LA CROSSE, Wis. – Some of the best maple products in the world are made right here in Franklin County – at least, if the International Maple Conference judges have anything to say about it.
Over the weekend in Wisconsin, Conway residents and Boyden Brothers Maple co-owners Howard and Jeanne Boyden scooped up multiple awards at the 2022 International Maple Conference, an event that annually brings together producers and maple industry leaders from around the world.
Howard and Jeanne Boyden were in La Crosse to attend the first in-person conference since 2019. They were a bit surprised when they took first place in the golden syrup/delicate and maple candy categories, as well as the second place in maple cream and maple cream. sugar categories.
“It’s quite rare that you rank in all the categories. … It was pretty exciting for us,” Howard Boyden said by phone Monday, adding that they won a few of those awards in 2019 and didn’t expect to be recognized again. “We walked in there expecting nothing, like, ‘OK, we’ve seen our five minutes of fame,’ and then damn it, they started calling us.”
Massachusetts Maple Producers Association coordinator Winton Pitcoff said the Boydens have always been successful in the conference, despite ever-changing circumstances such as unpredictable sugaring seasons or different judges at each competition.
“They’ve won consistently for many years at the international conference,” Pitcoff said. “The fact that they consistently win, despite all these variables, suggests or proves that there is something special about the way they make their confections.”
Boyden, who is also president of the North American Maple Syrup Council, which helps organize the conference, said there are no secret ingredients or techniques to their products, just lots of practice throughout their family history. Boyden said he was a third-generation sugar bowler on his father’s side, and his mother’s ancestors had been bleeding trees for hundreds of years.
“I definitely think your smaller producers can pay a little more attention to detail,” Boyden said. “I’ll be 64 next week and I can’t remember not doing it. … I can’t help it. I’ve got maple syrup running through my veins.
The physical location of maple trees also influences flavor, he said.
“If you taste syrup from Wisconsin and Nova Scotia, that’s great, but there’s a huge difference,” Boyden explained. “I think the climate and the terrain certainly play a part to some degree.”
To go along with the Boydens’ recognition, Mountain Maple Farm in Princeton won the Best in Show award, which Pitcoff said showed the true dedication and ability of Massachusetts sugar bowlers.
“It shows how much our growers care about the products they make,” Pitcoff said. “Massachusetts maple syrup producers are selling more directly to consumers, they’re building relationships with their consumers…and it’s proven.
With a large majority of his 1,000 gallons of maple syrup sold locally each year, Boyden said prices like this are a boost for business.
“It’s really cool. It gives us a bit of decoration for the sugar shack and it really helps for marketing as well,” he said. “It’s really important for us who market directly to have this recognition.
While serving as an awards ceremony, the International Maple Conference also provides an opportunity for industry veterans to come together and talk about maple syrup production. Next year the conference will be held in Sturbridge, offering maple syrup producers the opportunity to learn from Massachusetts sugar mills.
“Every year, the conference moves. … You see how people do it there and you never go home without learning something for sure,” Boyden commented. “It’s a great source of information and it’s a really cool October holiday.”
Boyden Brothers Maple is located at 642 South Deerfield Road (Route 116) in Conway. It is open during the sugaring off season and on weekends in December. The timing of sugaring-off season, Boyden said, varies by year, but lately it starts in February and ends once the weather warms up toward the end of March.
“When spring comes, it’s over,” he said. “You want to be ready to rock ‘n’ roll.”
Pitcoff added that maple products make wonderful holiday gifts because of their versatility as a syrup and as a cooking ingredient.
“Local maple syrup is a great gift,” Pitcoff said. “I hope people stop by their local sugar shack.”
Chris Larabee can be reached at [email protected] or 413-930-4081.