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Finding Minnesota: Somerskogen Sugarbush

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(credit: CBS) Angela Davis
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MINNETRISTA (WCCO) – Almost all of us love this warm March weather, but not maple syrup farmers.

Why? Because when maple trees bloom, the sap stops.

But in Minnetrista, the sap is still slowly flowing. And that’s a good thing.

In the woods just off of County Road 110 West, you’ll find yourself in the middle of Somerskogen Sugarbush. This is where the Somers family first started tapping their 17 acres of maple trees 18 years ago. They did it after finding an old box of supplies.

Mary and Don Somers said the project got started with a kit and some curiosity.

“There’s a little closet downstairs that had a cardboard box that had 22 spiles (or taps) in it. And Don … being a physician and our son, Peter, enjoying science, they thought: Ah, Maple syruping. Let’s try this is,” Somers said.

They put in 22 taps the first year they started, but the Somers now have more than 700 taps connected to an intricate system of pipelines that runs through the forest. The lines are also connected to a high-powered vacuum pump. Don said that most of the parts for his system could be purchased from a hardware store.

“There were some techniques used up in Quebec and Vermont…so we started the pipeline system here,” Don said. “It’s all gravity fed into a big tank, so we could save some time and pump it up into our sugar house.”

Don and his son designed the pipeline system after meeting with maple syrup producers in Canada and Vermont. They also studied the techniques of those producers.

Inside the sugar house, the sap is heated in an evaporator that eventually leaves behind syrup. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make just one gallon of maple syrup.

“It’s the equivalent of a 25-foot wide flat pan,” Don said. “We can boil away a 130 gallons of sap an hour, which really sends a lot of steam out of the roof.”

After a couple more steps, it’s bottled and proudly labeled with the words: 100 percent maple syrup.

Mary said they never know how much syrup they will produce in a given year. But she did say that each year they sell out of their stock earlier and earlier.

However, this year’s warm temperatures have severely limited production for many syrup producers. Don said he’ll be lucky to get 25 percent of his normal crop this year. He also said that one of his friends, who has 26,000 maple taps, has only collected 15 gallons of sap.

If you’re interested getting your hand on Minnesota-made syrup, Don does has some syrup for sale online. You can get it a the Somerskogen Sugarbush website.

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