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    Menomonie maple syrup producers prepare for early season

    By Kaitlyn Riley

    Menomonie (WQOW) - Wisconsin maple syrup producers prepared for an early start to the sapping season with warm weather hitting the area.

    At the last stop between County Roads Q and P, Trainor's Maple Essence Farms prepared to produce its family specialty.

    "We are a family owned, small business," Derek Trainor said. "We work together."

    Derek's family has produced maple syrup since the early 1950s. The tricks of the trade were passed down from his grandfather to Derek's father, Ron.

    "My brother and I worked together, and now my son and I are working together, and hopefully our grandson as well," Ron said.

    Ron said the family started with 300 taps and made about 50 gallons of maple syrup each year. As of 2013, they had about 9,000 trees tapped, and are looking forward to getting a jump start on this year's season.

    "It is real early in sap season," Ron said. "We haven't been tapping trees in February in about 4-5 years."

    Ron said temperature, sunlight, wind direction, and other factors can influence a sapping season and when a maple tree will start pulling moisture from the ground in preparation for spring budding. Ron said they are waiting to tap until the weather will be at least 20 degrees at night.

    "If we can hold off until we get those really cold snaps and then tap just after that, we don't have to worry about our sap freezing and our sap houses keeping them all heated," Ron said.

    The Trainors spent Sunday touching up on tubing that will improve pulling sap from the 9,000 trees tapped.

    "There's quite a bit of engineering that goes into this," Derek said.

    Within hours after the sap leaves the trees, it is condensed into syrup.

    "It comes in through the wall in a series of stainless steel piping," Derek said. "It goes our reverse osmosis machine. That is what separates 75 percent of the water out of the sap. From there, it goes into an evaporator to remove the water that we need to get down to that sugar content to be pure maple syrup."

    Ron added it takes about 43 gallons of sap from his trees to make one gallon of maple syrup, which they make in a dark and light amber. Ron said the dark amber is not as sweet, but could be a healthier treat. He said the dark amber is made later in the season, and often has extra nutrients because the tree is putting its final energy into developing buds for the spring.

    Trainor's Maple Essence Farms said they get about 11 gallons of sap from each tree they tap. The family hopes to start tapping next week, but said it could be even earlier if the weather stays warm. A typical sapping season lasts about 30 days.