2017 – Spence’s Sugarbush
WMSPA held their Annual First Tree Tapping March 11, 2017 at Mark and Pam Spence’s Sugar Bush in Spring Valley. The Spence’s started tapping trees in 1984 – they had 300 buckets and cooked on a flat pan. In a few years the Spence’s were up to 500 buckets and a small evaporator. Over the years they grew slowly, with a big addition of 2000 taps in 2016 putting them over 3500 taps. All their taps are on tubing and vacuum. Last ear, Mark and Pam started a partnership with their 3 sons, so the whole family is involved.
About 80 spectators listened to Alice in Dairyland, Ann O’Leary, read the Governor’s Proclamation declaring March 15 to April 15 Maple Month in Wisconsin. Mark Spence helped Alice in Dairyland find an adequate spot to tap the maple tree on a tree that was tapped many times through the years. Alice used a traditional brace and bit to tap the tree, then pounded the spile in and hung the bag. Due to the extremely cold temperatures that day, the tree didn’t drip.
After the tree tapping, attendees got the chance to tour the Spence’s Sugar Bush, meet Alice in Dairyland, taste the Spence’s tasty maple syrup and enjoy warm drinks and donuts.
2016 – Casimir Gold Sugarbush
This year the first tapping was held at Duane Greuel’s Casimir Gold Sugarbush just outside of Stevens Point. The Casimir Church area never became a village, although the school located next to the church once was one of the largest schools in central Wisconsin. The church was the main location for many polish immigrants for worship. The church was located where it is today primarily because it was on a main route for travel and trading of goods for both the English and Native Americans.
The land the sugar bush is located on has some very interesting historical roots as it part of the 80 acres that was granted to the original owner, Leon Henricks in 1855 as a gift from the U.S. General Land Office for his service in the war of 1812. Duane has been tapping trees on his land since 2010 and currently has around 500 taps. In the fall of 2015 Duane built a new sugar house that houses his 2X6 Sunrise Panther evaporator. Duane explained “Some syrup was collected on my property, but most was collected from trees in the low backwaters of the Wisconsin River. I had always wanted to start making syrup. When my wife and I purchased the property in 1979, I actually started preparing the wooded land with the intent of turning it into a Sugar Bush someday. My evaporator was purchased in January 2015 from Maple Hollow located in Merrill, Wisconsin. I originally saw it at the trade show held by the Wisconsin Maple Syrup Producers annual meeting in Wausau. The evaporator is a Sunrise Panther Evaporator 2×6 welded stainless pans-14 gauge with a 24” force draft arch. My sugar shack was built during the fall of 2015. It is still a work in progress with a east over hang and interior walls pending. I like to build it so as many components of the building are time saving and functional. This season already has given me ideas for some changes and needs.”
We have had an unusually warm spring, but the weather on March 12th turned out great for hosting the First Tapping event. Temperatures were near 50, the trees were slowing running, and Duane’s evaporator was turning out a nice sweet smelling golden maple syrup. The good weather helped generate a nice turnout and Duane provided tours along with maple glazed donuts, coffee, and other treats. We were honored to have Teyanna Loether, currently serving as the 68th Alice in Dairyland, at the event along with state senator Julia Lassa, and the Steven Point Mayor, Mike Wiza. Teyanna’s goal is to educate audiences across Wisconsin about the $88 billion economic impact and importance of our state’s diverse agriculture industry in our daily lives. She certainly did a great job of promoting Wisconsin as the 4th largest maple producing state and with Duane’s help used an electric drill to tap his favorite maple tree.
Duane is considering turning his sugaring operation into a cooperative effort and is working on a program that would allow cooperative members to benefit from participation. Duane said “My goal is to produce quality syrup for the consumer and sharing that enthusiasm with other people who have similar interests.”
Duane would like to thank everyone for coming out to the “First Tree Tapping” ceremony and hopes all had a good time and learned something about the maple syrup industry. I think we can all say it was a great event and thanks to Duane and his wife and family for being such great hosts.
2015 – Cedric Beottcher