TROY — If Braden Fisher is cooking down his sap to produce maple syrup when you step out of your car at Sugar Grove Maple Products, you’ll think you walked into a candy kitchen – the cooking maple syrup smells so rich, and so sweet, you can almost taste it. I was instantly sorry we didn’t have more maple trees on our own farm, or a fresh batch of pancakes!
And I was shocked by his infrastructure… the romanticized picture in my mind was of old-fashioned buckets on the trees collecting sap, and a simple pan heated with woodfire, not the super-efficient tubing collection system through the trees and sleek, ultra-modern, diesel-powered evaporator and reverse osmosis separator he could adjust with the touch of a button. With reverse osmosis, he can remove 80 percent of the water from the sap before he ever begins to cook it into syrup… the essence of efficiency.
When he said this had been a hobby for eleven years, I wanted to laugh – other people call collecting stamps, reading, or knitting a hobby, not this kind of massive annual undertaking. Collecting and processing 20,000 gallons of sap from 1,000 trees? I think we’re all glad Braden is so committed to his “hobby.”
At the family farm on State Route 41 just west of Troy, it all began when Braden, then in high school, learned the art of maple sugaring from his cousin in Indiana. With a convenient location on a high-traffic road, and more than a little determination, his first year saw him collecting sap with buckets, stoking his fire with wood, and cooking down the sap in a 2 foot by 5 foot pan… and one year the old-fashioned way was enough! Enter a new evaporator, the tubing pipeline to collect the sap from the trees, and Braden was on his way to becoming the area’s go-to maple syrup producer!
When I visited recently to see his process in action, he was constantly and capably working, fine-tuning this, adjusting that, moving here and there… it was all I could do to be relatively quiet (believe me, a herculean feat), so floored I was by the art unfolding before my eyes that I asked only one million questions. It cracked me up that he was so calm and nonchalant about what to me was the neatest thing I’d see in some time.
Like so many agricultural productions, the maple syrup process is severely affected by the weather – changes in barometric pressure can fluctuate daily or hourly, and hinder production.
So much thought, planning and care goes into Braden’s syrup, and you can taste not only the quality but the effort its production demands.
You couldn’t find a lovelier personality than his mother, Marilyn, who is a familiar face both at the Sugar Grove store, 6255 W. State Route 41 just outside of Troy, and the Downtown Troy farmers market in the summer.
Braden attracts many customers to Miami County Locally Grown, the Virtual Farmer’s Market based in Troy, where you can find his syrup and sugar as well as hundreds of other locally produced items! Visit www.miamicounty.locallygrown.net for more information, or www.facebook.com/miamicountylocallygrown.