How Sweet It Is! FRG’s Partnership with Cornell University’s Maple Program

Oh, how we love our sweet partnership with Cornell University's Maple Program!

In fact, since 2014 we’ve been serving 100% pure New York Maple Syrup with all of our breakfast and brunch dishes, and of course, our famous Chicken & Waffles.

How did this partnership come to be? It all started as a conversation in our kitchen about a forest in upstate New York and our ongoing Farmers Restaurant Group (FRG) goal of not only bringing the best product we can to all our FRG tables and hence guests, but also our commitment to sustainable ingredients. This partnership has also brought a great story to our FRG family, and a higher purpose behind these products, which we are proud to share.

As about three-quarters of all the maple syrup produced at Cornell’s forest comes to our restaurants, in the form of over a thousand gallons of syrup each year, we thought it a great reason for a visit and to tell the story of this amazing maple forest – and the dedicated team who work it.

We had the honor of visiting Cornell’s maple tree forest in Lake Placid, New York and seeing firsthand where our delicious syrup comes from. We coincided our visit with prime maple season and 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!

Our remarkable host, Mike Farrell, Director of Cornell University’s Uihlein Forest, was kind enough to show us around and enlighten us on the industry and tying together how his maple syrup makes it to our tables, but also manages to contribute to the industry as a whole.

The Forest: a gorgeous 200+ acres of land nestled in the Adirondacks containing roughly 6,000 trees that are tapped, yielding 10-20 gallons of sap per season that runs typically from March until early April. Miles of tubing run from the forest to the sugarhouse where the sap is boiled down into the syrup our guests enjoy. Fun Fact: it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.

The Education Center: Aside from the ability to produce an incredible amount of syrup each year, this particular forest holds a much higher purpose: a working educational center for Cornell University, serving as the largest acreage in the world devoted to sugar maple research.

Clearly passionate about educating others and providing his team’s very specialized and extensive syrup production and forest preservation research and data, to those looking to tap a few backyard trees or larger wholesale/retail producers, Farrell travels all over the Northeast teaching syrup production, forest preservation, and how these trees provide a high-quality product without taking anything away from the environment.

During our visit, we were fascinated by not only the machinery, technology, and the maze of tubing and the sheer volume of sap pouring down the tubes, but also as foodies and sustainable products junkies, we were amazed to watch as the maple water converted into delicious syrup – that we got to try straight from the spout of the boiler.

The Experience: One we’ll never forget. The sheer beauty of the forest, the dedication of the staff, the tapping of trees, the production, the equipment … the whole experience.

We continually strive to keep learning and connecting with our purveyors. And as this story is a personal one for us, as one of our team members grew up down the street from the forest and loved going there as a child, we’re proud to share it and offer our team and our guests that personal connection.

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!

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