There are two new hall of famers in Northern New York, but they didn’t get into the Baseball Hall of Fame, they got into the Male Hall of Fame. Those who’ve dedicated their lives to making the perfect pancake breakfast possible are recognized with the highest honor in the industry.
The American Maple Museum in Croghan, NY is home of the only Maple Hall of Fame in the country, but the industry is pushing for maple to go beyond the breakfast table.
It's serious business at The Maple Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony begins with a prayer by Jane Yancey.
“We praise you heavenly lord for the wonderful maple tree you’ve created and the season you give us that allows the tree to produce sugar and then the sap that brings the sugar to us," Yancey says.
This back room in the American Maple Museum is filled with big players in the industry from Canada and the U.S. Paintings of snowy sugar bushes hang on the walls. Colorful maple leaves pattern the drapes.
“We gather together to honor Cecille Pichette and Debbie Richards as they are inducted into the Maple Hall of Fame and thank them for their life’s work with maple,” Yancey says.
Pichette and Richards are both leaders in the industry. They have governed every major decision from the basic standards for syrup to encouraging research and innovation.
It’s a big deal to be selected into the Hall of Fame. Donald Moser, the president of the Maple Museum says it is like getting into the baseball hall of fame.
“This is the pinnacle of their work. It’s a high honor,” says Moser.
You need to have made a major contribution to the industry. And that can vary. Don and Betty-Ann Lockheart were honored last year.
“We have very few trees. They are mostly there for taking pictures,” says Lockheart.
The couple makes educational videos about the history of sugaring.
“Our most recent one is for children. It’s called the 'Magical Maple Tree' and its short. “
Educating people about maple production is important but the maple industry’s main goal is to make and sell more syrup.
Mark Harran, the president of International Maple Syrup Institute, says in order to do that, maple needs to be rebranded and reimagined.
“One of the biggest challenges is to get out of the pancake and waffle rut,” Harran says.
That’s more of a weekend breakfast thing, Harran says, and it’s declining. People don’t make pancakes every morning.
“It’s still important but what I’m trying to do is get us out of that and into an everyday condiment where we can be used on ice cream, salad dressing, a maple vinaigrette something like that as a very tasty condiment," said Harran.
It’s an idea that many are already grasping, like video producer Betty-Ann Lockheart.
“I write a monthly column called Morsels in the Vermont Maple News. Everything from maple pulled pork to this month is crunchy maple coleslaw," Lockheart.says.
Harran says that yes, maple syrup is good for you. It’s as natural as sweeteners get. With all this push against artificial ingredients in our food, maple syrup could have an opening in targeting its ideal customer.
“This is going to sound trite, but it’s the soccer mom. It’s a person -- largely female -- who is conscious of health and their family who wants to have wholesome good food and they are a pacesetter, meaning they are going to be the ones that influence the American diet," Harran says.
But modernizing maple’s image is clearly going to take some time. The day at the museum started with an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast and the museum plans to host many more through October. Dousing your plate in 100 percent pure maple syrup is always encouraged.