Chuck Winship. Click the image to enlarge.
During the weekends of March 17 and 18, and March 24 and 25, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, maple producers across New York State will be hosting open houses for the public, presented by the New York State Maple Producers Association. Joining them will be two maple farms located right here in the hills of the Little Finger Lakes region: Sugarbush Hollow of East Springwater, and Wohlschlegel’s Maple Farm of Naples. Each will be hosting open houses, pancake breakfasts, demonstrations, and hiking tours of their sugarbush forests. These family-oriented events offer the public a chance to see how and where maple syrup and other maple sugar products are made, and to sample and purchase the products.
Sugarbush Hollow, located on Pardee Hollow Road in East Springwater, is owned by Chuck Winship, who has been making maple syrup most of his life. “Maple syrup runs in my blood,” he says as he tells the story of how he has been involved in making maple syrup since he was a kid. Growing up on a farm near Salamanca, he helped his dad with a small maple syrup operation there. In eighth grade, he even built his own sugar shack out of railroad ties, which made him very popular with the other kids, as the shack became a social hangout.
Sugarbush Hollow. Click the image to enlarge.
Throughout college and a long career at Xerox, Chuck continued to help other people with their maple farming operations during his free time. After his retirement in 1997, he had to consider what to do with the rest of his life. So, he went on a “medicine walk,” hiking alone to a spot in a maple forest, with a journal in which to write his thoughts. He saw several cues that inspired him to become a maple farmer. “It just felt right,” he said.
At age 55, Chuck began his next step in life by going back to college. He applied to Cornell, where he worked to obtain a Master’s degree in agriculture.
In the spring of 2000, Chuck found and purchased a 220-acre property that was half virgin maple, in East Springwater. He designed, and, with the help of his brother and a friend, built the sugarhouse in August. He laid 35 miles of pipe in the woods, tapped the trees, and by 2002 was selling maple product.
Making Syrup. Click the image to enlarge.
The maple production has been growing ever since. Chuck has upgraded equipment along the way, and says, “We’re getting better at it-it’s an art, not a science.” Most of the work occurs during maple season, mid-February through March, when Chuck has a lot of help from family and friends. It’s hard physical work, but also a social occasion as they gather together for dinner each night at the sugarhouse.
Also in 2002, Sugarbush Hollow hosted its first Maple Weekend, which has also been growing more popular each year. “It’s an event that delights the senses with sights, sound and smells,” says Chuck.
Pancake breakfasts will be available both inside the sugarhouse and outside in a tent. The pancakes will be made by the Springwater Gala Committee, who uses the proceeds to fund the fireworks for their Gala in June. “It’s a win-win situation,” says Chuck, as he emphasizes his wish to make this an event to benefit the whole community.
Maple Syrup Samplers. Click the image to enlarge.
“I want this to be a community sugarhouse-a place where people can gather and enjoy themselves and nature.” Sugarbush Hollow also hosts the annual Springwater Fiddlers Fair and American Craft Show in September, and occasional hikes by the Springwater Trails Hiking Group.
Wohlschlegel’s Maple Farm, located nearby on Coates Road in Naples, is owned by Garry and Bobbi Wohlschlegel. Although the facility at the farm is new, and the maple production only recently upgraded, both Garry and Bobbi also have had a long history of producing maple syrup.
They began on a small scale at their home in Honeoye 20 or so years ago, collecting sap from their trees using an “open pan” system, then transporting it in milk cans to Garry’s father, Harley’s, place on French Hill Road in Naples. There it was processed in a wood-fired evaporator, and sold out of a small shack.
Maple Syrup Products. Click the image to enlarge.
Garry and Bobbi Wohlschlegel. Click the image to enlarge.
In 1999, they bought a 60-acre property on Coates Road, near Harley’s place, tapped 150 trees, and continued transporting syrup to Harley’s shack. They both also attended numerous maple production conferences in Vermont and New York states, and visited other sugarbushes to learn all they could about maple farming, doing their research to decide what was best for them. “No maple farm does things the same as another,” said Bobbi, explaining how each farm is customized to meet specific needs of the owner.
They began planning the design and construction for a new multi-purpose facility that would serve as a sugarhouse, garage, retail shop and apartment. Garry and Bobbi both have professional expertise-he as a machinist and she as a chemical technician - that lent well to the planning.
Wohlschlegel’s Maple Farm. Click the image to enlarge.
The new facility was built in 2010 with the help of Garry’s brother and nephew, who are in the construction business. It contains energy-efficient state-of-the-art equipment, including a wet-dry conductive tubing vacuum system, a reverse osmosis system, and a steam-away. In the past year Garry and Bobbi added even more equipment: another column to the reverse osmosis system, larger underground tubing and a larger pump.
This new equipment now enables the Wohlschlegels to produce on a much larger scale. They are now tapping over 4000 trees. The sap is drawn through the vacuum system and pumped through tubing that runs underground and up to the sugarhouse. Bobbi explains the need for pumps, saying, “Most sugarhouses are down in the valleys, but we wanted ours high on the hill so we could have the view.” This is easy to understand when you see the breath-taking view of the valley leading into Naples below.
Wohlschlegel’s View. Click the image to enlarge.
Garry works there full-time now, while Bobbi continues her job at Kodak and works at the farm part-time. They also continue construction on the new facility, planning to soon finish off the retail area and the apartment where they plan to live when done.
During the maple season they also get lots of help from family and friends. “They all seem to have just the right skills that we need. We are so lucky to have their help,” says Bobbi. Their son, Cameron, who is a forester, and daughter, Caitlin, who has a degree in civil and environmental engineering, are among the many who help.
Last year they successfully hosted their first Maple Weekend events, and are hoping to see even more visitors this year. Their pancake breakfasts will be prepared by Seth Clearman, a professional chef from Naples.
It’s great way to shake off the cabin fever of winter-get out of the house, and visit one or both of these maple farms. Dress appropriately for the weather, and be sure to bring your walking stick, camera and a great appetite. Have a fun Maple Weekend!
Map. Click the image to enlarge.
To get to Sugarbush Hollow: From the north, take Route 15A south past Hemlock to just before Springwater, turn left onto Wheaton Hill Road (sign to Tabors Corners), go to end of road and turn right onto Wetmore Road, go to end of road and turn right onto Tabors Corners Road, turn left on Pardee Hollow road at the Punky Hollow lighthouse sign (watch for the maple bucket road sign on the right), turn right at end of road and follow signs to Sugarbush Hollow, 8447 Pardee Hollow Road. From west, south or southeast, take Route 21 North between Wayland and North Cohocton, (watch for the maple bucket road signs, turn left onto County Road 38, which is also known as Rowe Road. Go .6 miles and turn left onto Pardee Hollow Road. Follow for 3 miles to Sugarbush Hollow, 8447 Pardee Hollow Road.
To get to Wohlschlegel’s Maple Farm: From Honeoye, take County Road 36 south and follow the signs turning up French Hill Road. From Naples, take County Road 36 north to French Hill Road and follow the signs, or take Eelpot Road off Route 21 to Dug Road and follow signs. The address is 8064 Coates Road.
A note of caution: do not use your GPS system or map websites for directions as they could lead you to the west part of Coates Road that is seasonal and unfit for navigation. For more information, visit these websites:
Wohlschlegel’s Maple Farm website:
Diane Olson is the Editor & Publisher of The Lake Country Weekender,
Say you saw it in The Lake Country Weekender!