Les and Brenda Schwartz purchased their property about 20 years ago and Les’s brother-in-law farmed the tillable acreage for a few years. Les and Brenda started tapping maple trees about 15 years ago, tapping 29 trees the first year. Each year, the Schwartzes tapped more trees until about five years ago they had reached 400 trees. They decided then it was time to stop expanding.
Les and Brenda produce between 100 and 150 gallons of pure maple syrup annually. They also tap birch trees and make birch syrup. The couple still collects sap in buckets.
Tree tapping requires a lot of labor. Les’s brothers, Larry and Doug, help with tapping, collecting the sap and cooking it down. The Schwartz family boils the sap using wood they collect from their woodlands and from a nearby mill. Les’s sister, Barb, helps with sap collection and canning the syrup. Les and Brenda’s sons, Eric and Rory, along with their families, also provide help. Other relatives provide labor when time allows. The family also grows vegetables and apples for their local farmers market.
The Schwartzes have hosted many groups on their property that want to learn more about making syrup. For the past eight years the family has hosted the 10th grade class at Henning High School to help with tapping trees. The Schwartzes have hosted 4-H clubs, Boy Scouts, garden clubs and other groups and individuals. They’ve made many presentations to various organizations about making maple syrup.
Les is the current president of the Wadena Area Growers Association/Wadena Farmers Market. The Schwartzes are members of Minnesota Grown and an authorized vendor for the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program.