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Keeping the ‘Sweetest Little Town’s’ future Sweet!

About three weeks ago I was lucky enough to spend some time with Shepherd’s ‘Movers and shakers’ (smile).  Merrie Hammel gave me a call on my cell phone and let me know that they were out doing something I might find interesting and want to take pictures of.  About a month before Merrie had my wife and I come to Frankenmuth, MI to judge a Photography contest that the Michigan Maple Syrup Association was hosting for the NAMSC/IMSI Conference.  While we spent only a few hours at the conference, I was impressed with all the new technology that was being shown off by various venders whose sole purpose was to collect and make Maple Syrup.  Who knew it was such a Hi-Tech industry!

Having taught with Merrie for years, she was aware of my background in and love for Biology.  What they had for me was a variety of Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum), that was named ‘Supersweet’.  The variety was developed by Cornell University to be  faster growing and produce sweeter sap. A company was formed (RPM Ecosystems) to sell them (but since has gone out of business).

The Shepherd Sugarbush had purchased about 400 saplings of this new variety and Merrie, her husband Arnie and Ron Rhynard were planting them to insure the availability of sugar for Shepherd’s future Maple Syrup Festivals.

Ron was power drilling holes, Arnie was dumping some nutrient rich soil into the holes and Merrie was planting the saplings with tender loving care.

The trees are initially planted about 5 feet apart.  As they grow, the ‘crop’ will be thinned with the trees that are removed being used to replace aging trees around the Village of Shepherd.  I’m getting pretty fascinated by Maple Syrup industry and am looking forward to February when the Tapping and Collection begins!  I can’t wait to taste the new sap in three decades.  Her’s Merrie explaining the process in person …

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