Maple season celebrated at tree-tapping ceremony in Whitehall

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From left, New York State Senator Jake Ashby, State Commissioner of Agriculture & Markets Richard Ball, State Assemblyman Matt Simpson, State Senator Dan Stec, Rathbun’s Maple Sugarhouse Restaurant owner Matt Rathbun and two other Rathbun family members pose for a group shot. (All photos courtesy of Upper Hudson Maple Producers Association)
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Commissioner Ball meets with Granville FFA and Greenwich FFA students as they await their meal of pancakes and French toast.

On Friday, March 10, New York State Commissioner of Agriculture & Markets Richard Ball helped celebrate the maple season with the annual tree-tapping ceremony. This year’s tapping was held at Rathbun’s Maple Sugarhouse Restaurant in Whitehall, New York. Commissioner Ball was joined by State Assemblymen Matt Simpson and State Senators Dan Stec and Jake Ashby.

This year’s ceremony was attended by many local maple producers as well as a large contingent of Future Farmers of America members from Granville FFA and Greenwich FFA.

Matt Rathbun gives a tour of the sugarhouse.

The day began with a tour of the Rathbun family sugarhouse given by owner Matt Rathbun. The steam was billowing as the sugarhouse was boiling a fresh batch of maple syrup. The commissioner also spent some time meeting with the FFA members who were present, a few of whom have their own fledgling maple operations that they described to the commissioner.

Ball made some brief remarks and began by saying that the tapping ceremony is like a holiday for him each year. “It’s great to be here and especially great to be here with some ‘Blue Jackets’ representing the future of New York agriculture,” he said. He lightheartedly wished that he had worn his own FFA jacket for the occasion. He told those assembled that maple brings back memories for him each year as he remembers some of his relatives participating in sugarmaking when he was a boy. “Maple is the first crop of the year in New York, and it is made by small family farms.” He also praised maple for being a part of the NYS Grown & Certified Program. “The Grown & Certified program takes into account environmental stewardship and food safety when producing food products and maple is a good example of this,” said Ball.

Rathbun’s Maple lies along the line between New York State Senate districts 43 and 45, so owner Matt Rathbun offered two trees for tapping. The first tapping was performed at tree lying within Senator Stec’s district. The group then moved to a tree a little way away into Senator Ashby’s district to perform the second tapping.

From left, Sen. Stec and Assemblyman Simpson perform the tree tapping with Commissioner Ball in front.

Following the tree tappings all attendees were treated to a delicious meal of pancakes and French toast with pure maple syrup. The food was cooked and served by members of the Rathbun family in the restaurant.

The Rathbun family has been making maple syrup for eight generations. The family started making maple syrup commercially in 1961. The restaurant opened in 1986 and has been serving pancake breakfasts on the weekends ever since. Today, Rathbun’s Maple is owned by Matt and Wendy Rathbun and has around 8,000 taps collecting sap that is made into maple syrup, cream, candies and other goods. The restaurant is open on weekends year-round. To learn more about Rathbun’s Maple including products and restaurant hours, visit

Get a taste of the maple season yourself during the New York State Maple Weekends taking place March 18-19 and 25-26.

To find a producer near you to visit this maple season, check out the Upper Hudson Maple Producers Association website at

Sen. Ashby takes his turn tapping a tree.