Mystic River Press, Groton, CT
Posted: Thursday, October 25, 2012 5:00 am
By Ian Holliday, Press Writer
GROTON – For the last four days, the maple syrup capital of the world has not been Vermont or Quebec, but rather the Mystic Marriott.
More than 300 maple syrup producers from all over North America descended on Southeastern Connecticut this week for the annual meetings of the North American Maple Syrup Council and the International Maple Syrup Institute, which began Monday at the hotel.
The two organizations always hold their meetings jointly, said J. Mark Harran, president of the Maple Syrup Producers Association of Connecticut, who was also elected vice president of the IMSI during the meetings.
Roughly 90 percent of the maple syrup produced in North America – and, by extension, the world – is produced by members of either or both organizations, Harran said. There's no rivalry between the groups, he said.
"We're all friends here," Harran said. "It's a friendship business."
Most maple syrup production is done by small, family-owned operations, Harran said. Some families have been in the maple business for more than five generations, he said.
"This is a very family-oriented industry," Harran said. "There are very few corporations involved on the producers' side."
In addition to the two international organizations, there are 13 state four Canadian provincial associations of maple producers, Harran said. Rhode Island will become the 14th state after having its association approved at the meetings this week.
These organizations take turns hosting the annual convention, which is how the event ended up in Groton this year. It's the first time the gathering has been held in Connecticut in more than a decade, Harran said.
"It was our (the MSPAC's) turn this year and we chose Mystic," Harran said. "We wanted to have a place that would be attractive and make them all say wow."
So far, he said, the location has lived up to its billing, though the real test will come today, during a tour of the region that is scheduled to feature stops at B.F. Clyde's Cider Mill, the USS Nautilus museum, and Mystic Seaport, as well as a visit to Uncle Buck's Sugar House, a maple syrup producer in Ashaway, R.I. Convention-goers also visited Mystic Aquarium on Tuesday and the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center on Wednesday.
In addition to the tours and the NAMSC and IMSI annual meetings, the convention is also a trade show – featuring vendors and exhibitors that produce the equipment necessary for making maple syrup – and an educational conference – featuring speakers on topics as diverse as building and maintaining a maple syrup business website and identifying fungal contamination in maple syrup.
"It's been an excellent meeting," Harran said. "We've had great speakers all around."
In addition to praising the speakers and the location, Harran said he was especially impressed by the Mystic Marriott and its staff, which in turn reflects well on the Mystic area as a whole, he said.