Summerland man tapping a sweet new market - InfoNews

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Summerland man tapping a sweet new market

Summerland businessman Roch Fortin made maple syrup from Summerland maple trees this year.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Maple Roch Pure Canadian Maple Syrup Facebook page
April 26, 2019 - 1:00 PM

PENTICTON - A Summerland company has found a sweet and unique market niche in the Okanagan.

Roch Fortin of Maple Roch recently completed his second batch of maple syrup production from Summerland maple trees, and while quantities weren’t stellar, he’s nonetheless encouraged by the success of the venture.

The former New Brunswick RCMP officer brought his connections with eastern maple syrup producers, farmers and lobster fishermen with him when he moved to Summerland after retiring from a 32 year career with the RCMP.

He promised to help them find new markets for their products and eventually succeeded in getting a contract with SYSCO Foods to supply local chefs with maple syrup.

Fortin eventually opened Maple Roch Pure Canadian Maple Store on Victoria Road in Summerland, where he sold maple products from the east.

“This year we decided, well, there are maple trees here. Last year we tried a very small batch to see if it was feasible and we produced a litre and a half,” Fortin says.

"This year, with some help from back east, we got a boiler. We had some community assistance, too, going to different locations and asking permission to tap maple trees. The next thing we knew, we’d harvested 1,000 litres of sap,”  he says.

Fortin produced 17.5 litres of syrup from that 1,000 litres, adding it wasn’t a good year for sap production.

The small quantity was quickly spoken for.

“It was really cold day and night, then just overnight it went to 12 Celsius and quit freezing at night. That’s the kiss of death for harvesting maple syrup,” Fortin says, adding the season worked out to a four day window instead of what should be a two or three week season under normal conditions.

He’s encouraged by the results, and says part of his overall effort is to showcase maple products, noting maple syrup is being used locally in spirits, ciders and maple wine.

He’s also thinking of a maple syrup festival next year to coincide with the season.

Fortin says a producer in the Cowichan valley is the only other maple syrup producer in B.C. he is aware of, using green leaf maple trees that contain only 0.05 sugar content.

“They have a ratio of sap to syrup that’s three times mine. You would need 120 litres of sap for one litre of syrup. With birch trees, you need 80 litres,” Fortin says.

Fortin believes Summerland’s maple trees derived from trees imported into the region during the building of the Kettle Valley Railway. A couple of railway barons had huge estates in Summerland and brought the trees in from Eastern Canada.

“They brought silver, red and Norway maples, but the life expectancy in the Okanagan Valley isn’t the same as back east because of the climate differences,” he says.

The trees produced a syrup that Fortin says “tastes really unique, totally different than New Brunswick syrup, with more like a butterscotch taste,” he says.

Fortin says farming is probably not the way to go about producing maple syrup in the Okanagan.

“You’d have to wait 25 years for maturity, and the trees don’t live as long here,” he says.

Still, Fortin tapped 50 trees in Summerland this year, using 75 taps, as larger trees could take more than one, and produced 1,000 litres in a short season.

“We proved it could be done. It’s a learning process. Anything’s possible, right?” he says.


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News from © Infotel News Ltd, 2019
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