Meet Your Farmer: Algoma Family Literally ‘Sap Happy’ Over its Products
Sap Happy Maple Products originated six years ago when Jason Jorns began tapping eight maple trees in his front yard. He missed the practice of sap collection he had grown up with, so he and his wife Becky decided to expand this seasonal passion into a family-owned business of their own.
Last year, Jason processed more than 350 gallons of pure maple syrup rendered from approximately 15,000 gallons of collected sap in a sugar shack outside their home in Algoma.
It takes about two weeks of thawing temperatures for Mother Nature to entice the sap of a maple tree to run. Depending on the tree, weather conditions and method for collecting sap, the average maple produces 10 to 20 gallons of sap during a season that typically begins late February and lasts through early April in Wisconsin.
Jason is a fourth-generation maple syrup producer. Since he was a child, he has followed the footsteps of his father and grandfather over snow-covered parcels to maple stands in Door and Kewaunee counties, learning the best practices for sap collection and pure maple syrup production. Like the trees he taps, he anticipates every spring with mirthful enthusiasm. According to his wife, he becomes “Sap Happy.”
“He is like a mad scientist when he’s processing our syrup. To see him cooking and monitoring gauges, hydrometers and refractometers ... he’s truly focused on perfection,” Becky said of her husband.
Maple syrup’s flavor and richness is less a factor of the geography or type of maple tree.
“A great syrup is the result of finishing and bottling the product,” Jason said.
And he gets it just right.
The process of collecting tree sap is both time-sensitive as well as labor-intensive. Individual trees are first drilled and then tapped with a hollow metal tube. Sap is collected in buckets hanging off the trunk or through a series of lines that use gravity as a suction-mechanism to draw sap to a pail. From there, it is collected and poured into tanks on a tractor or four-wheeler that can maneuver more easily on the forest floor. Eventually, the sap is taken to a sugar shack where it is rendered for hours using the right combination of temperature and time to create the goodness of natural maple syrup.
Popular Sap Happy Maple Products include the bottled pure maple syrup, as well as a variety of wholesome maple-based or coated products that Becky has refashioned from favorite family recipes, including maple cream, maple candy, maple glazed pecans and a customer favorite – maple popcorn.
“We all need a sweet treat once in a while. I started making snacks that our family and our kids could enjoy and be better for them,” Becky said. “I’m a huge health nut and use organic ingredients whenever possible. In creating our products, I also considered food sensitivities. For example, I converted butter to coconut oil, removing dairy from my popcorn recipe and used syrup instead of sugar.”
The popcorn snack is also gluten free.
“There has been a resurgence of interest in maple syrup as a natural food, in particular as a natural sweetener,” said Cooper Henkel, a representative from Greens N Grains Natural Foods Market in Egg Harbor. “We love to source local products at our store, and it’s nice to be able to point them out to customers.”
The store sells the Sap Happy maple syrup and maple popcorn, and according to Henkel, the popcorn was an “immediate hit.” The Jorns family markets their maple syrup products at Terry Naturally and Sweet Willow Naturals in Green Bay and at Aurora’s Apothecary in Appleton.
Kevin Adlebush, owner of Aurora’s Apothecary, met Becky and Jason Jorns last year at Algoma Shanty Days. After Becky gave him a bag of Sap Happy maple popcorn, he was a fan from that point forward. He finished off the popcorn and kept the bag so he could contact the couple later. He knew he wanted to sell their products at his stores.
“Many people are looking to eat better and the syrup provides a natural sweetener. Many bake with it, or substitute it on snacks,” he said. “Not only does Becky use organic popcorn and other ingredients, but it also tastes really good!”
You can meet Becky or Jason at area farmers’ markets and events where they regularly promote and sell their maple syrup products as well as jams, jellies, and other natural food.
Beginning this spring, Sap Happy Maple Products will be available at the Maplewood Country Cupboard (formerly Maplewaupee Market), S1867 Highway 42 just north of Maplewood. The couple owns the property and recently upgraded the facility to include a commercial kitchen that they rent to other businesses.
With two young children, Aiden and KennaRae, and with Jason’s full-time job, the family’s goal is to sell more products wholesale and spend more time diversifying the product lineup while balancing their busy family life.
Becky said, “Collecting tree sap is my meditation in early spring. The snow, sunlight and branches of the trees are beautiful. All the hard work comes back to us when we see repeat customers and hear how much they enjoy our syrup.”