When you visit Randy Galusha's Toad Hill Maple Farm in Thurman, NY, you'll find acres of tapped sugar maples, and a state-of-the-art wooden sugarhouse built almost entirely with timber from the farm.
When you visit Randy Galusha's Toad Hill Maple Farm in Thurman, NY, you'll see acres of tapped sugar maples, and a state-of-the-art wooden sugarhouse built almost entirely with timber from the farm. You'll also see energy efficient machinery, a crisscross of tubing to collect the sap, and a highly refined maple syrup production process.
What you can't see are the generations of the Galusha family, starting with Randy's great-grandfather, who first bought the land, or 10-year-old Randy, whose interest in the process re-inspired his family to launch a small commercial operation.
"It was something my brother and I had seen my grandmother do," Randy says. "We found some old sap spouts in my dad's barn, and we decided we were going to try it."
From there, a family hobby turned into a commercial business, growing from a manual system with 500 buckets to collect the sap, and then maturing to the tubing system with taps on upwards of 1,500 individual trees. After the sap is collected, the multi-step boiling and refining process to turn 40 gallons of sap into just one gallon of maple syrup begins, taking about ten hours to complete one batch. Galusha says all of that effort, which he calls a "labor of love," goes into 1,000 gallons of syrup on the shelves each year.
"A lot of people don't realize how much work goes into it," Randy says. "When customers look at a container of syrup and see the price tag on it compared to imitation syrups, they just don't realize what actually went into that."
The Galusha family, Randy and his wife, Jill, has already seen their hard work over the years pay off; Toad Hill Maple Farm is the second largest maple producer in Warren County.
In addition to just the technical needs of syrup production, there are a fair amount of environmental factors that also need to be just right in order to commercially produce syrup. Since it takes sugar maple trees a minimum of 30 years to start producing sap, and trees must be a minimum size, there's a lot of clearing and manual work that must be done to prepare a group of sugar maples, called a sugarbush, for production.
Weather is another huge factor for maple syrup production, and this year's warmer-than-average temperatures have been hard on the business. For maple syrup production, days must be warm, but nights need to remain cold in order to start and stop the flow of sap from the trees.
"We already missed a few days of production because temperatures rose early, before our taps were even in our trees," says Galusha.
Despite a few weather-related setbacks early this year, Galusha says his farm is doing well and continuing to expand. With maple syrup being a completely pure product, it's now used in many more foods and products than just as a dressing for pancakes. Galusha says the industry has been growing by ten percent each year.
"There are literally thousands of things [maple syrup] can be used in these days," Galusha says. "There are cookbooks dedicated solely to maple."
He plans to work on tapping more trees on his 853-acre property and continue to expand his retail business with not just syrup, but other maple products, including maple candy, granulated maple sugar, maple cream, maple coated popcorn, and maple cotton candy.
With its beautifully built and consumer friendly sugarhouse, a trip to Toad Hill Maple Farm is a fun day trip for some locally-produced maple syrup and other goodies. While the farm is open for visitors year-round, the best days to take a trip to Toad Hill Maple Farm are on Thurman Maple Days, or on Thurman Farm tour days, for tours, wagon rides, and other family games. If you're planning to visit any other day, please be sure to call ahead.
This year's open house weekends are March 19 & 20, 26 & 27, and April 2 & 3. You can get more information at www.toadhillmaple.com.
For more information on Thurman Maple Days, go to www.visitlakegeorge.com.