Saturday is Kentucky's first 'Maple Syrup Day' and many local producers will be highlighted
The Kentucky Maple Syrup Association is a group you may not know a lot about. Their name is fairly self-explanatory, but what they do is much more than make maple syrup.
In the two years since its founding, they have been able to make maple syrup an item judged at the Kentucky State Fair and have highlighted various maple syrup producers across the region. Feb. 1 will be Kentucky's first-ever 'Maple Syrup Day', and those who have made maple syrup much more than a hobby could not be more excited.
"It's where it starts right here, the end of the line," said Seth Long, the owner of SouthDown Farms. Long and his family live in Whitesburg, on a peaceful 50-plus acre property which for a long time could not be used for extensive farming due to the mountains behind his house - but now that is different.
"Friends of ours came out one day and started pointing out all of the maple trees," he said. "When you see maple trees that means maple syrup right? In my mind it does. I never fooled around with it."
He eventually started to "fool" around with it, and now lines of tubing create a web weaving throughout his property. He is also the president of the Kentucky Maple Syrup Association. When Long first decided to tap trees, he would carry buckets full of sap down the mountain to make syrup for his family. It's a bit of a different story now.
"We're up to 300 taps in the trees here and my goal is to eventually hit 800 taps," he added.
What Long has done is tap, literally, into a resource Kentucky is rich with: maple trees.
A University of Kentucky timber study found that in Floyd County, and the counties surrounding it, there are roughly 6.9 million maple trees.
"Ready to tap today. That's dollars, that's income," Long added.
The sap flows from the mountains through his tubing to a building called the 'Sugar Shack'. The building serves as an area to boil down the sap and create syrup.
"Yeah so you know the sap comes off the mountain and into our bulk storage tank that's outside," he added.
Through a reverse osmosis filter, roughly 85 percent of that water is removed and Long's can have a much higher boiling rate. He can boil 20-25 gallons an hour, a process that could normally take more than 15 hours.
About 66 gallons of sap, make one gallon of maple syrup. As the water boils out, the wooden shack is filled with the sweet scent of maple syrup.
"A lot have never had real maple syrup. You know they had something that was maybe one percent maple syrup flavoring and corn syrup. It's so much different," Long added.
The process of making maple syrup is not new to the mountains, but it's a tradition that has been lost over time. Long thinks a comeback could provide an economic boost to the region.
"Support your local agriculture, and learn about maple syrup in Kentucky, that's our goal," he said.
The Kentucky Maple Syrup Association and the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension are responsible for making 'Maple Syrup Day' an event in Kentucky.