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Maple Syrup Festival in Salem, Feb. 23-24 and Mar. 2-3

Straw Maze at the Maple Syrup Festival

Straw Maze at the Maple Syrup Festival. Photo provided by the festival and used with written permission.

By Leane Goering
Leane and Michael’s Sugarbush

The 22nd annual Maple Syrup Festival at Leane and Michael’s Sugarbush will be held over two weekends in February and March in Salem, Indiana: Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 23-24 and Mar. 2-3, 2013. The festival will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.

Imagine a scenic valley tucked between two wooded hills, an ice and snow-covered creek running nearby, and steam billowing from the tall smokestack of a large, low barn.  The sap gathered from the nearby maple trees is being boiled down into thick, sticky, pure syrup, soon to be enjoyed by a family on their pancake breakfast.

A scene from New England or Canada?  That is often what comes to mind, but you can enjoy this craft, rich in history, without even leaving Indiana.  Nestled in the scenic Southern Indiana hills is our farm, Leane and Michael’s Sugarbush, one of Indiana’s largest producers of pure maple syrup. During the early winter months you can find us busy preparing for the maple syrup season and our annual festival.

We have produced over 16,000 gallons of pure maple syrup over the last 30 years.  The first few years saw us boiling the sap in an open pan under a winter sky and bottling the resulting dark syrup in quart canning jars.  In 1982 we bought our first evaporator made especially for making maple syrup and began modernizing our operation.  Since changing over to a larger evaporator in 1988, we added and now use the most modern equipment available in the maple industry – plastic tubing, vacuum pumps, and a reverse osmosis machine.

The fundamental process of making pure maple syrup has not changed since the Native American Indians made it and later taught the process to the early pioneers hundreds of years ago.  Drawn from the maple trees in late winter, maple sap contains an average of 2 % sugar and drips like water from the tapholes drilled into the trees.  It takes an average of 50 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup.  The basic process requires an average of 49 gallons of water to be evaporated from each 50 gallons of sap collected in order to turn it into syrup.  Although our technology gives us far different equipment with which to do this, the process is still the same as that used in the earliest days of North America’s history.

Our sap is collected through plastic tubing, gently drawn into large tanks with vacuum pumps and then put through a reverse osmosis machine that removes 50% of the water, leaving a more concentrated sap.  It is then boiled in the evaporator until it is 67% sugar, drawn off into buckets, and poured into drums where it is stored until being bottled and heading off to grace someone’s breakfast table with its rich, wholesome goodness.

Even with this modern equipment, one thing has not changed since the Native American syrup making days – it is still labor intensive, requiring many hours of hard work.  When syrup season rolls around each year we don’t have to look for help; many area teens and adults call us to see if it is time to come to work!!  The hard work fosters a spirit of community, while everyone contributes to and benefits from the sweet success of the season.  Our three children, formerly homeschooled, are now 28, 24 and 20 and are an integral part of the syrup making and festival work.

Several years ago we united our ancient craft with the latest of technology by putting our business on the internet.  Our website includes information about our operation, online syrup sales, frequent updates about the current syrup making season, information about our festival and links to our favorite area attractions for those wishing to make a family trip out of visiting us.  We also have a free online unit study about maple syrup covering the subjects of Language Arts, History, Science, Math and Art.   Maple syrup making is rich in history and scientific principals and lends itself to the study of many other areas as well.

The festival includes activities for all ages – food served all day including Pancakes Supreme, Waffle Boat Supreme, chicken, pork chop or pulled pork dinners, with adult and kids pricing. Also, free tours of our syrup making operation, Native American and pioneer demonstrations of maple syrup making, our store with 2013  pure maple syrup to purchase (and a large variety of other items), many children’s activities and games, tractor drawn wagon rides, craft vendors, live music and more.  There is no parking fee or entrance fee for the festival: Admission and parking are free. We take all major credit cards in the store and dining room.

Visit our website at www.LMSugarbush.com for more information about our family business and the Annual Maple Syrup Festival.   Come and join us for a fun, sweet time! Leane and Michael’s Sugarbush is located at 321 North Garrison Hollow Road in Salem (Washington County). Questions? Call 812-967-4491 or 877-841-8851 toll-free.

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