Windbreaks: A Strategy for Maple Orchard Protection and Syrup Production

Farm Operation: Cash Crops and Maple Products

Doug and Cecilia Cassie have taken an innovative approach to producing maple syrup in Elora.

Every spring the Cassies tap the sugar maples on the roadside of their farm to produce maple syrup. They have obtained permission from their neighbours to tap their roadside trees as well.

Doug & Cecilia Cassie, Elora, Wellington County

Doug & Cecilia Cassie, Elora, Wellington County

Currently, half of their maple syrup comes from roadside trees and the other half from laneway trees. This year, however, they are expecting to increase taps along additional farm laneways with neighbour agreements. They eventually hope to tap a sugarbush. The roadside trees can give sweeter sap and usually more syrup due to a larger spreading crown.

The roadside trees on their farm also serve as a windbreak to protect the Cassie's adjacent maple orchard from north westerly winds. The orchard has 240 young sugar maples and is highly susceptible to damage from the wind and wildlife, such as deer, mice and rabbits.

Growing the Maple Orchard

The Cassies worked with their local conservation authority (Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA)), and took four acres (1.6 ha) of cropland out of production to establish their maple orchard. At the same time, to enhance crop production on other fields, they removed fence rows and some in-field trees. It will be some time before this maple orchard reaches a tap-able size (20-30 years). Their maple orchard will help to ensure that their maple business will continue for the next generation.

"If you're going to cut some trees out, it may be a good idea to put some back in the ground."

Doug Cassie

Best Management Practice

To prevent the maple orchard from being browsed by deer, the Cassies use a best management practice of attaching a soap bar odour dispenser to a tree stake beside any saplings at risk. Browsing usually causes stunted growth of the sapling, which delays the potential productivity of the tree.

Soap bar odour dispenser on a tree

The soap bar odour dispenser technique is a perforated water bottle with a bar of soap inside of it that emits a scent that deters deer.

The Multifunctional Use of Windbreaks

The Cassies have cultivated areas beside both the roadside maples and the windbreak beside the house. These cultivated areas are to be planted with raspberries, strawberries, and possibly potatoes. The crops will either be sold at the farm gate or consumed for personal use.

All of these crops, the maple orchard, fruit, and vegetables, will be protected from damaging winds by the farmstead and roadside windbreaks. These crops make the windbreaks a multifunctional asset on the farm.

By planting these crops, the Cassie farm will see immediate results from the area which would otherwise sit untapped until the trees become mature.

young maple orchard

The Cassie's young maple orchard will grow for around 20 more years before it can be tapped for syrup. The alleys between tree rows can be planted to annual fruit and vegetables.

Windbreak Maintenance Benefits and Tips

  • Promote a healthier windbreak by conducting routine maintenance, thinning and inspections.
  • Remove low hanging branches to reduce the risk of damaging farm equipment.
  • Trim double leaders (two shoots that grow from the stem/branch at the top of the tree), so that the tree will grow straighter with a single leader, more rapidly and offer crop protection sooner.
  • Thin limbs or remove stems of mature windbreaks to offer income opportunities, such as fence posts, firewood, sawlogs and other forest products.
  • Use techniques that emit odour and repel deer, such as soap dispensers and tree guards, to enhance tree survival for quicker growth. Quicker growth results in more productivity and protection to the surrounding crops and trees.
  • Remove nuisance perennial weeds, such as invasive buckthorn, which can kill windbreak trees.


Windbreaks have improved the sustainability of the Cassie farm enterprise. They enable crop protection and provide additional income.

Watch our windbreak videos.

For more information:
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