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Friday, May 6, 2016

Harvest time for maple syrup farms

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Art Harris shows off more than 15 miles of plastic tubing and vacuum lines used at his sugar bush camp in northern Putnam County. Harris Sugar Bush Camp has over 3,400 taps.
GREENCASTLE -- As the end of winter approaches, maple syrup season hits full bloom in Putnam County at one of Indiana's largest maple syrup producers.

Harris Sugar Bush Camp has over 3,400 taps and more than 15 miles of plastic tubing and vacuum lines for collection of the sweet stuff.

Owner Art Harris built the sugarhouse using materials found on his own farm, including an old poplar tree that now serves as the building's ridgepole. He even sells the vacuum systems he uses for his own maple sugar harvest along with his sweet products.

Inside the building, antique copper pans are used with an oil-fired evaporator. A probe is used to monitor the proper density, and the temperature is carefully monitored and adjusted.

During the actual process of creating syrup, the excess water is removed. The sap then enters an evaporator. As the sap flows from one evaporating bin to another, the remaining excess water is boiled away. The evaporator used by Harris can convert 2,000 gallons of sap into syrup per day.

The final step requires exact precision, as the sap must reach a temperature of 221 degrees. When the sap is finished heating, the final product is syrup.

Generally this means harvest time runs between February, March and early April. The season will end when nighttime temperatures no longer reach the freezing mark with any regularity.

Although Harris Sugar Bush syrup is sent as far as Japan, Texas and New York, most Putnam County customers purchase the maple cream, sugar, and syrup at Harris Sugar Bush.

Harris Sugar Bush tours are wheelchair accessible. School groups, clubs and the general public are welcome. The camp is open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. They are located at 999 E. CR 325 North just off U.S. 231 and Brick Chapel Road north of Greencastle.

Persons interested in visiting the Harris Sugar Bush sugar camp or those with information, memories or photographs of maple sugaring in Indiana can contact Arthur and Rebecca Harris at 653-5108 or e-mail aharris@link2000.net.

Nearby Parke County also offers those interested in learning the process a chance to do so during their annual Maple Sugar Fair to be held Feb. 27 and 28 and March 6 and 7 in Rockville at the fairgrounds.

Along with the camps, there is also a maple syrup pancake breakfast at the fairgrounds north of Rockville. Hours for the event are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For information contact Parke County Inc. at pci@ticz.com or call 569-5226.

Medora also holds a festival on March 6, 7, 13 and 14 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $8 for one day or $12 for a two-day pass. A four-day pass is $20 and children age 15 years and younger are $4 a day.

Besides a working sugar bush, visitors can drop by McMaple's petting zoo, see craft and trade demonstrations. Listen to live music and enjoy all kinds of great food. For information contact Sabrina Burton at info@nationalmaplesyrupfestival.com or call 812-966-2168.

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