MENOMONIE — Four generations of the John Trainor family keep the sweet tradition of making maple syrup going in the town of Lucas.
Since the mid-1970s Trainor’s Sugar Bush, also known as Trainor’s Maple Syrup, have tapped into nature’s sweet treat and been sold commercially.
Before that the family collected sap for syrup for years for their own use.
John Trainor, 91, recalled collecting the maple tree sap as a child.
“We used a steel wheel wagon and horses,” he said. “We used milk cans to dump the sap in from 5-gallon pails. We probably had 40 (to) 50 trees to start with. As the family got bigger the sugar bush got bigger.”
As more syrup was made the family sold the extra to make a little extra money, John Trainor said.
In the 1980s, the family eventually upgraded to tubing that flows from the taps, down to larger tubing and into storage tanks. They also added a vacuum draw which increases sap flow and a reverse osmosis system that forces the sap through a membrane that concentrates the sugar while removing water, an effort to boost sugar content, thereby reducing boiling time to make syrup more quickly.
His son, Jerry Trainor, said about 300 acres of trees are tapped for maple syrup. There are about 4,000 taps in those trees, up about 800 from previous years.
Last year 850 gallons of syrup was made from sap. This year the family hopes to produce about 1,000 gallons. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup, Jerry Trainor, 65, of Menomonie, said.
“It looks good for the next week,” Jerry Trainor said, as his son Lee Trainor watches the temperature on an evaporator condensing sap to syrup. “We like 40 degrees in the day and 20 degrees at night. That is good for sap flow.”
This year sap started to flow Feb. 13, Trainor said.
Traditionally the season is around March 1 to April 15.
“You have to go when the weather is right,” he said.
For the past several years, Trainor’s Maple Syrup has received a blue ribbon for quality, clarity, flavor and color from the Wisconsin Maple Syrup Producer’s Association.
In 2011 the Trainors took first place for their dark amber maple syrup in the North American Maple Syrup Council conference in Michigan.
Jerry Trainor believes the land makes the special taste of Trainor’s syrup.
“I just think it’s the lime rock in the hills,” he said.
His daughter, Jody Schneider of Chippewa Falls, said she believes it is the woods and the hills surrounding the trees that make the unique flavor.
“It’s truly a labor of love,” she said of the family working to make maple syrup together. “It’s in your soul. It’s who you are. We’re a small producer and it is family owned. How we make our syrup is important. Our goal is to put out a quality product for the public.”
Her children Devin and Jenna Schneider help with the maple syrup production as well.
Jenna, 12, said she has helped with the syrup since she was 7 years old.
“I like the cooking the best because it smells sweet,” she said.
Devin, 14, said he enjoys the sap collecting.
“What I like is being out in the woods and knowing this came out of nature,” he said. “And it is so good too.”
On Saturday, Lee Trainor — Jerry Trainor’s son — was manning the evaporator to boil down the syrup.
Despite the innovations and changes over the years, the family always keeps one bucket under a tap, said Lee Trainor, Jerry Trainor’s son.
“It’s to make sure we don’t lose our roots,” he said.
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