By Sam Rothman SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) ー Mike Spicer is not your typical college sophomore. The 20-year-old not only juggles classwork while playing two sports at Hamilton College, but he also runs Cedarvale Maple Syrup Company in Syracuse.
“People have been asking me, ‘Oh how are you doing it?’ said Spicer. “I have no clue. I’m kind of at the point where I don’t even know. I’m just kind of doing things.”
Spicer just started working at Cedarvale a couple of months ago, and he is already facing the biggest event in the New York maple syrup industry: Maple Weekend. This weekend, the local community will be able to take a tour of maple syrup houses, such as Cedarvale, to see how maple syrup is produced from start to finish. Not only is Spicer trying to adjust to running the business, but now he is also trying to prepare for the most important weekend of the year.
“Days go from seven in the morning until two a.m. the next day,” said Spicer. “Then, I’m getting back up at seven and trying to do the agenda again.”
However, Spicer said producing maple syrup and running Cedarvale doesn’t seem like work to him. He has had an obsession with maple syrup since he was first introduced to its production on a field trip when he was in middle school. From that point on, you could say he caught the sugar rush. Spicer began making maple syrup on his mom’s stove at home and sold it in the local area. At just 12 years old, Spicer was already an entrepreneur.
Spicer is entering the business at a perfect time, as the maple syrup industry just keeps growing. According to New York Governor Cuomo, 806,000 gallons of maple syrup was produced in the state in 2018, breaking a 74-year-old record. Additionally, there has been a 50% increase in production just over the past five years. Spicer said New York is the perfect place to make maple syrup because of the fluctuating weather.
“It creates a really good environment for producing syrup because we need the temperature to go below freezing at night, so that it can create a negative pressure in the tree to suck the water and the nutrients out of the soil,” said Spicer. “Then during the day, when it goes above freezing, it creates a positive pressure pushing out the sap from the trees. So, although some people ask, ‘When’s the weather going to change? When are we going to get at least 60-degree weather for at least a few days?’ That fluctuation helps us out actually.”
In addition to the weather, Dave Williams of Dutch Hill Maple in Tully said new technology has played a large role. Williams started the company back in 1968 with just a couple of trees. Now the family business has over 6,000 trees and can make hundreds of gallons of syrup a day. Williams said the key has been a modern evaporator that turns the sap into syrup in just seconds.
While Spicer’s production nowhere compares to Williams’, both businessmen agree that Maple Weekend is the highlight of their year since they get to share their craft of making maple syrup with the entire community.