Andy Dewing works with children at the Pennsylvania Farm show, sharing fun facts about maple syrup production at an education table sponsored by the PA Maple Syrup Producers Council.
Story and photo by Rick Hiduk
(Originally published in the Rocket-Courier )
It was a banner year at Dewy Meadows Farm in Warren Township in Bradford County, and the Dewing family was happy to share with guests of the 108th Pennsylvania Farm Show what separates a good maple syrup season from a challenging one. They were among dozens of maple producers from across the state who exhibited and conducted informative activities for families with the PA Maple Syrup Producers Council. The Dewings are also long-time members of the Endless Mountains Maple Producers Association.
“I’ve been making maple syrup all my life,” patriarch Andy Dewing explained. “We built the sugar house in 1979, so we’ve been making it for 44 years with the intention of selling it to other people.” Production at Dewy Meadows in 2023 topped 600 gallons, more than doubling the 300 gallon total of the previous year. Dewing cited fairly even temperatures for the increase in sap collection and production.
“Every time it got cold, it got warm again. We didn’t have any spikes,” he related. Frosty nights and mild days is the best combination to keep the sap flowing. “There’s an old saying that ‘Sap flows best when the wind’s from the west.’”
The timing of the PA Farm Show works well for maple producers, whose season ramps up in early February when they reassess their trees, tap-lines, and collection bins in advance of the run that can last from mid-February through mid-March if conditions remain favorable.
The stands of maple trees on the Dewing property, which borders Susquehanna County to the east and is within sight of New York State, is collectively referred to as the “sugarbush” and has grown to 2,000 tappable trees on 25 acres.
Maintenance of the operation is challenging enough, let alone trying to grow the business. The cycle of maple production is predictable, and so is struggle to keep deer from nibbling the buds off young maple trees and the squirrels from chewing threw the rubber tubing that transports the sap. The Dewings planted new maple trees 15 years ago through Cornell University’s Sweet Tree Program, but it takes 30 to 40 years for them to be productive.
“I probably won’t see that,” Andy said with a smile. But he knows that his grandchildren will. There are 17 of them, and they are intrinsically involved in all aspects of maple farming and the retail business on Little Meadows Road. “When the grandkids show up, it ceases to be work.”
Once the sap is collected, the boil begins, reducing the water content until the sugary liquid reaches the consistency of syrup. Further reduction of the water content rends the syrup into a spreadable maple cream. When all of the liquid is removed, the result is maple “crumbles,” which have a long shelf life – unless they found by children or anyone else with a sweet tooth.
In addition to numerous stands throughout the Farm Show Complex where syrup and other maple products can be purchased, the Syrup Producers Council maintains a strong educational component with their involvement with the Farm Show, and the Dewings are all in.
“We can dispense information about maple syrup,” Andy related. “A lot of people come with a desire to know how to make syrup in their own backyards.” He was joined at the Farm Show on Jan. 12 by his wife, Sally, and his granddaughter Bryn, who was assisting children with tracing maple leaves and coloring them in.
Farm Show guests have questions, but the Dewings like to pose questions to them as well to get them to really think about the processes involved with maple production. “How many gallons of sap does it take to make one gallon of Syrup?” and “What part of the tree does the sugar come from?” Andy and Sally ask of the youngsters. Forty is the answer to the first question, and the latter provides an opportunity for Andy to explain the process of photosynthesis and the summer sun helping the leaves produce the sugar that is stored in the tree till spring.
Interested readers can learn more about Dewey Meadows Farm by accessing the Facebook page of the same name or dewymeadows.com.