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Fourth generation sugar makers preparing for another season

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If you like maple syrup, maple sugar, or maple honey, there’s a good chance you’ve tasted a Sucrerie Seguin Sugarbush product.

“Anywhere from Callander to Kapuskasing, Thornlow to Sudbury, and one retailer in Sudbury,” said Tracy Seguin, an owner of the West Nipissing sugarbush.

“We sell in grocery stores, small retail gift shops, a cheese factory in Kapuskasing -- anywhere people might be interested in food.”

The family farm is fourth generation and has been around since 1950.

“If you try to make a consistent product that is always the best quality … people will seek you out,” said Daniel Seguin, owner of the farm.

“We try to do that consistently. We compete with our product. Not to say that we are better, but it shows and proves to our customers we are doing the best that we can.”

Sugar making season is a six-week period when temperatures hover around the freezing mark.

For those six weeks, the Seguin family moves to the bush and lives on site while they wait for sap to produce.

“When Dan and I took over, we collected 5,000-6,000 buckets by hand, which takes lot of time and effort and a lot of manpower,” said Tracy.

“Over the last 15 years, we’ve converted our maple sugar making to a more modern operation. So we’ve gone off the buckets and brought on maple tubing. It’s much more efficient and takes less manpower, takes less energy and it’s a safer, better quality product for food.”

The sugarbush has been in business for more than 70 years, but the family told CTV News they’ve never experienced anything like COVID-19.

Everything went quiet

“Everything basically went quiet,” said Daniel.

“It gave us a chance to focus on family and syrup production. Typically in the past, we’ve sold about 30 to 40 per cent of our crop from the bush. In the last two seasons, it’s been a small percentage of people that we’ve seen in the past."

They say sugar making goes back to the 1600s, and Indigenous peoples were the first to make sugar.

Now the family has hired an elderly Indigenous man who brings plenty of experience and knowledge to the bush.

“That’s why we did it originally, because we didn’t have access to stores. It was all done by hand, that was part of growing up," said William Restoule of Dokis First Nation.

“You did it not because you wanted to, because you had to and it was necessary to make some sugar for ourselves.”

Sugar making is relatively new in northern Ontario, said Seguin.

“It’s part of what this area is, and the area is still fairly new as far as if we look at how old the communities are," he said.

"This area was only settled in the last 130 years or so. So there’s still a lot of new people moving and coming to the area, and it always brings new skills. You’re seeing more and more people keeping bees now,” said Daniel.

Until temperatures start hitting below 0, the Seguin family said their focus is on selling their product as they slowly get ready for the upcoming season. 

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