Why is MSU Tollgate Farm breakfast’s best friend?

Join us at MSU Tollgate Farm in March 2016 for an unforgettable celebration of the maple tapping season.

You may know that everyone's favorite pancake topping, maple syrup, is made right here at Michigan State University’s Tollgate Farm and Education Center. But did you know the tasty treat is harvested from the sugar maple which is found only throughout New England, the Mid-Atlantic States, the Great Lakes States and certain Canadian provinces? Michigan provides access to agricultural products that are unknown in certain parts of the world. Maple syrup is a unique local food that should not be taken for granted. In fact, Michigan is on the list of top 10 maple syrup-producing states in North America!

Producing maple syrup is no easy task. Here at Tollgate, our sugar bush boasts a number of techniques for collecting the sap with over 300 trees in production. Starting in late February and lasting throughout March, conditions are just right to begin collection. After collection, the sap is transported to the sugar shack for processing. Sugar maple sap is mostly water with roughly 5 percent (2-4 percent) sugar content, depending on a number of factors. Next, processing takes place in a variety of ways which all involve boiling the sap to concentrate the sugar. At Tollgate, we feature various methods which increase production efficiency including a newly added reverse osmosis system. After the sap is boiled down to reach at least 66-67 percent sugar, the solution is filtered to remove any sugar sand or particulate that results from the process. Maple sugaring is a fascinating process that can involve large scale production or be accomplished in your very own backyard. If you're interested in finding out more about maple sugaring, Ohio State University provides a helpful online fact sheet about hobby production.

Be sure to check out Tollgate’s maple syrup production throughout the sugaring season in a variety of ways. First, sign up for the Maple Tapping and Pancake Breakfast on March 19 and 20, 2016. Enjoy a two-hour, hands-on look at our maple sugaring operation followed by a tasty breakfast in the barn with hotcakes and real maple syrup. The program includes a wagon ride to the sugar shack, an opportunity to tap a maple tree and the fascinating story of sugaring tools through time. Another option is to set up a personal or family tour. With five or more in your group, you can have a personalized tour led by one of our expert instructors. In fact, school groups find this program to be one of their favorites, learning about the science and history of maple sugaring close to home!

For more information about this program, please visit the Tollgate Farm and Education Center website. Michigan State University Extension offers a wealth of resources on maple syrup production and local food systems at their website. For more information about this article, contact me, education director, MSUE Tollgate Education Center, 28115 Meadowbrook Road, Novi, MI 48377, at 248-347-0269 or jaros@msu.edu.

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