postage that year, I started planning my escape. I waited until the next speaker was finding his way to the podium, and walked out. I went upstairs to the vendor displays, and waited for the Leader Evaporator rep to finish a call on his cell phone. I then spent what was probably the most productive half hour of the conference talking to him about my setup and my plans to expand. I took copious notes and walked away with lots of ideas swirling around in my brain.

A quick look at the rest of the day’s scheduled events told me that I had some free time, so I walked out into the beautiful fall air.

>>>>>Stay Tuned For Part 2<<<<<<<

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