By Deb Everts
Spring is here, the sap is running and the evaporator at Ulinger’s Maple Farm, in East Otto, is boiling away. The sweet aroma from the boiling process is irresistible to visitors who have come to learn all about maple syrup production.
The Ulinger family kicked off Maple Weekend March 23–24 and will continue to host their open house on the second weekend, March 30–31, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
On March 20, just prior to the maple event, owner Tim Ulinger said it’s been a good year, so far, for his maple production and they’re praying the weather will be normal and cooperate over the next two weeks.
“If it warms up too fast that will end the season quickly,” he said. “We currently have about 2,200 gallons of syrup made but, in an average year, we should be at over 4,000 gallons by the end of the season, so the next two weeks are crucial.”
Ulinger said his maple farm is a family-owned business that’s been in operation since 1982, and it’s one of the largest maple syrup producers in Western New York. The three-generation business has been producing pure maple syrup for over 30 years.
He said it all began when, at nine years old, he and his dad, also named Tim, started tapping about a dozen yard trees and making maple syrup one year.
“Next, we tapped the neighbors’ trees and our yard trees, then some more neighbors down the road,” he said. “After that, we got the bright idea to tap even more maple trees on the 40 wooded-acres that my mom and dad own. We ended up tapping about 400 trees when I was in high school.”
According to Ulinger, when he bought his current property, the family tapped 1,000 trees in his woods the first year, and it’s kept growing every year. He said they’re now at over 11,000 trees they tap and currently produce over 4,000 gallons of pure maple syrup every year.
“We’re hoping to tap at least an additional 5,000 to 6,000 trees — possibly more — in the next couple of years. We’d like to double or triple the size of the farm in taps,” he said.
Ulinger and his wife, Missy, have five children, Hannah, Tim, Becca, Johnny and Noah who all participate in the operations in some way. Other Ulinger family members who help in a big way include his cousin, Matt, his younger son, Gavin, and his brother, Brian.
Ulinger said this is his family’s first year to participate in the Maple Weekend event because weekends were almost mandated in his previous career as a police officer with the Erie County Sheriff’s Office. After 21 years, he retired about three years ago.
“We were planning to start participating next year to give us one more year to get ready, but a woman from the Cattaraugus County Tourism department called and wanted to promote us for this year’s weekend, so I agreed,” he said.
In addition to his maple farm, Ulinger has two other businesses to run. He sells real estate and also has an energy business that he’s been building for eight years which, he said, is going very well and has allowed him to retire. He’s also the assistant coach for the varsity girls softball team at Cattaraugus-Little Valley Central School.
Because the Ulingers are new to the event, they don’t have any special activities planned for this first year, but visitors can watch the production and learn all about the process of making maple syrup. They can also take an easy walking tour up into the sugar bush and see the sap lines in the woods.
“We have some buckets hanging in the woods right now, so I can show the kids how I started out at a young age hanging buckets on the maple trees to collect sap,” Ulinger said.
While at the sugar house, people can taste samples of pretty much everything the Ulingers have to offer and the products will be available for purchase. Right now, they are in the middle of construction expanding the sugar house kitchen and store, which they will be finishing right after the season.
Ulinger’s produces three grades syrup that is certified organic. Their syrup containers will soon have a customized label with a photo of all the family members who work on the farm.
They also offer pancake mix, maple candy, natural maple sugar, maple cream and maple barbecue sauce. Ulinger said the natural maple sugar is granulated and in a shaker bottle and it looks just like sugar.
“Maple sugar can be used in baking or an additive to sweeten something, but a lot of people use it because it’s an all natural sugar and your body absorbs the maple sugar better,” he said. “It’s catching on, but most people don’t know about it, and we’re trying to educate more people about the health benefits of pure maple.”
People can purchase Ulinger maple products online or at the farm. They ship to all 50 states and all over the world. Locally, the products can be purchased at Nature’s Remedy in Ellicottville and Allegany. Their products are also available at the Maple Festival in Franklinville, as well as at different stores in Buffalo.
Ulinger’s Maple Farm is located at 8835 Crumb Hill Road, East Otto. Tours are available year-round by appointment. To schedule a tour or to find out more about the farm and its maple products, call 499-7243 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the store online at ulingersmaplefarm.com. Find them on Facebook.