Photo submitted by Wheelers Maple Sugar Camp.
Do you like maple? Lanark County serves it up in just about every form you can imagine.
In the Maple Syrup Capital of Ontario, you’ll find maple syrup of every grade, from golden to amber—but that’s just the beginning. During the season, you can sample maple taffy made on snow or spread some warm toast with maple butter. You can enjoy maple granola, maple beer or maple-baked beans at Temple’s Sugar Bush, or buy maple fudge, maple mustard or maple vinegar at Fortune Farms. Shake up your beauty routine with maple body butter and bath salts from Fulton’s Pancake House and Sugar Bush, or kick back with a maple porter brewed with maple sap at Cartwright Springs Brewery.
“In some ways, maple in Lanark County is like wine in Prince Edward County. It’s part of the identity of the county,” says Dave Fairbairn, past president of the Lanark and District Maple Syrup Producers Association.
But don’t just take our word for it. National Geographic ranked Lanark County maple syrup one of the top 10 foods to eat in Ontario.
The county celebrates its sweet heritage every spring with multiple events, including Ontario Maple Weekend, the Perth Festival of the Maples and even the Maple Run Studio Tour.
Some 200 maple syrup producers are scattered across Lanark County, ranging from small farms making maple syrup just for themselves to major operations with restaurants, shops and banquet halls. A number of families have been in the business for a century or more.
And if you think that because you’ve seen one sugar bush, you’ve seen them all, the diversity of Lanark County’s operations will surprise you. Here’s just a sample.
- Fulton’s Pancake House and Sugar Bush, Pakenham: Five generations of the Fulton family have farmed this land, since an ancestor from Scotland received a 100-acre land grant from the Crown in the 1800s. Today, the sugar bush spans some 400 acres.
- Wheeler’s Maple, McDonald’s Corners: Vernon Wheeler holds a Guinness World Record for the largest collection of artifacts related to making maple syrup—more than 5,000 in all. You can see many of them on display at the Maple Heritage Museum, including scores of spouts, sugar moulds, serving jugs and sap buckets.
- Temple’s Sugar Bush, Lanark: Under a vaulted ceiling in an elegant 200-seat timber-frame restaurant, visitors can nosh on buttermilk pancakes with wild blueberry preserves or deep-dish omelettes made with local Balderson cheddar.
- Fairbairn Maple Syrup, Almonte: All the equipment here is state of the art, but the stainless-steel evaporator used to concentrate the sap is still wood fired.
- Springdale Farm Maple Products, Clayton: In 2009, Prince Charles presented Springdale Farm with the David Eaton World Champion Maple Syrup Award at the Royal Winter Fair.
- Fortune Farms, Almonte: Visitors can taste taffy, syrup, fudge and candy before buying, and work off their snack on cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails. A bonus: the farm’s “Kettle Boys” are great storytellers.
- Thompsontown Maple Products, Clayton: This sugar bush’s motto could be “bouncing back from adversity.” A tornado microburst in 1997 destroyed 600 taps, and the 1998 ice storm knocked out 200 more. Within two years, they were back up to more than 4,000 taps.
- Coutts Country Flavours, Perth: The Coutts family has been farming in Lanark County since the mid-1800s and making maple syrup since the early 1900s. In 2006, the owners opened Coutts Country Flavours, a store specializing in local farm products.
Lanark and District Maple Syrup Producers Association: http://www.ldmspa.com/index.html