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Minn. family runs big maple syrup operation

  • Article by: ROBB MURRAY
  • Associated Press
  • April 14, 2014 - 12:05 AM

WATERVILLE, Minn. — It's a rite of spring. When the temps rise above freezing, people head out to the nearest maple tree and pound a tap into it.

Then the syrup makers wait patiently as the sap inside oozes out into a collection bucket. After being boiled, evaporated and filtered, the syrup is ready for the pancakes. Just pour it on.

Simple.

Well, this is a story about maple syrup, but it's anything but simple.

Hering's Maple Syrup of rural Waterville is difficult to find. But once you get there, you enter a world probably never envisioned by the first guy who tapped a syrup spout into a tree.

They've been doing it for more than 100 years and five generations of Herings. And it remains a family-centered business, The Free Press of Mankato (http://bit.ly/1k1m8nY ) reported.

"We're all in charge," said Tyler Hering, 23, who along with his parents, Terry and Tina, brothers Trent and Tanner, sister Trista, and grandfathers Ward and Joe —and a pair of employees — run the business.

And it's a complicated one.

Tyler hops into his pickup and snakes through the back roads of Le Sueur County before arriving at a wooded area that, from a distance, looks like any other wooded area.

Get closer, though, and the signs emerge that a complicated sap-collection process is at work.

Pipes and tubes create a tangled web of sap-supplying lines, all of which are connected to a vacuum system that pulls the sap into a series of collection bins. From there, the sap is trucked to the family farm where it is put through a system that, Tyler said, is unique in Minnesota.

Tyler hops back into his truck and heads back to the farm.

This is where the magic happens.

The first stop is the reverse-osmosis system, which removes water from the sap. From there the sap is sent to a holding tank, where it waits to get into the $80,000 evaporation machine, which concentrates the sap.

After that, it's off to a filter that removes unwanted pulp. From there it all gets dumped into a barrel where it awaits the day the sap stops flowing and the workers can transition from syrup making to syrup bottling. How much syrup is in those barrels? Each day when the sap is flowing, they'll collect between 15,000 and 30,000 gallons.

They're a busy crew when syruping starts. They tap about 20,000 trees, lay about 28 miles of line for the sap to run from tree to collection point. And they're planning to grow. Next year they're hoping to buy an even bigger evaporator and reverse-osmosis system and want to tap closer to 30,000 trees. A few years down the road, maybe 50,000.

Hering says his family's business is licensed and inspected by the state. Inspectors have told him there aren't any maple syrup production businesses in Minnesota as large as theirs.

It's a busy, aromatic environment the Herings work in. If you want to try the syrup, they'll sell you a bottle at the farm. It's also available at a store in Waterville. Most of it, though, gets shipped for sale in Canada and Vermont (yes, the state known for its maple syrup).

Trista Hering, 12, loves working with her family.

"It's just fun coming together, cooking," she said. "And it's fun selling it and showing people everything. People come out here and they'll be like, 'This is amazing!'"

An AP Member Exchange Feature shared by The Free Press of Mankato

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