Sally and Andy Dewing stand next to the Endless Mountains Maple Syrup Producers Association display, which was developed by the Athens FFA. The Association represents maple producers in Bradford, Sullivan, and Susquehanna counties.
Story and photo by Rick Hiduk
(originally published in The Farmer’s Friend)
The Endless Mountains Maple Syrup Producers Association was front and center at the Pennsylvania Farm Show this year. And a couple from Warren Township once again took on the important task of teaching Farm Show guests about maple sugar production. Their operation is almost at the center of a large swath of maple tree forests that run the spine of the Appalachians and Adirondacks, stretching from the southern states into eastern Canada.
“It’s a big part of our heritage and a big part of Pennsylvania’s economy,” said Andy Dewing who, along with his wife, Sally, was talking with families at the Maple Production Education Table, one of 23 stops on the Farm Show’s Ag Explorer map. With their parents’ help, children find answers to questions on the back of the map and turn in the completed form for a chance to win prizes.
“Hopefully, by the time they leave our table, they’ve learned something about maple syrup,” Andy remarked. The question he and Sally were answering for the youths was “How many gallons of sap does it take to make a gallon of pure maple syrup?” The answer is 40.
Andy is a lifelong resident of Warren Center, and Sally is originally from Leraysville. The self-described “high school sweethearts” built their first sugar house in 1979 with Andy’s father, Max Dewing, and started producing syrup commercially in 1980. They hosted the Maple Festival in Troy from the 1980s into the ’90s and recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.
They were once among approximately 250 Pennsylvania maple producers who submit products to the Farm Show each year. “After I retired, we started coming down to the Farm Show to help with the education aspect,” Andy explained. That was about five years ago. “Each commodity has a designated educator as part of their program.”
As Sally helped some children trace a maple leaf onto a sheet of paper, Andy asked them, “Do you know what part of the maple tree the sugar comes from.” When the youths were slow to respond, Andy explained the basics of photosynthesis, noting that the sun helps the leaves produce sugar that is transferred as sap into the tree. “So, the sugar we get out of the tree in the spring was actually put there last summer,” he added.
Sally and Andy are naturals with the children, having 17 grandchildren of their own from three sons. Their granddaughter, Alaina Dewing, once served as a Maple Sweetheart, now referred to as a Maple Ambassador and open to both boys and girls. Alaina produced a video that she edited down from hours of footage of the Dewing grandchildren helping with maple production at the family farm. “She wanted to highlight aspects of production that youths can do,” Andy said of the 10-minute piece that looped continuously on a TV monitor behind them.
Sally especially likes working with the grandchildren in the sap house, where they slowly cook down the clear sweet liquid procured from their trees into the delicious syrup that they sell from their farm. “A lot of people don’t realize that that there is nothing added to maple syrup,” she noted.
Andy said, “When the grandkids show up, it ceases to be work.”
Adjacent to the Education Table was a display telling the story of maple production created by members of the Athens FFA on behalf of the Endless Mountains Maple Syrup Producers Association, which is headquartered at Russell Maple Farms in Rome.