Maple Heritage of PA Route 6
Celebrate the Sweet Maple Heritage of PA Route 6
History of Maple Production
Maple sap has been harvested in the forests of the Eastern North America since before Europeans landed on the continent. While the first earliest records detailing the collection and “distillation,” as it was called, of maple sap by Native Americans are of the Micmac in 1606, the abundance of oral traditions concerning sap collection suggests that the practice was discovered long before then.
The discovery of the sticky sap is heard in various stories. In one, a chief throws an axe, and when the air warms the following day, sap runs from the hole left behind. The sap was then used to cook venison, unveiling the sweet maple flavor. Other stories credit the discovery to notable historical figures; in one fable it is attributed to the squirrel.
Native Americans followed a calendar based on moon phases, often naming the resulting periods after major cultural events specific to that area. Thus, the moon in March was known as the “Sugar Moon” or the “Maple Sugar Moon” in groups where maple production was prevalent.
Members of the Algonquian tribe used stone tools to make V-shaped notches in the trunk, inserting reeds or concave pieces of bark to carry the sap to buckets made of a hollowed-out log, birch bark or clay. The sap would be concentrated by dropping hot stones into the buckets or leaving them out in cold temperatures and then skimming water ice from the top. The syrup was mainly processed into sugar, which can be stored indefinitely and is much easier to transport.
When Europeans began settling in North America, Native Americans traded maple sugar with them, and eventually showed them how to make their own. Maple production remained relatively unchanged until the late 1700’s, when it was decided that cutting the tree would do it harm, and producers began using an augur to drill a hole instead.
In later years, maple sugar was promoted as an alternative to the cane sugar produced by the labor of slaves in the West Indies and southern US. Technologies began to advance and be patented, with wooden or metal spiles replacing reeds, and metal buckets on hooks replacing birch bark pails. Innovation continued through the 1800’s with evaporation technologies and other advances.
The 1960’s and 1970’s saw the dawn of the modern age of maple production. Plastic tubing systems were perfected, and vacuum pumps added, removing some of the arduous manual labor required in years past. Tractors were employed instead of horse-drawn carts. Steel pans beat out iron kettles for evaporating, and gas or oil burners began to move into traditional wood-fired operations.
Throughout this time, life became hard for maple producers as cane sugar continued to take an increasingly large chunk of the market. Production changed over to syrup rather than sugar, but producers were suffering due to bulk purchasing by large retailers, who paid little to farmers, often less than $.25 per pound, and reaped much of the profit from consumers.
Associations such as the Potter-Tioga Maple Producers began to pop up across maple country to protect the interests of small producers and farmers, and to establish a retail market independent of corporate middlemen. Producers pooled their money to buy supplies in bulk and negotiate better prices for them; goods were sold at farmers markets and small shops. Marketing efforts brought crowds of people and commerce to rural areas, where associations organized farm tours and festivals to highlight a home-grown industry with roots in traditional American culture.
6 Fascinating Facts About Pennsylvania Maple Production
While many Northern Pennsylvania Maple Producers are families who have passed maple-sugaring traditions from generation to generation, the process is actually, well… SCIENCE. Here are 6 facts about maple production in PA.
1. The sugar maple trees of Pennsylvania were first tapped for syrup and sugar by indigenous peoples who lived here hundreds of years ago. (Source: PAeats.com)
2. One maple tree tap (a small tube known as a “spile” driven into the tree from which sap flows) will yield an average of 10 gallons of sap per season. And it takes 30–55 gallons of sap evaporated down to make one gallon of syrup. (Source: PAMapleFestival.com)
3. It is impossible to harm a tree by taking too much sap. When the tree begins to bud in spring, it stops sharing sap and reserves it for the new growth instead. (Source: PAeats.com)
4. Temperatures too warm or too cold during the 6- to 8-week sap season reduce the amount of sap flow and result in lower maple production.
5. Pennsylvania is the 7th-largest maple producer in the United States with 164,000 gallons (Source: Statista).
Maple Producer Organizations Across PA Route 6
Northern Pennsylvania has played a pivotal role in the heritage and evolution of maple production. The following organizations support the Maple Producers of the region through bulk supply ordering programs, educational opportunities, and promotional events.
Find Maple Events Across PA Route 6
There’s no better way to learn about maple syrup than to see where it comes from, smell the sweet steam during production, and taste its delicious flavor! Check our events page for seasonal Maple Tours and Events hosted by the many maple producers of the PA Route 6 Heritage Region.
- Asbury Woods Maple Festival, March 4-5, 2023
- Northwest PA Maple Syrup Producers Annual Taste and Tour, March 11-12, 2023
- Potter-Tioga Maple Weekend, March 18-19, 2023
- Endless Mountains Maple Festival, April 29-30, 2023
- Explore the Lumber Heritage Maple Trail featuring 24 stops at maple producers throughout the Lumber Heritage Region
- Discover VisitPA’s “21 Fun Maple Experiences and Festivals to Sweeten Up Your Spring”
Read Stories and Learn About a Few of the Maple Producers Across PA Route 6
- Brookfield Maple Products – Tioga County
- Brydonson Farm – Potter County
- Burke’s Maple Farm – Lackawanna County
- Butler Family Maple – Tioga County
- Hamilton’s Maple Products and Pancake House – Potter County
- Hurry Hill Maple Farm Museum – Erie County
- Miller’s Purely Maple – Tioga County
- Patterson Maple Farms – Tioga County
- Rakers Sugar Bush – Lycoming County
- Rathbun and Weber Maple & Honey Products – Potter County
- Riverside Brewing Company and Howles Maple Farm – Crawford County
- Sons of Dunn Farm – Potter County
- Sticky Bucket Maple – Tioga County
While planning your maple road trip on PA Route 6, check out our Do 6 on 6 page to get even more ideas for your adventure!