Bruce’s New Toy: Maple Syrup Warehouse

by Tig Tillinghast

To be filled with maple syrup barrels

To be filled with maple syrup barrels

During my annual pilgrimage down to Bascom’s Maple, for the yearly start-up maple syrup supplies run, I found Bruce Bascom running the scales and in a chatty frame of mind. I think it says a lot about the maple syrup industry that one of the biggest names in the business is helping haul maple syrup barrels out of trucks and taste testing the grade c maple syrup we bring down in exchange for supply credit.

Bruce was kind to take me through his new 45,000 square foot maple syrup warehouse facility, just about to come online. A lot of thought went into the design. Bruce is one of the people in the maple syrup business who sells enough and to sufficiently-sensitive food companies so as to have a lot of regulatory scrutiny on his operation. Some of the details in his warehouse may portend changes that will likely ripple through the maple syrup industry, for people selling maple at scale.

Bruce has an 18 inch curb around all internal sides of the buildings, for instance, to provide inspector access behind piles of full barrels. The receiving, storing and packing rooms are put in a certain fashion so that there can be a graduated set of cleanliness standards. In all, he mentioned a couple dozen items that most maple syrup makers will not think to design into a new facility until they’ve done it once or twice and had the food police come and look for trouble.

This new scrutiny, which is not a bad thing all around, might be a bit overkill for maple syrup, which isn’t as dangerous a product as, say, pork. Making forklift drivers in a maple syrup barrel warehouse wear hairnets, for instance, might be entertaining, but isn’t improving our food security. All that said, it’s coming our way, and it will likely be the sort of expensive compliance process that will drive the maple syrup business into farm gate producers versus big packers who can afford a 45,000 square foot maple syrup warehouse. This may prove to be a shift as significant as the dairy industry saw when they forced farmers to build milk houses in the early part of last century.