“The Sugar Season” – Douglas Whynott’s Maple Industry Review


“The Sugar Season”  –  Douglas Whynott

When I heard about this book that shadowed Bruce Bascom I had to read it.  I have long admired Bruce for his connection to the maple producer.  Another reason I wanted to read this book is I was there – in the book.  You won’t see my name.  But I swear to you, I was a part of it – along with many other producers just like me.  We took a visit to Bascom’s last year to learn and pick up that next great tip in the endless pursuit of maple syrup perfection.

I was on vacation last week in California reading “The Sugar Season” and my wife is asking me, “how is the book?” (Because I couldn’t put it down).   I kept telling her, “I feel like I’m there – in the book.”  I was calling everyone back at the farm, “You have to read this book.  You won’t believe how accurate it is.  We were there!”  Sure enough, three days into my vacation while reading this book – a segment on CBS This Morning promotes the book.  As a “maple insider” I already knew the book was credible.  The CBS segment seemed to gain the book temporary credence with my wife and her sister, who was hosting us.

Last year, we received an invitation by postcard to go to Bascom’s Open House at the end of the maple season and we jumped at it.  We buy some supplies from Bruce and must be on his mailing list.  I was excited to take Team Bissell Maple Farm up to New England and tour Bascom Maple Farm.  They deserved the opportunity after the great maple season.  We were all curious.  After a few trips to Verona’s Maple expo and discussions with fellow syrup makers we know who Bruce Bascom is.  If you make maple syrup, you’ve heard of Bruce Bascom.  After all, he has been one of the primary buyers of bulk maple syrup in Ohio.

The setting in which the book takes place is hard to describe.  A picture I took from my phone last year was a waste of time.   The view was too awesome for my camera.  (The word awesome is used too much on mundane things and I’m worried about using a word that has lost its grandeur.  But the view is truly awesome.)  The guy owns a mountain.  I’m not kidding you the view from his facility is amazing.  From the mountaintop view, to the structures, the hustle and bustle of maple season – customers coming and going.  I felt like I was there at the exact same time the author was taking his notes.  I swear, I remember some of the words and quips.  My favorite is when a young fellow shows up and asks Bruce, “Do you work here?”  Without missing a beat Bruce responds, “Yup, and they even gave me this hat.”  I love it!

Two other figures stood out in this book.  One of them is Kevin Bascom.  He was a very knowledgeable guy.  He was the kind of guy that if you were a talker, he’d let you talk.  And he’s probably forgotten more about maple syrup production than most people know.  But if you asked a question, he was there to give his insight.  But he certainly wasn’t one to keep a fool from running his mouth.

The other figure in the book is Erwin Gingerich.  It was cool to read about someone I know pretty well in a book that was promoted on CBS Today Show.  It also shows how much the Amish community is a big part of Ohio’s maple industry – and the maple industry in the US.  The author intimated at coming down to visit Erwin in Ohio.   I hope I can get him to sign my book when he’s here visiting.  Another book topic perhaps?   I’m happy for Erv and can’t wait to tease him a little about his fame the next time I see him.

There is one key point I want to make about this book.  The author truly immerses himself into a subject.  Whynott has credibility with me, a sugarmaker.  Maybe that will help someone with no knowledge of the maple syrup industry feel good about reading “The Sugar Season” to gain some insight.