Brad Gillilan, sales and marketing representative for Leader Evaporator Company in Swanton, VT was the featured speaker when members of the Indiana Maple Syrup Association gathered for their annual meeting on Saturday, December 1 at Pierce Auction Barn in New Castle.
The Vermont expert addressed the group on the topics, "Boiling 101: Tips and Tricks to making better syrup, faster"; and "Advanced Sugar House Management: Increase the quality and efficiency of your entire maple operation."
“I shared some of the ways we’ve found to make syrup of the highest possible quality, and as quickly as possible,” Gillilan noted.
“Much of our focus for the day was on increasing our skills in the operation of an evaporator, but we also must look at the impact of new technologies such as Reverse Osmosis.”
The program concluded with a session by the guest speaker on finishing, filtering, and canning syrup.
“I want us to make syrup in a way that has our customers always coming back for more!” Gillilan added.
Mr. Gillilan grew up on his family’s 1000 tap sugar bush in northwest Vermont and graduated from Vermont Technical College. He has been a volunteer at The University of Vermont’s Proctor Maple Research Center and the sugaring operation at Vermont Technical College.
In 2000 he was selected as the Vermont Maple King, the same year he joined the Leader Evaporator Company.
Gillilan is an author and founder of The Institute for Maple Education (TIME) a company that produces and distributes educational products for the maple industry. The company’s first publication, "Boiling 101" has been well received, and Gillilan and his staff are currently working on other manuals. Eventually they plan to provide video instruction as well.
“I’ve grown up making maple syrup,” Gillilan commented, “and by age 10 I was in the sugar house every night learning the secrets of making syrup from my grandfather and father.”
The Gillian sugar bush has won many awards for their syrup, including 4 times as North America's Best Maple Syrup.
While his primary job at Leader is Sales and Marketing, Mr. Gillilan was responsible for the design, research and development of Leader’s new MAX Flue Pan.
The speaker also conducts introductory and advanced seminars throughout the year on the use of tubing systems.
“I am very energetic and excited about the future of maple,” Gillilan observed.
“That future rests solely on the incoming syrup makers who often begin as small hobbyists who gradually grow and become larger.”
Gillilan considers himself to be a relatively small syrup producer by Vermont standards.
“I try to make the point that being small doesn't mean you cannot be as good or better than the large producers.”
Mr. Gillilan notes that he has boiled on almost every type of evaporator that the industry has to offer, and he has tried to learn the details about how they differ and why.
“I am still learning, and I will always be looking for more bits of information to help me be a better syrup producer. When you think you know everything there is to know about this business it’s time to get out!” he chuckled.
“Learning, and making the mistakes is what keeps the industry evolving, and I want to be a part of the education that helps all producers get better.”