• The Kid

A Day At Garland Sugar Shack

Photo Credit: Michael Anderson Photography
Outside the main building at Garland Sugar Shack, which is also their retail store and where the maple syrup is made

Walking around the Ottawa Farmer's Market, I meet some amazing people. From farmers to vendors who are all sharing their passion and love of food and their product with those coming to visit. These people will gladly take a few minutes out of their day to chat about what they do, and you can always tell that they are proud of their product, and with good reason! This week we highlight the Garland family as they had us out for the day at the Garland Sugar Shack!

The original shed where Ivan started making maple syrup as a teenager

Established in 1978, Ivan Garland started making maple syrup as a teenager, tapping a few trees and boiling the sap over a wood stove in a small shed on his parents farm. He would give the syrup to friends and family, and was a fun hobby. As the hobby grew into more of a business, the Garlands (Ivan and his wife Jocelyne) had to expand and added an addition onto the small shed, and as with any growing successful business, the Garlands had to expand to their current facility, with state of the art equipment.

Ivan Garland standing in front of the evaporator. This is the machine used to turn sap into maple syrup. Quite the upgrade from a pot over a wood oven

Ivan Garland standing in front of the evaporator which turns the sap into maple syrup through a boiling process. Quite a advancement from the days of a pot over a wood stove

This year, Garland Sugar Shack is on pace to produce 5000 liters of their delicious maple syrup (yup, you read that number right)! Imagine trying to boil that over a wood stove. Well, in a way, you could say that they still do. The small wood stove has been replaced with the massive evaporator you see in the pictures, but the concept is still the same. Wood goes into the base and burns to heat the sap which sits on top in the pans until it becomes maple syrup. And while the Garlands have upgraded to state of the art equipment, one thing that hasn't changed is their hands on approach and attention to detail throughout the process. From going out into the bush to check the lines as well as start the pump for the vacuum system pulling the sap, to manually throwing wood into the fire (which they let me help with - and yes I still have my eyebrows), filling the bottles themselves, or keeping a watchful eye during the boiling process to the temperature in the room and the temperature of the sap, and making the necessary adjustments. Their maple syrup is absolutely a labour of love.

So how do the Garlands make maple syrup? They let us behind the scenes to witness the start to finish process. The first step of course is to get sap from the trees. The Garlands have 3 forests they draw their sap from. They use a vacuum system, designed by Les Equipements Lapierre, which draws the sap in from the lines, and into a large holding container. The sap is then pumped from there, to another holding container back at the Sugar Shack where it waits for the next steps.

Top Left: The sap lines in one of the forests, Bottom Left: Me with the sap holding container, Right: Ivan Garland getting the settings just right for the reverse osmosis process

After the sap has made it's way to the Sugar Shack, Ivan gets the reverse osmosis system ready. The sap will pass through 2 different filters, and then the sugar water and pure water will be separated. One of the ways the Garlands work to be environmentally friendly, is to keep the pure water which has been separated, and use it for cleaning the equipment, and the Sugar Shack, as well as having it circulate throughout the hood of the evaporator to help pre-heat the sap. By pre-heating the sap, the Garlands also save on energy, as they boil for a shorter period of time, compared to if the sap was boiled from cold.

Top: The evaporator (pure water passes through the hood, and fire burns below to heat the sap in the middle, Bottom Left: The pans where the sap sits to boil into maple syrup, Bottom Center: Ivan adding wood to the fire, Bottom Right: The fire in full burn mode!

Once the sap has boiled to the point where it is maple syrup, it is drained into a holding container, and is then passed through a filter where the screens will remove any sand or particles which were brought in from outside, leaving nothing but pure maple syrup. Finally, the syrup is transferred to the bottling machine where the bottles are filled (manually) and sealed, ready for your pancakes.... or straight from a spoon.... No judgement from this guy!

As I mentioned earlier, Garland Sugar Shack works to help preserve the environment. They use the pure water extracted to clean, they use smaller spiles on the trees which allows them to heal faster, the wood used for the fire comes from trees that are being cleared to set up the lines, or trees that have fallen or broken on the property, and the evaporator is 90% efficient, with wood only needing to be added every hour during the boiling process. Nothing is wasted in any part of the process.

James Garland in the retail store were you can get your hands on amazing maple products, all made in-house

Garland Sugar Shack offers all kinds of amazing maple products other than their syrup. You can find maple butter, maple sugar, maple tarts, maple popcorn, maple candies and maple cones, to name a few, and they are all made in-house by the family, with nothing but maple syrup, and nothing added. James (who has given himself the title of Head of Research and Development), has been working away on a few creations, such as maple wine (which is amazing), and a few others that are in the works, but are top secret so keep your eyes open for them because they sound fantastic!

The Garland Sugar Shack maple wine

A picture frame that James built from an old door from the original shed, filled with great family memories

One theme that you feel right away when you visit Garland Sugar Shack, is that they are an amazing and close family, who all share a passion for making great maple syrup. Everyone is involved in some way and helps when needed. I can say that by the time our visit was done, we felt like we were part of the Garland family and thank them so much for having us out, and sharing their day, stories, and passion for what they do.

Be sure to look for Garland Sugar Shack when you are visiting one of the many farmers markets in the Ottawa area during the weekends and pick up some of their fantastic maple products. Also, check out my bonus blog post to see what I made with some of the products I brought home with me!

All photos are the work of Michael Anderson. Check him out at Michael Anderson Photography and on all social media.

- The Kid

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