Making maple syrup is a tradition in the Fortune family. The first three generations made syrup in Leeds County with wood fired equipment and a few 100 taps. By the time of the third generation in 1940’s to 1950’s a “modern” wood fired evaporator was in use with buckets and a horse drawn sleigh for gathering. Syrup density was checked manually with a thermometer and colour grading was not used. Syrup was packed in tin cans for the retail market or shipped in barrels to the packing house in Brockville.
After a break from 1950 to 1969 syrup making was renewed by the fourth generation, Ray and Ruth, at a small hobby farm near Kanata. After three years the next Fortune generation, Peter, Jamie, David, Nora and Joel expressed a real interest in making syrup and were old enough to help. The current sugar bush and equipment was purchased from the MacIntosh family in 1972. The first syrup production, at this location, was in the spring of 1973 from 1000 taps using a wood fired evaporator and a tubing system for collection. Syrup density was checked with a thermometer and colour grading was now used to identify the flavour of the syrup.
Over the years more trees were tapped, a vacuum system to enhance sap flow and pumping was installed and automatic temperature measurement introduced for syrup density checking. In 1990 a new sugar camp was built and a high efficiency oil fired evaporator with stainless steel pans was installed.
A small micro burst destroyed about two acres of trees or 200 taps in 1997. The ice storm in 1998 further damaged the trees with a loss of 500 taps. In 1998 a second sugar bush near Clayton was purchased to make up for the loss of taps. Currently we have 7000 taps.
Further improvements have been made to the operation. The emphasis is on improving quality and efficiency. A reverse osmosis machine which runs on electricity was installed in 2005. This machine removes 60% of the water from the sap which in turn reduces the boiling time and the amount of fuel oil required. To get the characteristic maple flavour a heat cycle is required to make maple syrup.
In 2006 a fire destroyed the sugar camp and most of the equipment. A new evaporator of similar design but higher efficiency replaced the earlier machine.
The next generation of Fortune grandchildren are now helping to make maple syrup. To make sure these children will have an opportunity to enjoy making maple syrup we work hard to maintain the growth and health of our trees. Our sugar bush has been selected for study and example under Ontario’s Demonstration Forest Program and the Eastern Ontario Model Forest Program.