Aullwood Farms offers winter activities
for maple syrup making

Aullwood’s backyard maple syrup classes and “Sugar Bush Walks” are two favorite activities.

By Katie Fender

Buckle in Ohioans, holiday season is officially over, but winter is here to stay—at least for a couple more months. Entering the heart of winter, it’s during this time that cabin fever starts to set in. The below-freezing temperature and the snowy days may have been tolerable during Christmastime, but now they just seem to be holding us back from spring, and causing stir-craziness. Thankfully, Aullwood Farms is here to offer the Dayton area some fun winter activities to hold us over until spring.

On Frederick Pike in Dayton, Aullwood Farms offers visitors plenty of activities and sight seeing. They have animals and nature walks, but what has become the real main attraction, is their maple syrup production. Jennifer Starcher, who has been working at Aullwood Farms for a couple years now, says winter is the best time to produce maple syrup.

“Prime maple syrup time is the very end of this month [January] and kind of all of February; that’s just when the trees produce the best sap to make maple syrup from,” says Starcher.

Starting Feb. 10, for the second year in a row, Aullwood Farms will offer a backyard maple syrup class for those who want to learn how to make maple syrup by tapping sugar maple trees. People interested in this class may know they have sugar maple trees in their backyard, or those with very wooded lots may be interested in taking this class to find out how to identify a sugar maple, which are pretty abundant here in Ohio.

Starcher explains that sugar maple trees only grow in northeastern North America, and here in Ohio, we are at the southern part of it. At the backyard maple class, participants will learn how to identify a maple by the color of its bark and the shape that the branches form—which is in opposite direction of each other in a Y shape.

In addition to the backyard maple classes, Aullwood Farms has other winter activities to help people who feel cooped up inside their homes during this cold and snowy weather. “We have weekend walks—we call them ‘Sugar Bush Walks’—that anyone can come to. It’s a quick hike, but you get a lot out of it,” Starcher explains. Walks will start Feb. 10 and run through Mar. 4. every Saturday and Sunday, and they are free for members and non-members.

Starcher also explains that there is a specific kind of woodpecker called a “yellow belly sap sucker” that eats sap from maple trees.

“You may notice holes in the Y branches where the birds have been, and they are kind of your guide in identifying maple trees,” says Starcher.

During this class, participants will learn how to identify a sugar maple, tap the trees, drill the trees, and then boil the sap in order to evaporate the water and make maple syrup.

“We go through the whole maple syrup process and talk about what trees we get it from, how to tap those trees, how we get the sap out of those trees. Then, we show how we boil the sap for long periods of time before it becomes maple syrup, and bottle it,” explains Starcher.

“We sometimes have people taste the sap. It looks just like water. Its crystal clear—there might be some sweetness there, but it’s mostly like water,” says Starcher.

Then, it’s finally time to see how it all goes down in the Sugar Shack, the small one-room building where they actually make the maple syrup.

“We have this big, metal evaporator and it produces a fire that rises up and boils the sap for about 8 hours. That sap needs to evaporate and get most of that water off, and then you’re left with that good, sweet sugar,” says Starcher.

They sell the maple syrup at Aullwood Farms, and Starcher explains that last year they tapped about 90 trees which produced about 120 half-pint bottles. At the end of the maple syrup season, Aullwood has a pancake brunch. This year, the brunch will be Mar. 4, the last day of the Sugar Bush weekend walks.

Aullwood Farms also offers hikes to the sugar maple trees for school classes.

“We have some schools that are considered, “Aullwood adventure schools,” and they come to a lot of different programs. We get inner-city school kids and rural school kids,” said Starcher.

Preschoolers up to 6th grade classes come out to see the process of how maple syrup is made. The classes go on the sugar bush walk, taste the sap, and see the whole process of how it turns to maple syrup.

Backyard maple syrup classes begin Feb. 10 at Aullwood Farms, located at 9101 Frederick Pike, Dayton OH 45414. Fee starts at $25 per person. For more information about the backyard maple syrup classes and all other activities please visit their website at

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