Keepin' Things Sweet with Beaver Valley Maple
Pardon me while I wipe up my drooly face - this was inevitably going to happen! I can’t pin point when the rush happens but there is something so nostalgic yet so satisfying about indulging in some good ol’ local syrup. Stuff so good you don’t even have to convince yourself twice about having a straight up spoonful. All of the above applies to Beaver Valley Maple, a 100% organic pure maple syrup new to the Grey Bruce Simcoe shelves, made with love in the heart of the Beaver Valley. This is the good shiz!
Let me just share with you a little piece of my heart before you read on to the Q+A where you’ll learn some cool stuff about this company and what they’re producing.
There are few people in your catalog of moments that you’ll cherish for years to come and Rich Fletcher, part owner of BVM and full time Dad to my some of my best friends, is one of these people. From learning to start a fire, encouraging me to freestyle rap in public, and to many waffle breakfasts with the Irish Mountain crew, there was never a lack of wisdom, encouragement or laughter present in the room. This is what he is good at - seeing the best in people, and always sharing his knowledge with others (something I always admire). With this new company, the passion is 100% there in terms of quality and the environment, which makes it super easy to support everything they stand for in this little place we call home.
After recently retiring as a high school teacher, Rich teamed up with long-time friends Mark Brown + Robert Porteous and re-invented his 9-5 into a full-time gig now known as Beaver Valley Maple. The trio has brought their dreams to reality, legitimized their hobby and are now crafting some, if not the best organic maple syrup in the area. The first year has come and gone, and as we head into the new year BVM is planning to tap 12,000 trees over a 250 acreage. I’m predicting one very sweet future ahead for this local company and many breakfast spreads to be plated. Who’s in?
Fun fact - I got to bring my bestie out to the BVM acreage and we had our hand in setting up some laterals + droplines which is code for tubes and spouts that the sap will run through. On top of learning something new, it was the most gorgeous day to be spending it outside with good company, mister golden sun and no cell service near by.
For all things maple, read on to learn the who, what, where, when + why of BVM.
Stef - Out of all things, why maple syrup?
Rich Fletch - First off, I love being in the woods at all times of the year so it’s kind of the perfect venture. Maple syrup is unique ie. only a few places in the world (primarily eastern provinces and northeastern states) are able to harvest sap from maple trees which is pretty neat. Maple syrup is also very sustainable without harming the trees or adding fertilizers, pesticides etc.
Compared to refined sugar or other sweeteners, maple syrup is lower on the glycemic index while being rich of antioxidants, prebiotic properties, and protective against neurodegenerative diseases. Given that we have the tools and access to make syrup in Canada, our carbon footprint is less compared to purchasing other international sweeteners.
S - You're retired now and could kick back and take it easy if you wanted of course. What inspired you to start making syrup?
RF - Sitting around is not my style. I want to continue to learn and challenge myself. As a teacher, I tried to inspire students to challenge themselves while discovering what their passions were. Our family has made syrup for 20 years as a hobby but learning to make good syrup has had a steep learning curve.
S - What makes your syrup a unique in comparison to the others made locally?
RF - We are certified organic and harvest sap from the trees in the beautiful Beaver Valley. Some say the escarpment gives the syrup a unique flavour compared to other regions.
S - How much syrup do you think BVM is projected to make yearly?
RF - This past year we averaged 1L per tap or 6500 total litres of syrup. Currently, we have doubled our tap count and expect an average yield of 13000-15000 litres per year.
S - Organic - what makes a maple syrup organic?
RF - Organic certification requires that you follow specific rules when harvesting and processing sap. Here are some of the rules required to become certified:
a)There are greater restrictions on the number of taps that you can put in a tree depending on its diameter, while the diameter of the tap hole must not exceed 11mm and the maximum depth drilling into the tree is 6 cm on the bark.
b) Re-tapping is forbidden (this means that you cannot drill another tap in the tree in the same season if the first one heals over).
c) You may only clean with food grade ethyl alcohol for the spout & hole and only acetic acid (vinegar) or old sap as a sugar shack cleaner for cleaning pans etc.
d) Only certified organic de-foamers are allowed (when sap is boiled under high temperatures, the sap will foam up and burn without a de-foamer). We use organic canola oil as our de-foamer.
e) The maple tree’s companion species must represent 15% of the wood volume from the sugar bush
f) Farm animals are forbidden in the sugar bush at all times.
g) The use of pesticides is forbidden.
S - How long did it take to get everything set-up and have you run into any challenges?
RF - We have been in business for approximately 18 months. There have been many challenges getting to where we are. The organic certification has been challenging as well as the many safety permits and expenses that were unforeseen upon entry into the syrup business. As a teacher, I tried to teach students the importance of being resilient and overcoming adversity. I’m now having to practice what I taught. Starting up a business has been daunting. Solving problems on a daily basis is now expected and does not come as a surprise anymore.
S- Favourite maple-infused recipe?
RF- 1 part BVM syrup, 3 parts Jameson’s Irish Whiskey, + 2 ice cubes
S - You've lived in Grey County for quite some time now and have seen it evolve. What do you predict for the next 5 years? Why do you love to live here?
RF - I have spent a great deal of time in outdoor adventures over the last 30 years. I am encouraged that more people are spending time outdoors being active, and appreciating the natural diversity of our area.
Be sure to pick-up a bottle soon. Beaver Valley Maple can be found in various locations throughout the local area including The Cheese Gallery, Thornbury Bakery, Thornbury Foodland, The Kitchen in Meaford, Rice’s Home Hardware (to name a few).
Let me know your favourite way to use maple syrup in the comments below. I’m always up for new discoveries.