For most Pennsylvania residents there are four seasons each year, but for maple syrup farmers there is a fifth season.
The time between winter and spring when maple trees are tapped for syrup is the "fifth season" for Janet Woods, 65, of Erie County.
"I have made maple syrup my whole life," said Woods, whose parents and grandparents were also maple syrup producers.
Woods took first place in light, medium and dark maple syrup in glass containers at the Pennsylvania Farm Show this week. She was also named Premier Exhibitor.
"We are the first crop of the season, and we were the first crop in the state," said Woods.
At the maple exhibit in the Main Hall, Woods was educating families who stopped by as part of the Young Detectives scavenger hunt throughout the property.
A retired principal, Woods made sure each child learned something about maple syrup production before they got their checklist stamped off.
Farm Show-goers seemed to be the most surprised to learn that it takes about 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of maple syrup, said Woods.
She explains to visitors that trees need to be as wide around as a paper plate before they can be tapped for syrup.
People are often curious about what kind of trees they have on their property and whether they can be tapped for maple syrup, Woods said.
"It becomes more apparent every year at the Farm Show that more and more people are making their own syrup," said Woods.
As long as people have the right trees - red, black or silver maples work best - on their property, Woods said ,the process is as simple as obtaining food grade buckets, maple syrup spiles, and finding a place to boil the product.
For her parents, making maple syrup was a way to make sure they could pay their taxes, said Woods. But for her, maple syrup production is an art form she wants to educate others about.
"You can learn the science of anything," Woods said. "But you need to know the art of something to really understand it."
Another thing that has changed since the generations of her parents and grandparents, is the way that people are more intentional about sustainable agriculture, said Woods. Families in Pennsylvania today want to know about their food source and are often eager to make their own food, she said.
Woods works at Hurry Hill Farm in Erie County and is president of The Hurry Hill Maple Farm Association. She works at The Maple Museum in Edinboro, teaching the community about what an important part of Pennsylvania's agriculture maple syrup is.
For more information on the farm and museum or producing maple syrup at your property, visit www.hurryhillfarm.org.
- Reach Chelsea Shank at firstname.lastname@example.org.