Come meet these northeast Wisconsin maple syrup producers
It's that time of year when spring is in the air and sap is flowing from Maple trees on wooded lots across Wisconsin.
While the cold temperatures of February and early March pushed the season back two to three weeks, maple syrup producers are heading out into the woods to check out the taps on their trees and are inviting the public to get a firsthand look at their craft.
Theresa Baroun, the executive director of the Wisconsin Maple Syrup Producers Association, says sap usually starts running in mid-February.
“You usually start tapping when it’s above freezing during the day and below freezing at night,” Baroun said.
As Mother Nature begins to comply temperature-wise, the season should still last its usual 45 days, barring a warmup.
"Once trees start budding, the sap is no longer good for syrup and the season is done," she said.
Taking advantage of that golden window are three maple syrup producers in northeast Wisconsin who will open their businesses up to the public on March 23 as part of a Maple Festival.
Visitors will have the opportunity to meet those families who are proud of their heritage and have a passion for making quality pure maple syrup.
Between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., those visiting Drewry Farms Maple Products, Plymouth, Inthewoods Sugar Bush, Manitowoc and Grandpa Kissinger's, Elkhart Lake, visitors can learn about the nutritious benefits of pure maple syrup, walk in the woods to see how trees are tapped and sap collected, and watch how sap is processed into maple syrup.
Drewry Farms Maple Products
A seven generation operation, Drewry Farms Maple Products, W5762 Winooski Rd., Plymouth, Wis. is hosting its 7th annual Open House as part of the festival. Hailing from Vermont in 1847, the Drewry family brought along their maple syrup making knowledge and began tapping some of the maple trees on their homestead.
Over the years, the 120-acre sugar maple forest has been nurtured and has grown to produce enough sap, after it is made into syrup, to be sold throughout southern Wisconsin.
A vacuum pump draws the sap from about 6000 taps through a network of suspended pipelines snaking through the forest to the maple syrup house at the bottom of the hill to be processed into maple syrup.
The finished product then finds its way to many gift shops, health food stores and farmer’s markets. The family's maple syrup is also used in many restaurants in Sheboygan County and the Milwaukee area.
Following the tradition of past open houses, Boy Scout Troop # 801 from Grace Episcopal Church in Sheboygan will be serving up sample pancakes and Meisfeld’s breakfast sausage made with Drewry Farms syrup.
Visitors will also have the chance to sample other maple syrup laced items from area vendors including apple cider maple grog, maple tiny donuts with maple frosting, popcorn snacks and nuts, candies, pulled pork, salad dressing, baked goods, soaps and more.
Inthewoods Sugar Bush
Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, Inthewoods Sugar Bush, 1040 S. Union Rd., Manitowoc, Wis.,is a family owned and operated maple syrup producer.
Margo and Jesse Wagner, along with his father John, manage 17 acres of land that has been in the Wagner family for many years. As a third-generation maple producer, Jesse’s methods have evolved over time.
With more than 1300 trees tapped at their sugar bush, they collected almost 50,000 gallons of sap in 2018. Using modern technology, the sap is processed through reverse osmosis equipment and boiled in a high efficiency wood-fired evaporator. Last year they produced 1,400 gallons of finished syrup.
As a member of the Wisconsin Maple Syrup Producers Association (WMSPA), Inthewoods Sugar Bush has received multiple blue ribbon awards for their pure maple syrup. While the family's specialty is light amber, they also make all grades of pure maple syrup as well as granulated pure maple sugar, pure maple leaf candies, and pure maple cream.
“It’s very satisfying to take something from Mother Nature, add absolutely nothing to it, and get an awesome product from it,” Jesse said in an interview with Growing Wisconsin.
Started between two neighbors as a way to try something "new" and take advantage of all the trees on the family's woodlot, Phil Kissinger began his foray into the maple syrup business, unaware that his grandfather Paul Kissinger, also cooked sap from the very same woodlot.
After a year in business, Phil became the sole owner and moved the operation to W5504 Highway FF, Elkhart Lake, Wis. Not sure what to name it, the newly minted grandpa thought to himself, "Well, there is a Aunt Jemima why not a Grandpa?" And Grandpa Kissinger's was born.
Today, Phil uses many of the same trees his grandfather did, only the sap collection, boiling techniques and filtering process have evolved considerably, bringing the quality assurance of the operation into the 21 century.
That being said, the same delicious syrup their family enjoyed some 75-80 years ago, still makes its way to their table and yours today.