October 22, 2014

Medina
Cloudy
45°F

Richman Farms expects to break syrup record this year

A family is keeping the tradition of making maple syrup alive on its township farm and it may break its own record this year.

Tom Indoe said maple syrup has been produced at his family’s farm on Richman Road in Harrisville Township since about 1940. Indoe’s grandfather Kenneth Indoe, a former Medina County commissioner, helped to build the “sugar shack” on a hillside he carved out on the property.

Tom and Brad Indoe stand at the entrance to the sugar shack on their family farm in Harrisville Township. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY LOREN GENSON)

“He took horses and cut out the hillside,” Tom Indoe said. “It was really well-planned.”

The collection vat of sap and water sits just above the shack, so no pump is needed to get the sap flowing into the vaporizer where it’s made into syrup.

Indoe keeps a record of the syrup he produces each year in pencil by the door. The record is 136 gallons, and he said he’s on track to break that this year because as of this week he’s already produced 104 gallons.

“The syrup is flowing this year. I’m actually grateful for the cold weather — gives me a break,” he said.

Gone are the days when sap is collected in buckets and gathered one by one. A collection of tubes now brings all the sap into a handful of collection barrels. It keeps debris from getting into the sap and makes it easier to collect.

“What I used to gather in about a day, I can do in 2½ hours,” Indoe said.

He said his grandfather originally used profits from his maple syrup sales to pay off his property taxes.

“They sold it for $2 a gallon and paid off their property taxes every year with it,” Indoe said. “I couldn’t come close to that today and it sells for $45 a gallon.”

While Indoe admits the syrup is more of a hobby than a money-maker, he enjoys carrying on the tradition.

Indoe takes his dog, Sticks, with him to the sugar shack to keep him company, and when he’s not actively tending to the syrup, he’s throwing the small pieces of wood Sticks continues to pile at his feet.

Sticks earned his name from Amish men who helped to rebuild the family barn after it was destroyed by a tornado in 2007. Sticks appeared on the farm as a stray and continued to bring sticks to the men to get them to fetch. As a joke, one of the men threw a 2-by-4 down the side of a hill and much to their surprise, Sticks tugged it back up to them.

“He doesn’t quit. He just keeps bringing them to you,” Indoe said. “That’s how he gets his name.”

Friends and neighbors also stop by from time to time, as does Indoe’s son, Brad.

Brad Indoe uses the maple syrup to make gluten-free granola bars for his company, Urban Raccoons.

Some syrup is sold to family and friends and the rest is used at the Sugar Bush festival in Chatham Township sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6892. The event is a month-long, all-you-can-eat pancake festival.

Tom Indoe said producing maple syrup carries on the family tradition and shares the product locally. With the exception of the Amish and a few other family farms, locally produced maple syrup is rare, he said.

According to data from the Ohio Farm Bureau, 491,507 gallons of maple syrup were produced in Medina County in 1840. In 2007, the most recent year Indoe had data for, only 1,504 gallons were produced in the county.

“It dropped down after the Civil War and never really came back,” Indoe said. Many families of earlier Ohio settlers would use maple syrup in place of sugar when cooking and preparing food.

“I still use it in place of sugar,” he said.

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com.