By LINDA M. LINONIS
A tradition of maple sugaring continues as sweet work at a year-round camp and conference center operated by Eastminster Presbytery.
“We have sugar maples lining the driveway that are some 120 years old,” said Gary Hoskins, director of property and grounds at Joseph Badger Meadows.
On the 250-acre property, about 75 sugar maples are tapped.
Hoskins said an idea for a spring retreat “morphed into something else,” that is, the sugar tapping. The retreat idea didn’t go anywhere, but the maple sugaring has met with success.
This was the third year for the project. Hoskins, who tapped the trees, said he has seen old tap marks on the trees. “It’s all done by hand using buckets,” he said.
Chuck Chalker, moderator of the JBM committee, said maple sugaring has been done “off and on” at the camp for years.
The Presbytery established the camp and conference center in 1966; the property includes a retreat center, farmhouse, 12 cabins and dining hall. Retreats take place year-round, and there’s a summer camp for children.
Chalker and Hoskins said JBM doesn’t have the equipment for the maple-sugar process, so it partners with a neighboring farm that does. “One of the neighbors is kind enough to boil our sap with his. He takes a percentage,” Hoskins said.
“We don’t have enough sap to do our own boiling,” Chalker said.
Chalker said this season’s yield was about 46 cases with 12 pint bottles to a case. The bottles bear the JBM logo of a tree.
There are 44 churches in Eastminster Presbytery, based in Mineral Ridge, and some buy cases to sell bottles to members. First Presbyterian Church, 201 Wick Ave., Youngstown, is among them. The Rev. Dr. Nick Mager, pastor, said the maple syrup is popular and very tasty. The Forecaster, the church bulletin, noted that the testimonies reflect that the “syrup is good.”
The cost is $8 a bottle. Proceeds benefit the JBM scholarship fund for camp.
“It’s a light golden color and the sweetest syrup,” Chalker said. “Everyone who tries it, loves it.” The syrup sells quickly, he added.
This summer, JBM is planning an education program in sustainable agriculture in partnership with Goodness Grows, a faith-based food and farming nonprofit venture of Common Ground Church Community in Beaver Township.