Sweet success may be on tap for business

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WESTERNVILLE — The maple business is “kind of new to us,” says Peter Donahue, who has been running a farm for about 25 years but has been tapping trees there for only about six years and selling associated equipment for about four years.

A friend who was making maple syrup helped Donahue get started with the endeavor after the friend saw “more potential here.” Since then, Donahue adds with a chuckle, “my wife said the hobby got out of control.”

The Delta Glen Maple business, owned by Donahue and his wife Claudia at 7359 Stokes-Westernville Road, has taps on over 3,000 maple trees on the property for the sap-boiling and syrup-making season that is expected to see sap start running this week. He also plans to boil sap from additional maples being tapped on a section of his property that he is leasing to others, bringing the sap-boiling total to more than 4,500 trees overall. The business also is a distributor for maple production equipment from the H2O Innovation company of Canada, such as maple evaporators and equipment for filter systems.

Delta Glen Maple sells its syrup to some local stores and restaurants, said Donahue, and also sells some from home through “word-of-mouth.”

Donahue has much more experience running the farm over the past 25 years or so; it includes beef cattle. He said he is the sixth generation on the farm. He noted the property totals about 472 acres, including about 80 acres that are leased out.

The maple business developed with the help of Donahue’s friend Walt Kraeger, who runs a farm in Steuben and has helped Donahue with round-baling of hay. Donahue said Kraeger, a third-generation maple sugar-maker, has been involved with maple syrup at his own property, and saw “more potential here” on Donahue’s land. They “joined forces to do it here,” Donahue said. Kraeger is a partner with Donahue in the maple-production aspect of the business.

“We’re trying to build in stages...not finance a lot,” commented Donahue, explaining that each year the goal is to tap 500-1,000 more trees on the property.

But he may have only tapped the surface so far. Donahue said representatives from the H2O Innovation company upon seeing his land have estimated there are about 10-12,000 maple trees on the main 320-acre portion of the property, plus about 4-5,000 more on each of two nearby parcels which are about 80 acres and 70 acres respectively.

Donahue said he believes there are not many other dealers of maple production equipment in the immediate Rome area, which is “one of the reasons we were picked” by H2O Innovation to be a distributor.

“I want to let people know somebody’s out here” with such equipment, said Donahue. The local area tends to be “more to the hobby side of it,” he observed, with “not a lot of large production.” But there is “a lot of potential” based on the large numbers of maple trees.

Donahue said he has done some business with the Amish, for example. Also, he went this week to Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES in New Hartford which has purchased some equipment, and he assisted students in setting up a small tubing system.

The maple industry in general includes “a lot of bigger producers getting bigger” through “a lot of consolidations,” remarked Donahue, with “not a lot of younger generations coming in.” The pace of maple syrup production is not over-supplying the market, he added, and there are “more opportunities out there.”

While the local weather has continued to generate snow, the slightly higher temperatures this week are bringing forth the sap flow.

At Delta Glen Maple, “we’re all tapped in....It should be running pretty good on Wednesday...the first running of the season for us,” said Donahue.

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