Between early March and mid-April of each year, John Hastings is joined by his brother, Don, as he taps the maple trees on his mother's property in Warren County. John, a retired forester, visits the twelve-acre property between three and four times a week in order to extract sap for home-made maple syrup. Though John's father purchased the property in 1946, the family did not start tapping the trees until 1979. Since then the original one-hundred and fifty taps has expanded to an impressive six-hundred operational taps.

Initially, John and his brother produced just enough syrup to supply their family, including their mother, father and three other siblings. Now, however, John is able to produce a decent amount of surplus syrup. The excess syrup is sold locally and the added income is then used to purchase new equipment or to repair the older machinery in the sugar house.

John is able to complete the entire production process on the property. At the beginning of March he treks out into the woods with Don, who is retired from the Postal Service, and installs a tap into each maple tree. Using a cordless battery-powered drill, a hole is drilled to for the small-diameter spouts. The two brothers, sometimes aided by Dave, another sibling, are able to complete the process in two days.

The sap then flows through the network of tubing connected to each tree and eventually reaches the storage tank outside of the sugar house. From the storage tank, the sap is passed into the evaporator, which boils the sap into syrup. The syrup is packaged right there in the sugar house and then stored or sold, depending on how many pancakes the family plans to eat that year!

After the month and a half long process of syrup production, John is left to clean the equipment. Through pump action, a water/air mixture is pushed through the tubing, which removes any residual sap and bacteria. All of the taps must also be removed from the trees, allowing the water to flush out each spout and drop line. While the taps must be removed and the tubing cleaned every year, the entire process usually only takes John and Don a single day to complete.

Though John does dedicate quite a bit of time to maple syrup production each year, he considers it to be more of a hobby than a job. In order to make his hobby another source of income, John states that he would need to lease another stand of near-by maples in order to retrieve more sap. Moreover, the current sugar bush occupies more of a west, northwest slope, while optimal locations usually boast a southern exposure and so maximal yield is not obtained. As such, John's hobby will most likely remain a hobby and not become a full time business.

Though the forested area on his mother's property is predominantly maple, there are also pine and oak trees scattered throughout the area. Hemlock, however, are not as prominent since they tend to shade the maple tubing, preventing sap that freezes overnight from thawing, and thus impedes syrup production. John typically removes hemlocks from the sugarbush.

The twelve-acre property, along with John's own thirty-acre property, is part of the Tree Farm System run by the American Forest Foundation, a national nonprofit organization. Having the two properties certified as part of the Tree Farm System signifies a commitment to sustaining forests, watersheds and healthy habitats through the power of private stewardship.

John acquired his own thirty acres of land from a co-worker at the DEC, while he and Pamela, his wife, lived in Fort Ann. At the time, the property was only two to three miles away from their home. While John and Don often hunted on the property in the past, John rarely hunts there anymore since he now lives farther away in Queensbury.

Though the land is primarily oak and hemlock, there are also pine and maple interspersed throughout. Since purchasing the land in 1982, John has organized several harvest cuts, including a commercial thinning and a cutting to harvest firewood. The property is currently being logged to harvest mature oak, maple and pine.

An alumnus of the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, John began working immediately after graduating with his Bachelor's Degree. John joined the DEC in 1979, where he worked as a professional forester for thirty-four years.

Retired as of 2003, he now spends much of his time working with the Warrensburg Historical Society. John is not only on the Board of Directors for the Society, but is also the newsletter editor. At present, John and the Society are in the process of restoring the artifact collection at the Warrensburg Historical Museum, which is to reopen in the spring. In addition to his work with the Warrensburg Historical Society, John also does a small amount of forestry consulting on the side.

In addition, John is also an active NYFOA member and a member of the NYS Maple Producers Association. After joining NYFOA in 1987, John acted an as instrumental member in the establishment of the Southern Adirondack chapter of the organization. He has previously volunteered as the newsletter editor for the SAC and continues to help with many SAC events. John was also a part of the NYFOA State Board of Directors during the late 1990's.

When not working outside the home, John passes his time at home with Pamela, a high school music teacher. Their only child, Brittany, currently attends Wheaton College near Boston, MA. When home for break, however, Brittany and her parents regularly enjoy pancakes, made with hand-picked blueberries from their home property and topped with family-made syrup!


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