MOUNT PLEASANT – Thomas and Karla Bardwell make good maple syrup. And they have the hardware to prove it.
The Ellington Township couple own syrup company MapleWorxz, and entered their product into competition at the Michigan Maple Syrup Association’s annual meeting last month at the Comfort Inn & Suites Conference Center in Mount Pleasant.
They came home with multiple awards, including the convention’s top honor.
“Obviously, we were surprised,” Thomas Bardwell said. “There’s a lot of big producers, and people that have been doing this for years and years and when we just came in. People asked me how we do it and I tell them, ‘I’m just duplicating what my father and grandfather passed on.’”
The meeting included a variety of syrup-related presentations as well as a maple syrup/value contest. MapleWorxz earned the association’s top recognition in the amber maple syrup category. It also garnered the MMSA’s top honor – Best in Show – which is given to the best overall product.
“Best of show, that was pretty outstanding,” Bardwell said. “It was pretty exciting for us.”
The association honors the best in the following categories: Maple candy, maple cream and four types of maple syrup – golden delicate, amber rich, dark robust and very dark.
The Bardwells have been making maple syrup under the company name MapleWorxz for three years. The company name is similar to the one Bardwell uses for his consulting company – Worxz.
Back in 1949, Bardwell said, his grandfather Frank Bardwell began producing maple syrup under his own name. Later, his father, Fred Bardwell, did the same.
“Back then, they sold everything that they made to IGA of Caro and a few other stores,” Bardwell said. “Growing up, I remember that quite vividly. I think they probably made about 100 gallons a year when they started. The whole family and neighbors were involved for many years.”
Last year, the Bardwells tapped over 800 trees and produced about 300 gallons of syrup, which they sell at Wingert’s in Mayville, and online through their website, mapleworxz.com.
Bardwell helped his grandfather and father produce syrup, and then took several years off while running his consulting business. Now semi-retired, he and Karla decided to get back into the syrup business.
“You have to be retired to do this, pretty much,” he said. “It’s usually the entire month of March, maybe a little bit more. The sap begins to run usually in March and runs about four or five weeks, depending on the weather, before the trees start healing the tap holes.
“So usually in March, we’re boiling every day and sometimes through the night.”
The Bardwells operate and also sell product out of their home/maple syrup factory.
The MMSA promotes education and family involvement in Michigan’s maple syrup agri-businesses that produce and distribute a variety of maple-syrup-value-added products. The Maple Syrup Digest lists Michigan as the fourth largest in number of syrup operations (875) with New York (1,675), Vermont (1,411) and Wisconsin (1,399) taking the top three. According to the 2019 report released by Consumer Goods, Michigan produced 195,000 gallons of maple syrup compared to Vermont which produced 2,070,000 gallons.
MapleWorxz will be having an open house from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 21. for anyone who would like to visit and see how maple syrup is made. The open house will be at the Bardwells’ home, 3540 N. Hurds Corner Road.
John Schneider is editor of The Advertiser. He can be reached at [email protected]