Our Partnership with Cornell University’s Maple Program

How we love our sweet partnership with Cornell University’s Maple Program!

Our partnership began in 2014, out of a conversation in our kitchen about a forest in upstate New York and our ongoing Farmers Restaurant Group (FRG) efforts of not only bringing the best product we can to all our Founding Farmers restaurant tables and hence our guests, but also our continuing commitment to sustainable ingredients.

The result? An amazing partnership. One that has brought about not only a great story to our Founding Farmers family, but also serves a higher purpose to our partnership – and our products.

In this case, we’re happy to claim that about three-quarters of all the maple syrup produced at Cornell’s forest comes to our restaurants. That’s over a thousand gallons of syrup each year! Yup, that’s a lot of pure, sweet maple syrup goodness poured over our Founding Farmers breakfast and brunch dishes, and of course, our famous Chicken & Waffles.

So, we thought: what better reason to visit and tell the story of this amazing maple forest – and the dedicated team who work there?

Our Founding Farmers team had the distinct pleasure of visiting the Lake Placid, NY maple farm and seeing firsthand where our delicious syrup comes from. We planned our visit during prime maple season and we loved every minute of watching the steam come off the sugarhouse in full force. You could literally hear the sap flowing from the trees through the tubes down to the sugarhouse!

Mike Farrell, the Director of Cornell University’s Uihlein Forest, was kind enough to show us around, enlighten us on the industry, and tie together how their syrup gets to our tables but also manages to contribute to the industry as a whole. With his 11 years of experience, a master’s degree in Forestry, and a Ph.D. in Natural Resources, we knew we were in good hands.

Nestled in the Adirondacks, the forest consists of a bucolic 200+ acres where about 6,000 trees are tapped, yielding 10-20 gallons of sap per season, which typically runs the month of March through early April. *FACT: it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. So, there are miles of tubing that run from the forest down to the sugarhouse where the sap is boiled down to the syrup found at our restaurants.

The maple program was so successful and yielded such great results, the team established an education center for Cornell University that has proved the largest acreage in the world devoted to sugar maple research.

Farrell, and his team, engages in extensive research and data collecting regarding syrup production and forest preservation. The machinery and technology alone are impressive but it’s the maze of tubing and the sheer volume of sap pouring down the tubes that really blew us away. We found it fascinating to see how the maple water is turned into warm, smooth delicious syrup that we were able to try straight from the spout of the boiler.

Clearly passionate about his work, Farrell travels the Northeast educating novices and wholesalers/retailers alike with his team’s research and data on not only syrup production but also forest preservation and how the trees provide a high-quality product without taking anything away from the environment.

As we continually strive to keep learning and connecting with our purveyors, this is an experience that our Founding Farmers team will not soon forget. We are happy to share this story with our staff and guests as it’s a personal one for us since one of our team members grew up down the road from the forest and loved going there as a child.

So, if you happen to be in the Lake Placid, NY area, be sure to stop by the Cornell University’s Uihlein Forest … and tell them their friends at Founding Farmers sent you!

Through the Eyes of the Founding Farmer.