« Making maple syrup is almost like a disease with me. I really don’t know what I would do in springtime if it wasn’t for these trees. It’s my favourite season: the snow’s melting and nature’s waking up again… such beautiful days, and more beautiful weather ahead. »
That is how Martin Guay describes the passion he feels for being a maple producer. He says he’s been doing it since he could walk. Now, with his son Maxime, they operate a sugar bush in Saint-Malachie, a municipality at the east end of MRC Bellechasse.
From Father to Son
As a child, Martin inherited the love of maple from his dad Roland, spending their days together in the sugar bush: “Up until I was 4 or 5, I was in the bush all day long! My dad taught me the importance of taking care of his forest and managing it properly. The trees were precious to him!” Martin now manages 16,500 taps of his own at two locations, in Saint-Malachie (where the boiler is located) and in Saint-Nazaire-de-Dorchester. He took over his father’s operation in 1997 and remains indebted to him. “Dad never stopped working with me, not even after I took ownership. He just put all his trust in me and said it was now up to me to make the decisions. I’m very lucky. I had a good father.”
The Family Affair Continues
Martin is now happy and proud to share day-to-day operations with his son Maxime at the sugar bush and in their other businesses: trucking and logging. “My son’s been working with me for over 10 years now. He loves making maple syrup too. We share the work all through the seasons: In summer, he drives truck and I work the forest. In fall, he comes out to help me in the bush. We do some logging and get ready for next season. On January 25, we start tapping.” With things getting busy, Martin’s spouse Danielle Denise comes out to help every day, and their daughter Rosalie pitches in on weekends. For them, it’s a family affair; everybody is welcome in their special and unique gathering place.
Understand and Participate: the Foundations of Commitment
Martin has been vice-president of the Côte-du-Sud regional chapter for four years, becoming involved when a fellow producer suggested it. He did so without hesitation. In fact, he was quite happy, seeing the opportunity to understand what decisions were being made and why. “I like being in the discussions and understanding what’s going on.” Furthermore he’s gratified by the feeling that he’s making a difference and helping his peers. Humbly he says, “By getting involved, I know I can help producers. The reward is feeling useful!”
In June 2022, a new, unexpected challenge presented itself when he was asked to sit on the provincial organization’s Board of Directors, representing the Côte-du-Sud region. The previous rep had gone on to become provincial president. “I was nervous at first but the other board members took care of that. They’re respectful and accepted me right away!” From a small child following his dad in the forest, Martin Guay is now a Québec Maple Syrup Producers board director.