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NORTH COUNTRY AT WORK: Greer makes maple syrup from Potsdam’s streets

February 23, 2018
By RICKY BLACKBURN and AMY FEIEREISEL - NCPR intern and correspondent ( , Lake Placid News

POTSDAM - A common North Country side-gig during the spring is maple sugaring. But one man in Potsdam is making a lot of maple syrup - by hand and without his own sugar bush.

Michael Greer has roughly 450 maple trees tapped for collecting sap, but only a few of those trees are on his own property.

"I have probably 25 property owners that let me tap their trees, I make the syrup and they all get some... I've been doing that for several years."

Article Photos

Michael Greer collects sap from one of the many maple trees lining Potsdam’s roads.
(Photo provided — Ricky Blackburn)

Michael's syrup making days began when he decided to tap a few trees on his own property.

"We had a row of big trees in the yard and one year we got a wild notion to tap them, just like everybody else. What would happen if we did this? We tapped the trees and said; oh what would we do with the sap?"

Without his own sugar house, Michael went to a friend for help.

"I took the sap to one of my wife's coworkers who had a sugarhouse set up and started making syrup with him. Did that several years with him and really got the maple bug."

Michael started his own operation, which has grown larger every year.

"Every year we got bigger; it is really infectious and I finally built my own sugar house."

Michael has been working in his own Sugarhouse for four years now. It is nestled in his backyard, and on a working day you will see steam billowing out of steam stacks, and smell the aroma of fresh maple syrup in the air.

However the amount of work can get overwhelming. He has to dump each bucket of sap by hand into his filter and takes multiple trips to collect all the sap.

"When you grow to 400 or 500 taps, you sign up for six weeks of slave labor, there is just no end to it. Sometimes there isn't enough time to sleep in between sometimes. I've had a couple of 15-hour days."

Over his years of growth, Michael has finally realized a limit to his own maple bug.

"I will continue to grow for probably one more year. I think my exhaustion level will be reached when I hit 500 taps. At that point I would start to outdo my equipment as well.

He says he plans to continue maple sugaring at this level for many years to come.

"Once you get the bug, the maple bug, you can't drive by a maple tree without seeing it, without noticing it, and it just spirals out of control."

(This story comes to you from North Country Public Radio's North Country at Work project, which explores the working lives and history of our region. To see all the stories, check out



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