The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

February 17, 2013

Rock Creek to begin tapping maple trees for syrup production

Village is planning Maple Festival next year

By STACY MILLBERG - For the Star Beacon
Star Beacon

ROCK CREEK — The village has gotten itself into a sticky situation, which in this case, is a good thing.

Plans are under way for some exciting ventures centered on maple syrup and they will all begin Feb. 23 with the tapping of maple trees around town, said Bob Schultz, one of the coordinators.

The idea is the brainchild of Nate Bissell, of Bissell Maple Farm in Rock Creek. Bissell’s family has been producing maple syrup in Ashtabula County for more than 100 years.

“The idea, basically, is community outreach,” Bissell said. “I have a maple sugar farm in Rock Creek and I want to involve the community.”

Bissell said eventually village residents will be able to go to the Morgan Hose Fire Company’s pancake breakfast and eat pancakes with syrup made from their own trees.

The sap will be collected and purchased as a fundraiser for the Rock Creek Area Chamber of Commerce, Schultz said.

But this is just the beginning of the opportunities that lie ahead for the village, Schultz said. Bissell, who recently purchased some property in the village, eventually plans to open a retail store to sell his maple products.

“Our business has grown to the point we need a retail location,” he said.

Bissell also sits on the board of the Ohio Maple Association, which sponsors a statewide Maple Madness tour every year which stops at his maple farm. Once things are under way in Rock Creek, the tour will come through the village, bringing more business to the area, Schultz said.

“This will be great for the local economy in Rock Creek,” he said.

In addition, the village is planning to host a maple festival beginning next year.

“We’ll start collecting sap this year and do the festival next year,” Schultz said.

Plans for the festival are in the very early stages, but Schultz said the village is looking at the first weekend in October as a tentative date. Schultz said coordinators will be forming a committee in the coming weeks to begin planning the event.

The first step, after the committee is formed, is to apply for a 501-c3 to obtain grants to fund the endeavor, he said. The festival will also be a fundraiser for the chamber, he said.

“The chamber is the motivator behind this maple festival,” Schultz said. “There are a lot of good things happening in Rock Creek and that’s good news.”

Schultz said this is all a way to bring traffic into Rock Creek. Volunteers have been going door-to-door asking residents to use their trees for tapping. Schultz said so far the response has been good.

Bissell will be collecting sap from the trees on a regular basis and taking it back to his facility to boil it down and create syrup and other maple products from it.

“I’m investing in Ashtabula County,” he said. “I believe in the agriculture.”

Bissell said he is donating quite a bit of resources to this endeavor because he believes in it and believes in the community.

“I’m investing in Rock Creek, I’m investing in Ashtabula County, but most of all I’m investing in the people,” he said.

Village residents with maple trees who are interested in having them tapped can contact Schultz at Exit Now Realty, 563-3948. Anyone interest in serving on the maple festival committee should contact Schultz as well.