It’s that time of year when the sap is flowing
Alfred Lewis would be proud of his grandson John Gavic, who has honed his knowledge of making maple syrup on the Lewis family farm in Pierce County. Lewis passed away last year, but not before he saw his small operation, when he used to hang 50 buckets from trees in his woods, turn into bulk tanks and vacuum assists.
Six years ago, the younger generation decided to dust off those buckets and have a go at it themselves. That first year they made 20 gallons of syrup. Today, they have over 1,200 taps across 30 acres of woods. Some of the larger trees can handle up to three taps.
“We have to capability to tap up to 2,000 more trees,” said John. “Every year we go bigger and bigger and with the gravity tubing we don’t have to collect the sap from individual trees.”
In addition to the gravity tubing which sends the sap down to a holding tank, they have installed a vacuum system. The system is under negative pressure so it actually helps draw the sap out of the trees and it accelerates the flow to the holding tanks.
At the present time they have 400 taps hooked up to the vacuum system. Next year they are expected add up to 250 more. The vacuum system has allowed them to double their production. The traditional freeze-thaw cycle is less of a factor with this system in place.
“The holding tank is at the lowest point,” said John. From there the sap is pumped into a tank on a pick-up truck and delivered for the next step. It normally takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. One tap will produce 10 gallons of sap.
The sap comes out of the tree with a sugar content of two percent. The journey continues for the sap on its way to 65 percent sugar, when it is officially maple syrup.
“We run the sap thru a reverse osmosis process,” said John. “It reduces the water content. After the RO it takes only seven gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. It is more efficient and it means we burn less wood.”
Next the sap is poured into the extractor where is circulates until it reaches 217 degrees. It then goes on to be filtered and bottled.
Last year was a good season. It lasted five weeks and yielded 700 gallons of syrup. Normally the season begins in mid-March. This year they did not start boiling until the beginning of April.
“It is really enjoyable because it is a family event,” said John, who is a 2007 Hudson High School graduate. When he isn’t boiling syrup or transporting sap he works for Metals Marketing Sales and Engineering. It is a small company that makes firearms components and other items requiring foundry work.
“Everybody pitches in. We get the job done while having some family fun,” said Paul Gavic, John’s dad.
“Most of our business is word of mouth,” said John, who knows the syrup process well. The business is a family venture, which includes uncles Bob Manor and Terry Lewis, cousins Nate and Jorden Manor, his dad Paul and Carey Woods the only non-family member.