Joe and Barbara Polak of Merrill, Wis., will be the keynote speakers. The Polaks produce syrup and operate a family business, Maple Hollow, which sells maple products and sugaring equipment. Joe Polak currently serves as secretary-treasurer of the North American Maple Syrup Council as well as past president of the Wisconsin Maple Producer’s Association. An avid spokesperson for the maple industry, he appeared on Wisconsin Public Radio’s call-in program to answer questions about making maple syrup.
“Maple producers are in the midst of some significant changes and challenges,” said Joe Polak. “Climate change is shifting our sugaring season. Still, there is a bright future for producers of all sizes with the strong interest in wholesome, natural, locally produced foods.”
While Joe Polak is a third-generation maple producer, his wife Barbara Polak, is an educator and native Californian who now helps to manage and operate Maple Hollow. Barbara Polak will share her humorous and entertaining story about what it has been like for someone from the west coast to marry a maple syrup maker.
Following the keynote presentations, those attending the conference may choose from morning and afternoon breakout discussion sessions led by experienced members of the Indiana Association.
The sessions will include: “Maple Confections as Value Added Products,” by Kim and Bill Owen; “Managing Tubing Systems,” by Art Harris; “Sap to Syrup,” by Brent Tubbs and “Food Safety and Regulations,” by Larry Yoder. The closing session will feature a panel of hobbyists, dealers and veteran producers who will respond to questions generated in the earlier discussions.
“This meeting is a great opportunity for beginners to ask questions and learn how to get started,” said Garry Sink, president of the association and a producer from Allen County.
Lunch will be served as part of the day’s events.
The Whitley County 4-H Fairgrounds are located on the west side of Columbia City at 680 Squawbuck Road, approximately one-third mile south of the intersection of U.S. Highway 30 and Lincolnway.
Registration is $20 and includes a yearlong membership in the Indiana Maple Syrup Association and lunch. Advance registrations can be sent to: IMSA c/o David Hamilton, Treasurer, 6025 N. 100 East, New Castle, IN 47362 or online at indianamaplesyrup.org.