Business just keeps getting sweeter for Steven Wood of Wood’s Maple Orchard.
The Elmwood sugarbush won three of the 12 awards presented late last month during the International Maple Syrup Institute and North America Maple Syrup Council joint meeting in Quebec, Canada.
Wood’s Maple Orchard won two third-place awards — one in the “amber color with rich taste” category and one in the “dark color with robust taste” category — and a first-place award in the category for “very dark color with strong taste.”
“We did get a real surprise ... ,” Wood said. “It is really hard to repeat a win. What makes me really smile is that our family has now won awards for 60 years, starting with state first-place awards in 1957 and 1958.”
Wood said Wisconsin was very well represented at this year’s international competition, which draws hundreds of entries from the U.S. and Canada. Only a dozen prizes are awarded all together — first, second and third places in four categories.
Last year, Wood’s Maple Orchard won two first-place awards in two categories. This year, they sent in four entries, shipping them in pints to contest officials about 10 days ahead of the event, said Wood’s wife, Dawn.
Dawn said she’s not sure what separated their syrup from the rest this season, but “I think sometimes a lot of it has to be luck. We were kind of surprised. Steven does it just to see if we can win anything.”
She said this past season was “average” for production and a bit shorter than usual.
“There was a lot of darker syrups, no light syrups at all last spring,” she said.
Steven is the fourth generation in his family to be in the syruping business in Pierce County, starting with his great-grandfather, who traveled to Wisconsin via raft on the Great Lakes from upstate New York in 1840. The tradition continues with younger generations of Woods.
While Wood’s Maple Orchard is small as family businesses go, they’re considered one of the larger players in the maple syrup industry, with about 12,000 taps, and they have been in expansion mode in an effort to keep up with growing demand for real maple syrup here and abroad.
Marketing locally and to large accounts nationwide, including other bottlers, bed-and-breakfasts and Twin Cities-area restaurants, the Woods offer a variety of maple syrup products in various forms of packaging. Some of their best sellers are syrups flavored with cherry, blueberry, raspberry, strawberry and cinnamon. They also sell granulated maple syrup sugar and maple syrup processing supplies.
The NAMSC is an international network of associations representing 16 commercial maple-producing states and Canadian provinces within North America. The council brings together industry leaders and affiliated groups to share common interests, experience and knowledge for the advancement and improvement of the maple syrup industry. It also promotes industry education and supports maple research.