Gary sells his syrup and products in the US, and also in markets as far as Europe and Australia. He uses the FSC logo as a sales tool. “People who know FSC … know the syrup they buy comes from a well-managed forest,” he says.
But certification involves more than sales. “It touches everything we do in the forest,” Gary explains. “Taking on the certification process has challenged me to be even more conscientious about protecting the woodlot.
“For example, we stopped hunting on the property, found all the deer yards and recorded them for follow up, identified wood that should be taken out, and found more maple trees to tap. If the FSC forest plan had not been written, we would not have done these things.”
Maple Ridge Farm is a member of the Eastern Ontario Model Forest (EOMF), which attained its FSC Forest Management group certificate through the SmartWood programme of the Rainforest Alliance in 2003. Group certification reduces the cost and administrative burden of certification for small woodlot owners.
EOMF Forest Certification Coordinator Scott Davis has watched the not-for-profit organization grow from one landowner with 20 hectares in 2000 to an 84,000-hectare programme today, involving more than 130 private owners and many community-based forests.
EOMF extended from timber to include maple syrup in its FSC certificate scope in 2007; Gary’s forest was the first to become certified in 2009. EOMF members now include five FSC-certified maple producers, which together, produce around 22,000 litres of syrup annually.
There is more to come for Gary. He plans to enlist a professional tree marker to select trees to remove from his bush for firewood. These are old trees or those that have become poor producers. “It’s part of forest management,” he says.
“My goal is to ensure my family’s forest is in place for future generations,” he adds. That … and making the world sweeter, a gallon at a time.