This spring was Alain Gauthier’s 40th as a maple producer. That means he has borne full witness to the evolution of the industry but, more importantly, he took part in it, making him one of the great builders of what it is today.
maple has always been a part of his life
As a small boy, he carried sap to the boilers at his dad’s sugar shack. In his teens, he handled the horses. “Any reason to skip classes, even in university,” he laughs. He’d chosen agronomy as his life’s profession. “I really liked it but when the opportunity came to start a maple syrup business with my brothers, I jumped at the chance.” The 5 brothers built a 125,000-tap operation at Rivière-à-Pierre, west of Québec City. Production is organic and in bulk. “We always liked to modernize. We have two electric evaporators.” Alain Gauthier says the company will stay in family hands, as the brothers’ children gradually take the reins. “One of my brothers sold to his daughter 2 years ago. We’re slowly making way for the next generation.”
Alain Gauthier: helping others
When Alain Gauthier and his brothers started their business in the early 1980s, maple production was obviously not what it is today. He joined the maple movement to improve conditions for producers. But he had no idea that he would find himself in the middle of momentous battles and that he would contribute to the signing of the joint plan.
the global strategic maple syrup reserve
Alain Gauthier remembers an event that had a profound event on the maple industry: the creation of a producer-run maple syrup bank, precursor to the Global Strategic Maple Syrup Reserve. “There was a crash in the price of maple syrup. In 1988, production was huge, and buyers weren’t buying. The price went down to a dollar a pound. That year, we had 85 meetings. For many of us, it was a question of survival.” All those meetings, all that work, and the tenacity of those producers paid off in stable revenues today.
a team effort
When Alain Gauthier thinks back on all his years in the industry, he has only good words for his fellow producers. And he still strives to make things better.
“For 35 years, it’s been a team effort. I’ve known a lot of great people who did a lot to move things forward quickly,”
he recalls with more than a hint of nostalgia. He says the current system makes it possible for everybody to make a profit.
Mr. Gauthier is immensely proud that maple syrup production has gone from folk tradition to modern profession. He’s even prouder that he and his brothers managed to build a 125,000-tap operation, without fighting!