There are over 400 registered maple syrup producers in Ontario and countless others who enjoy sugar as a hobby.
Simcoe County is teeming with maple trees and it’s not uncommon to see the silvery sheen of buckets hanging there at this time of year.
Scott LaMantia’s hobby is a sweet way to unwind from his sometimes stressful job.
As the City of Barrie’s Senior Communications Advisor, LaMantia juggles daily calls, emails and requests from reporters. In recent years, he has therefore found a way to escape to his property in Oro-Medonte, north of the city.
“I’ve been making my own maple syrup for about six years now, by tapping the trees around me,” says LaMantia. “It started small with just a couple, but I have about 60 trees now.”
Living just off Horseshoe Valley Road on the 6th Line in a small community aptly called Sugar Bush, LaMantia says he’s surrounded by maple trees and, just as importantly, a few helpful neighbors.
“The community is very tight-knit. We all help each other when we can and if I chase the kids in the yard, a neighbor will keep the fire going while I boil the sap,” LaMantia says.
While he originally wanted to do something small for fun, LaMantia says he now sees people’s passion for sugar.
After his first attempt at boiling what he scavenged from the buckets ended in very little syrup, LaMantia stepped up production from a local store-bought kit to now have a sugar shack and rows of sugar canes. trees.
“It all started with a kit from Home Hardware that had five buckets and five taps, but I realized you need a lot of sap because after boiling the water there’s little syrup left,” he says. . “I did some research and found it was best to spread the sap and boil it, so I now use heated trays and made my own evaporator out of an old barrel.
“The year after I did that, I ended up buying an evaporator from a guy in Quebec and now I have a sugar shack to protect everything from the elements,” adds LaMantia.
It also has half the taps on the lines which are drawn from the trees on the hill so that the sap runs down the line and into the barrel.
“It was getting tiring going up and down the hill every night with 40 to 45 buckets. It will make things a little easier,” says LaMantia.
LaMantia said he might even sell a few bottles of LaMantia’s small-batch maple syrup (some bottles have a label) at the start of a season to help offset the cost of productions, but adds that he prefers ” give people a way just to see them enjoying it.
“I just love making it and sharing it. Just sitting down with a book, in front of a fire and keeping an eye on the maple syrup is a great way to pass the time,” he says. “It’s pretty Canadian too, isn’t it?”