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Ravaged by ice storm, Mountain Maple Products perseveres amid pandemic

In the second of a three-part series on how the local maple syrup industry is adapting to the pandemic, freelance writer Violet Aubertin checks in on Mountain Maple Products

Don Manchur of Mountain Maple Products and his family were sprung into action after the ice storm ending 2019. 

"The ice storm definitely hit our bush with devastating tree damage as well as downed lines. We were fortunate to have our son-in-law in the bush everyday all day, removing tree fall, rerouting main lines, and adding taps to try and make up for the loss," recounts Manchur.

In 1963, Ches Wallace and his family started Mountain Maple as a small hobby. They had 300 trees tapped. Manchur became a valuable working partner in 1986, and became sole owner in 2017.

"Mountain Maple's busiest times are obviously in the spring, however we start early prepping the lines and removing dead tree fall and tapping starts mid February. Our son-in-law Bob does the majority of bush maintenance with the help of our two daughters and the grandchildren pitch in when they can. Marketing our products is year-round work, selling at markets, and outlets all across Ontario," said Manchur.

With the Covid-19 pandemic unfolding Don explains, "Mountain maple proceeded with our season producing our syrup, with limited help with select family members and no visitors. We were disappointed when the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association had to cancel the provincewide Maple Weekend event, which was supposed to be the first weekend in April. Mountain Maple was going to offer tours to our sugar bush, Maple Chilli, Maple Tarts, and a snowshoe hike through our 100-acre bush."

"Also a hands-on educational experience with our brand new, small wood fired evaporator and 50-bucket operation. Covid has also added a financial strain, when we decided to not sell at our local market for the safety of our family members. We have been relying on online-orders only and offering a delivery service locally once a week to our Sault Ste. Marie customers. We normally would make deliveries to over 25 outlets all across Ontario to stock up customers, this is put on hold."

After staying open and following guidelines laid out for them by health officials they also had the option to continue sales at Mill Market. Guidelines at the market changed to only allow food vendors to sell for the timebeing. For the health and safety of their family they declined, but they continue to sell their products

Don says he hopes everyone will "stay safe" and "stay sweet."