It’s the maple syrup tapping season again so there’s going to be be plenty of syrup and pancakes served up in the next couple of weeks throughout Ohio and our surrounding area.
The sap has already started flowing a bit early from local maple trees and many area festivals will soon begin serving that sugary delight.
One such local maple farm that had an early harvest this year is a little known local gem tucked away in Mingo Valley, Champaign County called the Johnson Family Sugar Camp. This sixth generation family of maple tappers dates back to 1805 when Jacob Johnson moved from Maryland to the Mingo Valley.
The farm’s present sugar shack shed was built in 1934 by Alfred Johnson and has produced as much as 645 gallons of syrup a year. Currently the farm yields about 180 gallons a year. Brothers Eric and Grant Johnson, both sons of Otho and Roberta Johnson, currently run the farm and sugar shack operations. They still hang wooden buckets on trees and cook with a wood fire at this sugar camp. Champaign County is lucky to have such a historic and unique gem within its borders.
North America, in fact, is the only place in the world where maple syrup is produced and only 12 states in the USA produce it. Ohio ranks near the top in maple syrup production.
More notable is the fact that Champaign County actually has three maple syrup farms that produce and sell their locally grown maple syrup and products. This discovery will now be known as the Champaign County Maple Syrup Tour Trail in this writer’s view.
So, here’s just a drop in the bucket of what’s on tap for this year’s March Madness Maple tapping season in our surrounding area and region.
1. Johnson Family Sugar Camp — Mingo Valley
This is the real deal, an authentic local sugar camp off the beaten path that collects thousands of gallons of sap from their trees, boils the sap on site and produces nearly 200 gallons of the finest maple syrup year after year. You will find their maple syrup at the Indian Lake Maple Syrup Festival, Freshwater Farms of Ohio, Jones General Store in West Liberty and you can also purchase it 7 days a week at their farm at 7012 Stevenson Road in Cable, Ohio.
If you have never been to this local sugar shack camp, then you are in for a nice treat (so to speak), because right now is just about the best time to go. According to Kathy Johnson, of the family farm, “this weekend will be a really good weekend for ‘boiling’ and visitors are always welcome to come by the sugar camp and watch the full operation.” Visitors can call 937-757-2855 for an update on daily activities at the farm/sugar camp.
2. Valley View Woodlands Maple Syrup & Confections — north of Westville
A “locally grown” small batch producer with their own sugar shack operation, they are located in Urbana at 2089 N. state Route 560. Marc and Shary Stadler produce premium maple syrup, candies, cream and maple coated walnuts and pecans. They have one variety of syrup that is so rare sometimes it doesn’t even make it out of their sugar shack! Their growers category on the Champaign County Virtual Farmers Market is a real local favorite. Call 937-652-3462 for more information.
3. Maple Lane Farm — West Liberty
Located at 6199 Township Road 163, this Maple Farm/Sugar Shack operation produces and sells fresh pure maple syrup. Call 937-465-0705 for times and dates to visit and watch them make their fresh maple syrup.
Nearby and Regional Maple Syrup Festival Guide
-Indian Lake Maple Syrup Festival — March 14 & 15
The 34th annual Indian Lake Maple Syrup Festival will be held at Indian Lake State Park from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday March 14 and 15.
Take a wagon ride through the sugar brush and learn how sugar is extracted from a tree and then turned into maple syrup. The festival includes vendors, living history displays, kids activities, live music, free samples, and shopping.
The event is free to attend with a pancake and sausage breakfast available for a donation.
-Hueston Woods Maple Syrup Festival — March 7, 8, 14 & 15
The 54th annual Hueston Woods Maple Syrup Festival includes an all you can eat pancake breakfast, $7.50 adults, and $5.50 for kids. The free maple syrup tours start at noon. Hayrides are also offered along with organized hikes and nature center exhibits.
Pancakes in the Park — March 7
This “Pancakes in the Park” event takes place at the Russ Nature Preserve in Greene County. The pancake breakfast is $5 and is free for children under 4. Learn the history of maple sugaring and how it’s made. Local maple syrup and candies will be available for purchase.
-Malabar Farm Syrup Festival — March 7, 8, 14 &15
The Maple Syrup Festival at Malabar Farm offers free sugar camp and sugar house tours. Free samples of maple syrup are also available. Live music, historical demonstrations and horse drawn wagon rides will be offered. Noon-4 p.m
-Bellbrook Sugar Maple Festival — April 24-26
The 42nd annual festival in downtown Bellbrook, Ohio offers live entertainment, a dog show, parade, 5K run, craft booths, food vendors and plenty of maple syrup.
Ohio Maple Madness Driving Trail
These self-guided tours include to up 42 stops in 18 counties all throughout Ohio. Stops range from small backyard operators to large commercial producers. Pancake breakfasts are offered at some stops, horse-drawn wagon rides and informational demonstrations at others. For complete information and a map go to: ohiomaple.org March 7, 8, 14 & 15
Ron Brohm is a regular contributor to this newspaper.