Friday, February 27, 2015

National Maple Syrup Festival

The 5th National Maple Syrup Festival is coming to the beautiful hills of Brown County, Indiana on March 5-8! This is a great event for the whole family and a perfect day-trip in March. From interpretive hikes in Brown County State Park to historical reenactments in the Pioneer Village in Nashville, there is a little something for everyone all in the name of celebrating one of Indiana’s sweetest industries- tapping maple trees in March for maple syrup!

The location for this year's festival has been moved to Nashville, Indiana and the town is  really rolling out the red carpet! Below you get a little more information about each of the events so you can plan your trip.

Indiana holds the southern and westernmost position in the United States’ 'Maple Syrup Belt' meaning as winter gives way to spring the sap flows first in Indiana’s maple stands. The rolling hills of Brown County,which is Indiana’s most densely forested county, is an ideal location for the festival.

The 2015 National Maple Syrup Festival will bring together maple sugar producers and hobbyists from all over, maple syrup connoisseurs, and visitors on a local, statewide, and potentially national level to highlight and promote Indiana’s role in the national production of maple syrup. Festival guests will learn the basics of maple syrup and the sugaring process, will be able to see how syrup is produced and used today, as well as learn the sweet history behind maple sugar production. The festival will also enable maple sugar producers to promote their products, share their stories, and help build a statewide brand for maple sugar and maple syrup production.

The Pioneer Village with be bustling with live demonstrations, maple syrup being made in real time, guest speakers, artisan foods and art exhibits. Nashville restaurants and retailers will focus on maple-related foods and wares, local food and art artisans with candies, breads, chocolates, and other foods and art from maple sap and maple trees will line the streets. History will come alive with demonstrations of early pioneer sugaring methods.  Here is a listing of the restaurants, breweries and wineries that are offering a maple-themed menu during the festival. Check the link often to see the new additions.
Get more information on the National Maple Syrup Festival HERE

Brown County State Park
The Dutch Oven Diva will cook, bake and have samples of her maple themed dutch oven cooking around a huge stone fireplace in the lower shelter of Brown County State Park. She will be joined by artisans sharing hot cocoa and handmade marshmallows, storytellers, reenactors and more. Park  rangers will be there to lead interpretive hikes, teaching how to identify maple trees in winter and spring.

Descendants of the Delaware and Shawnee will reenact how their ancestors made maple syrup on this land centuries ago, and nearby French Colonial reenactors will demonstrate how early white settlers made it differently.

There is a ticketed themed dinner both Thursday and Friday in Nashville. Get more information on the dinner on Thursday HERE and Friday HERE . You can also buy your dinner tickets through each of those links.

Pancake Breakfasts
Ever had a pancake flipped onto your plate from 20 yards?  Chris Cakes travels the country making incredible pancakes coupled with a show like none other, and the Brown County High School is hosting that show both Saturday and Sunday mornings, March 7 and 8. This is a fundraiser for Brown County High School and is quite possibly the best deal in town! Get more information about this all-you-can-eat breakfast HERE.

Sweet Victory Challenge

Along with the National Maple Syrup Festival, there is the Sweet Victory Challenge sponsored by Burton's Maplewood Farm. There have been over 200 recipes that have been entered by both adults AND children under the age of 17. Both divisions of age could  enter both savory, dessert and sweet recipes that use and focus on pure maple syrup as an ingredient. The top 5 recipes in each category will be tasted by a panel of judges that work in the food and media industry from around the Midwest.
This year the Sweet Victory Challenge will be held at the Story Inn. Story Inn is located roughly 15 minutes from Nashville. Learn more about Story Inn HERE. The dinner menu at Story in will feature maple themed dishes the week of March 2-5 as well.

A panel of judges selected five finalists in each division/category based on creativity, appetizing description, ease of preparation, and appropriate use of the required products. On March 7 and 8, the competition days, local volunteers and culinary school students will prepare each dish for final judging. Finalists need not be present to win.  The grand prize for each category in the adult division is $200; second prize is $100. In the youth division, first prize in each category is a $100; second prize is $50.

We Are Indiana Agriculture: The Tharps

By Sarah Mahan of This Farm Family's Life

Farming is a 365-days-a-year, 24-hours-a-day-job, but Nick and Beth Tharp of Coatsville wouldn’t have it any other way.  On a farm with nearly 3,000 sows, a litter of piglets is born nearly every hour.  Alongside Beth's family and with the help of six employees, the Tharps wean nearly 77,000 pigs each year and farm more than 900 acres of corn, soybeans, and hay.

Beth’s parents, Mark and Phyllis Legan are first-generation farmers.  They began raising pigs and crops in January of 1989.  “In 2010, we were blessed with the opportunity to join them in farming,” Nick explains.  “In order to stay competitive in the pork industry, the farm has grown steadily over the past 23 years.  This family farm now raises several thousand weaned pigs and market hogs a year as well as corn to feed the sows and soybeans to sell.”  Nick and Beth are also the proud parents of 1-year-old Kate who, “loves visiting the barns and might be a hog farmer in the making.”

When asked what they do to ensure their animals are comfortable, Nick said, “We have a moral obligation to provide the best care possible for our animals.  Our commitment to caring for our animals and ensuring their needs are met every day is always top priority.  Our animals are housed in barns that maintain a temperature that is most comfortable for them, based on their age.  Baby piglets enjoy micro-environments that are 90 to 95 degrees at birth, while the mother sows enjoy a cooler 67 to 73-degree environment.  With technologies we have adapted, we are able to meet both needs at the same time.  Fresh water and feed that is specifically formulated for each pig’s needs are also important for the animals’ well-being.”

The Tharps work diligently to conserve natural resources.  “The soil and water we use needs to be returned to the earth in as good or better shape as when we started using it.  We have been using a no-till system of raising corn and soybeans for many years on our farm.  In this system, the soil is disturbed as little as possible during the year to allow the natural tilth and structure to return to the soil.  Earthworms are a vital part of no-till, as they create tunnels for water percolation and roots to travel through. 

“Corn or soybeans are planted into last year’s remaining crop residue.  The residue (the stems, leaves and husks left from last year’s crop) acts as a water-retaining mulch to help the seeds germinate and as organic matter to rebuild the soil.  We also believe in the importance of keeping the fields covered in the cold months by planting cover crops in the fall.  Oil seed radish, annual rye grass, canola, wheat, barley, and crimson clover are a few of the cover crops we have tried in the past few years.  

Cover crops use extra nitrogen (fertilizer) left in the soil, so it is not washed away by the rain.  They also build the soil by adding organic matter as they die.”

Farming is a long-term commitment and they have chosen to utilize responsible and sustainable agricultural practices on their farm.  The Tharps are very passionate about their role of producing food for the world.  “We believe God has called us to be a part of a noble profession.  We realize that without His guidance and alliances formed with others, we would not be able to carry out our work.  

It has been through relationships with others that we are able to do what we do today.  We are grateful for the opportunities we have been given.”