Winters are long and cold in Ohio. But as spring approaches, many begin to itch to get outdoors and start the annual ritual of harvesting the first and sweetest agricultural crop of the year – maple syrup! Ohio has a deep and rich maple heritage that many are just beginning to discover.
Maple syrup season is spring’s promise of summer’s bounty and the fall harvest. March is Maple Month in Ohio. Each year Ohio ranks fourth or fifth in maple syrup production and northeast Ohio produces at least 60 percent of that crop. That makes Ohio one sweet place to live and visit.
Did you know that maple syrup is made in only a very small part of the entire world? Conditions are right only around the Great Lakes and eastern Canada. This region’s crummy springs are perfect for long runs of sap and a bountiful maple syrup harvest.
The making of maple syrup takes place tucked away in the woods, far from the general public. For fourteen years, maple producers have joined together to open their sugarhouses to visitors for two special weekend tours. It is the Maple Madness® Driving Tour and it takes place March 8 & 9, 15 & 16, 2014. Most stops are free and a great family adventure. In 2014, there are 48 stops in 22 counties across Ohio, plus two in our sweet neighboring state, Pennsylvania.
Tour stops range in size from small backyard operations to large commercial ones. The buildings can be small structures to beautiful state of the art ones containing the latest in syrup production equipment. Experienced syrup makers answer questions and give guided tours to visitors. Every stop is as unique as the syrup maker.
The Maple Madness® Driving Tour
The Maple Madness® Driving Tour, sponsored by the Ohio Maple Producers Association, is a statewide celebration of Ohio’s deep and rich maple heritage.
In 2001, the Geauga County OSU Extension planned the first Maple Driving Tour. It was a two-day event with 11 stops in three counties. In 2009, the Ohio Maple Producers Association assumed the sponsorship of the Tour. It is now a four-day event with 48 stops in 22 counties across Ohio, the biggest yet. It is easy to say that thousands leave the comfort of their homes to explore the woods and learn about Ohio’s maple industry. Several Saturday only stops are at Amish sugarhouses.
The free tour has been designed to educate visitors on how clear maple sap is gathered each spring from the maple tree and is turned into golden, sweet maple syrup. The tour is a relaxed experience where people can take their time and visit as many or as few stops as they wish.
Maple, March & Tourism
Boy Scout Camp Tuscazoar in Tuscarawas County worked for a year to get a grant to participate on the tour. The Tuscarawas County Convention and Visitors Bureau worked with them on the grant to attract more visitors to the county because maple creates tourism in March.
After a long, hard winter, people are looking for ways to treat “cabin fever”. Visiting sugarhouses and enjoying pancake breakfasts is one way to do this. A trip into the woods is a part of agri-tourism. People go looking for a maple experience and they spend money on gas, food, lodging while visiting local stores and markets. It all adds up to invest in local economies.
Explore Ohio’s Maple Heritage & History In March
As the second largest agricultural tour in Ohio, a day visiting sugarhouses on the Maple Madness® Driving Tour is a great adventure. March is Maple Month in Ohio and in the heart of the world’s maple industry. Take some time this March and discover for yourself what all this excitement is about.
For more information on the Ohio Maple Producers Association or the Maple Madness® Driving Tour, including a complete tour list, visit www.ohiomaple.org or call 440-834-1415.