12 Unique Canadian Maple Syrup Farms You Need to Know
Every spring, thousands of Canadians head to the woods to process the nearly 15 million gallons of maple syrup the country produces each year. Here are the businesses putting their own locally-inspired spin on the tradition.
Photo: Richard Macphee
Macphee’s Orchard, Prince Edward Island
Community is front and centre at Macphee’s Orchard near Cardigan, P.E.I. Owner Richard Macphee partners with his neighbours to tap about 600 trees and 90 percent of their syrup is sold right from their farm gate. A sense of stewardship guides Macphee through his hard work. As he says: “Mostly it’s extremely pleasant and rewarding to be out in the forest at this time of year when life is waking up from the winter. Because the number of trees is small and we have to attend to them regularly through the season, we get to know the individual trees. Perhaps it’s ridiculous to suggest a person can have a relationship with a tree but we do care about them.”
Wabanaki Maple, New Brunswick
Wabanaki Maple is an Indigenous and female-owned company located on Neqotkuk (Tobique First Nation). In addition to classic maple syrup, they also make aged syrup with oak, whiskey, bourbon, and rum barrels, each with its own distinct flavour and aroma profiles. The barrel-aged bourbon syrup has notes of vanilla, caramel, butter, and oak, and hints of marshmallow aroma, and recommended to be paired with specialty coffee, pork, salmon, and scallops. “The most rewarding [part] is hearing feedback from our customers,” says team member Peter Davis. “From pancakes to glaze on seafood…it’s fantastic to see our maple syrup being used in so many different ways.”
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Photo: Paul Strome
Black River Maple Products, Nova Scotia
Many people describe making maple syrup as a labour of love but artist and activist Neal Livingston looks upon it with a meditative eye. “I started the syrup operation when I was 29 and I’m now almost 67,” says Livingston. “I like that I can get into the forest tapping trees and [repairing the] maple lines.” The first landowner on Cape Breton to have his woodlot eco-certified, Livingston is inspired by the community’s support of his single-forest syrup. “What motivates me, considering [how] climate change has affected us…is that people really love the syrup we make,” he says.
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Cabane à Tuque, Quebec
Few things are so cozily Canadian as a maple-laden meal at a traditional Quebec sugar shack. One producer near Mont-Tremblant is making sure this warm experience is a sustainable one. Cabane à Tuque uses local ingredients to transform traditional sugar shack offerings into a delectable vegan feast. Quebec tourtière is made with vegetables and millet, while the homemade beans are prepared without the traditional pork. The eco-ethos extends to their sustainable property, which features a wall made with recycled bottles, and a small sales counter that sells organic syrup and other local products.
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Photo: Fulton's Sugar Bush
Fulton’s Sugar Bush and Maple Shop, Ontario
This sixth-generation Pakenham, Ont. farm is proving that maple syrup is as good for your skin as it is for your stomach. In addition to offering classic maple syrup products and the traditional sugar shack experience, Fulton’s has developed maple toiletries. They say their heavenly smelling treats were designed “to bring the wholesome goodness of maple from the table to our skin.” You can find their Maple Luscious products in luxurious settings as the Fairmont Le Château Montebello spa.
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Vanier Sugar Shack, Ontario
Did you know that Canada’s most unusual maple producer is a scant four kilometres from Parliament Hill? Located in the heart of downtown Ottawa, the Vanier Sugar Shack is the most urban sugar shack in the world. Its location is just the beginning of the bragging rights for this beloved community enterprise that’s part of the historic Vanier Museopark. They’re also responsible for tapping the regal trees on the Governor General’s estate. Community spirit is at the centre of everything they do and they oversee robust volunteer and education programs. While arson destroyed their main building in 2020, rebuilding is on track for completion in the fall of 2022.
While no one can compete with the Vanier Sugar Shack’s location, they’re not the only not-for-profit organization harvesting maple syrup in urban Ontario. The volunteers with Friends of Bronte Creek Park host a maple festival every March in Oakville’s Bronte Creek Provincial Park and produce maple syrup from the park’s trees.
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Photo: Manitoba Maple Syrup Festival
The Manitoba Maple Syrup Festival, Manitoba
The Manitoba Maple Syrup Festival doesn’t make syrup but they sure know how to celebrate those who do. Now entering its 10th year, the festival in McCreary—Manitoba’s maple syrup capital—honours local producers, including the Manitoba Maple Products, Yummy Stuff, and Tucker Farms. The family-friendly events include celebrating Métis culture, helping with syrup production, and sampling maple treats like taffy on snow. Festival president Pam Little points out that maple syrup is an important part of McCreary’s heritage. “Indigenous people have been collecting sap and producing maple sugar for eons here in Manitoba,” she says. “Our producers learned the process directly from Indigenous people who live in our area or indirectly from them over the years.”
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Assiniboine River Taps, Saskatchewan
For Allen Bennet of Assiniboine River Taps, a moment of curiosity turned into a lifetime of innovation. While exploring with his Ski-Doo near Kamsack, Sask. three decades ago, he drove to the top of a hill and was rewarded with a spectacular view of maple trees. He couldn’t help but wonder what would come out of them. In short measure, Bennet progressed from making his own taps to ordering thousands of them. Before long, he connected a six-mile-long pipe to the taps, eliminating the grueling collection process. He’s passionate about the results of his Manitoba maple tree syrup, proudly saying that the smooth flavour stays on your tongue long after you have a taste.
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Uncle Lee’s Bees, Alberta
Cam Wright and the team at Uncle Lee’s Bees near Calgary didn’t set out to be maple moguls. Back in 1993, they had exactly two Manitoba maple trees. Many years and trees later, they can’t keep with demand for both their product and knowledge. “As soon as we hit the market with an Alberta-based product like this, the consumer buy-in was huge,” says Wright. “We can’t produce it fast enough.” Some fans may even become future maple producers, with Wright reporting that many people inquire about how they can tap their own trees.
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Beneath The Bark Sugar Shack, British Columbia
Being far away from the east coast’s prized sugar maples didn’t deter Glenn Janzen. He was among the many Vancouver Island households embracing big leaf maples and producing syrup for personal use. But everything changed in 2017 when he acquired a wood-fired evaporator. With improved efficiency on his side, he was making enough syrup to supply the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market. Tending to Beneath The Bark’s 116-acre forest takes time but Janzen says it’s well worth it. “Being out in the woods every day, what could be more life-giving?”
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Maple Roch, British Columbia
When Roch Fortin was stationed as an RCMP officer in northern New Brunswick, he fell in love with the area. The warm connections continued long after he retired and he was eager to find a way to support the Maritime community from his Summerland, B.C., home. He started by shipping in six barrels of New Brunswick maple syrup. From there, he launched a business based on the principles of social enterprise, partnering with organizations like the local food bank to create jobs. Today, Maple Roch collaborates with local entrepreneurs to make mouth-watering maple-infused treats like granola, mustard, and spice mixes.
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Maple Rush, Yukon
The Whitehorse-based Maple Rush isn’t letting a lack of local maple trees dampen its creativity. Using syrup from single-forest estates in Quebec, the company is pairing maple-based classics with local ingredients. Their list of specialty maple butters includes Yukon birch, spruce tip, and Yukon Brewing’s wild berry brandy. They also offer a maple syrup that ages for six months in whisky barrels that once held Two Brewers Yukon single malt whisky.
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