Aurora -- For close to a century, maple syrup has been made at the now city-owned Hartman farm on Townline Road.
And although Harold Hartman died in January at age 94, a crew of siblings who helped Hartman make syrup for a number of years is continuing the tradition.
And starting possibly as soon as next year, local students will be able to learn about and observe the syrup-making process.
Hartman, a lifetime Aurora resident and longtime farmer, died Jan. 22. In 1917, just two years before he was born, his father built a maple syrup-making "sugarhouse" on the property.
It was erected largely with wood from a building on the Brugmann family's sand and gravel property in Mantua Township which was owned by a Solon doctor.
For nearly 100 years, the Hartman family made maple syrup in the old sugarhouse.
According to Kathleen Kolar, the executrix of Harold Hartman's estate, syrup-making was "a labor of love" for him, not an income-producing venture.
"He didn't make large amounts of syrup. What he did make was for him and his wife's own use, and he would give a lot as gifts to family and friends," she said.
With the aging sugarhouse on its last legs, Hartman decided last year to build a new one nearby so the syrup-making operation could continue and so he could share his legacy with the area's school children.
HE CONTRACTED with Classic Homes, a local home-building firm owned by the Wurm family, and the result was a 30-by-40-foot sugarhouse completed last July, which is much bigger than the 12-by-22-foot older one.
Since they were youngsters, Mike, Brian and Jennifer Armour helped Hartman make maple syrup on the property. Mike, who works for the city's service department, said their grandfather -- Morrie Young -- was a friend of Hartman's for around 50 years.
Now that Hartman is gone, the siblings are carrying on the tradition in the new sugarhouse. They are in the middle of this year's syrup run, with about 700 buckets placed on the property's maple trees to collect sap.
Unfortunately, Hartman did not get to see the first run of syrup made in the new sugarhouse before he passed away.
The window for making maple syrup usually is about a month -- during February and March, according to Armour. The success of a season depends on several factors, including the weather.
Maple trees store starch in their trunks and roots before the winter, and it is converted to sugar that rises in the sap in the spring. Trees can be tapped by boring holes into the trunks and collecting the sap, which is processed by heating to evaporate much of the water, leaving the concentrated syrup.
SUCROSE IS the most prevalent sugar in maple syrup. In the United States, a syrup must be made almost entirely from maple sap to be labeled as "maple."
Kolar said once this syrup-producing season is over, the city and the Armours plan to invite local teachers out to the site to begin developing a Power Point presentation and demonstrations about syrup-making.
She said hopefully by the 2014 syrup season, field trips can be arranged, which will enable students to visit the Hartman farm to see the process firsthand and learn how the sap is turned into syrup.
Kolar, a friend of the Hartmans for more than 50 years, said the Hartman family had occupied the 123-acre farm since the late 1800s or early 1900s. They once raised dairy cattle, hogs and chickens. She said she has many fond memories of the Hartmans.
Hartman sold the farm to the city a few years ago for $1.75 million, but he and his wife were allowed to remain on the property until they died.
"Harold had one heckuva farm," Councilman Dennis Kovach said after Hartman's death. "The sugarhouse is unbelievable. He was a very knowledgeable, down-to-earth man and a real good farmer. He knew a lot about the trees. His property is magnificent."
"He was a really nice guy. He loved to tell people about his life," said J.J. Kudley, a parks-rec department employee. "He always gave us maple syrup."
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