Jason Blocher, owner of Milroy Farms near Salisbury, was awarded the 2022 title at the Pennsylvania Maple King competition held Wednesday at the Sugar Shack at Maple Festival Park in Meyersdale.
The Champion Syrup award, meanwhile, went to Baer Brothers Maple in Somerset Township.
This is the third time that Jason Blocher has been named King of Maple. He won his previous titles in 2016 and 2018, and he and his wife, Melissa Friend, own and operate the Generation Maple Camp in Elk Lick Township.
“We are very happy to bring this honor back to Milroy as this camp celebrates its 80th anniversary in 2022,” said Jason Blocher. “In addition to celebrating the 75th anniversary of the (Pennsylvania) Maple Festival, we are celebrating 80 years of operation.
“The Maple King is not just one person, but a whole village of employees, helpers, friends and family members who make the season go. Some can make it a little and others can do a lot, but everyone is working together to make it a success.”
Jason Blocher’s father, the late Gary Blocher, who died in 2017, was Maple King six times between 1986 and 2000. Gary was a past president of the Somerset County Maple Producers and a spokesperson in many ways for the local maple industry.
Jason Blocher’s mother, Frances Blocher, who died in November 2012, operated the kitchen year-round to fill orders for syrup, candy, soft cream, spread, crumbled sugar and taffy.
The newly crowned Maple King, his wife and their team of helpers have stayed the course by making syrup and other products from their 17,000 taps each year.
Gary Blocher grew up on Milroy Farms, where Jason and Melissa now reside. Gary had attended Penn State University and Williamsport Technical School before returning home to start a construction, tractor sales and repair shop business.
The Blochers built the new camp in 1954. The older, more rustic camp had been there since the 1800s, when the Mausts owned the farm and produced maple at the same location.
Originally, the farm was a dairy. In the 1970s, the dairy was transformed into a cattle farm with the maple business as a secondary activity at the time.
Things have changed a lot since then.
“The maple syrup business used to be a secondary income on the farm, but now it’s our main source of income,” said Jason Blocher. “Maple has been good for this family over the years, and that’s why we’ve focused all our efforts on it.”
Jason Blocher grew up in the maple industry and remembers when he was 8 years old he wanted to help by carrying 2 gallon buckets because he couldn’t lift the 5 gallon buckets on his own. .
“I’ve worked in the maple industry all my life and have been boiling since graduating from high school in 1985,” Jason Blocher said, noting that he worked alongside his grandparents, Roy and Mildred Blocher, in addition to his parents. . “I’m a third generation maple syrup producer here in Milroy, but a fifth generation producer through my father’s dam line in the Wagner family.”
At the start of the 20th century, the Wagner family had four daughters, all of whom became involved in maple syrup making in their adult lives.
Jason Blocher’s grandmother, Mildred Wagner, and her husband, Roy Blocher, purchased their farm property on River Road in 1942. They decided to combine their first names into “Milroy” to name their farm and production business. of maple.
Mildred’s father Joseph and even Joseph’s parents operated sugar trees and boiled maple syrup in the late 1800s in the Salisbury area at Wagner’s Sugar Camp along Tub Mill Run Road near Salisbury.
Mildred’s sisters, Leona Wagner and Dorothy Jeffrey, continued to operate the Wagner Farm sugar camp. Dorothy Jeffrey’s children, Dale and Sue Jeffrey, all now deceased, continued for many years at the Wagner location, which has since been purchased by fellow maple syrup producer Jeremy Walters. Mildred’s other sister, Thelma Miller, also operated a sugar camp on a nearby farm during her lifetime.
“After my grandparents left, my dad (Gary) took over the farm and expanded the maple business and turned it into a bigger business and what it is today,” Jason said. Block.
While the days of collecting with buckets are long gone, Milroy has made several improvements over the years including the addition of pipeline tubing, reverse osmosis machines with updated equipment from CDL USA this year, a camp addition in 2017 and a surveillance system put in place six years ago. .
Jason Blocher pointed out that Somerset County is the Commonwealth’s largest maple syrup producer and produces a third of the state’s syrup. He said there are five maple producing organizations in the state, including Northwest, Northeast, Potter-Tioga, Endless Mountains (Poconos), and Somerset County.
Champion syrup price
Baer Brothers is owned by Mike and Sherry Lynch. It was the first time they received the Champion Syrup Award.
At Baer Brothers Maple Camp, the Lynch family works together as a family unit, with parents assisted by sons Cody and Reagan Lynch. It was the younger son, Reagan Lynch, 18, who made the effort to enter the King’s Contest while his older brother also helped out.
“We are honored to follow in the footsteps of Joel Friedline, who won the Champion Syrup Award last year and often brought that honor back to Walnutdale Maple on multiple occasions,” said Mike Lynch. “Reagan wanted to enter the contest, and we are happy to have been chosen for the champion syrup.”
Maple producer Joel Friedline died in an accident on his farm on July 24 last year, shortly after receiving the Champion Syrup award in April 2021. He was part of a family operation with his wife, Mary, her brother, Jon, and her parents, Lowell and Carna Friedline, on the family dairy farm in the Boswell area.
The Lynch family started their sugar camp in 2009 along Sugar Cake Road in Somerset Township. Former owner George Baer, now in his 80s, still returns to be a part of the season.
Baer Brothers Maple Camp was on the Baer farm in the early 1900s as a source of syrup for personal consumption and for trade. In 1971 the camp began to grow into what it is today under the ownership of George and Bonnie Baer and their family.
“George knew the business was in good hands and we had a long relationship, and I had known him since I was a kid,” said Mike Lynch, who grew up on a nearby farm. “He is still here often every spring, and we always appreciate his guidance.
“Even though the ownership has changed, many of the same faces are still present today.”
Today they produce about 2,000 gallons of maple syrup in a good season out of 5,000 taps. While the process is still the same since the early years, technology has revolutionized the business.
In addition to maple production, Mike Lynch operates a cow-calf operation and is the Southern US Manager for CDL USA, traveling frequently throughout Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and Utah. Indiana to set up CDL intelligence systems.
As part of his job at CDL USA, Mike Lynch sells and maintains Smart Maple Production Network (CDL Intelligence) for other maple producers.