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North Country celebrates the season of sugar

LAKE PLACID-They are working on improving the process of bringing maple syrup from the tap to the table, and over the next two weekends, they want you to take a look.

Cornell University's Uihlein Forest Sugar Maple Research and Extension Field Station is one of several producers in the region who will be hosting an open house during the New York State Maple Weekends on March 19-20 and March 26-27.

"There will be some different businesses and groups who we are working with for events over the weekends," Michael Farrell, Uihlein Forest Director, said. "We have some ample-themed products and events and there will also be kids going around and collecting sap in buckets."

While visitors are greeted by two buckets as they enter onto the "sugarbush" at the Lake Placid site, the 200-acre Uihlein Forest uses modern technology to bring the sap to them through a system of tubes and vacuums.

Farrell said that the main goal of the site is to help find better and more efficient ways to produce and harvest sap.

"We do research into all aspects of the maple industry," Farrell said. "We look at sap collection methods, boiling, tree health, forest management and anything else that we can look at to help promote the industry."

During a guided tour March 11, Farrell also fired up the site's new reverse-osmosis boiler for the purposes of making maple syrup for the first time.

During the maple weekends, visitors will have a guided tour of the entire syrup production process, beginning in the sugarbush, where the sap is collected, and ending in the sugarhouse where people can see, smell, and taste fresh maple syrup being made. Visitors will also learn about ongoing research projects and a variety of maple products will be available for sale in the gift shop.

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