Maple syrup producers having strong year, thanks to weather

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

CALAIS, Vt. (AP) — Some maple syrup makers in Vermont, the country's largest producer, are having a banner year despite initial fears that an early start to the maple season this winter would cut it short.

The warm weather in late March and early April didn't bring an end to the maple sap gathering season, and recent cold temperatures have extended the time that sap is flowing in maple trees, syrup producers said Monday.

"I've made twice as much syrup as last year so it's much better," said Eric Remick, owner of Sweet Stone Maple Farm in Hardwick.

Remick, who has been sugaring for about 11 years, said last year tied for a previous record low year of production for him but this year "I've tied my previous all-time high record."

Officials in the maple-rich state say it's too early to tell how the quantity of syrup will affect prices for consumers of the sweet stuff, which retails for an average of about $49 a gallon in Vermont and can be used to pour over pancakes, sweeten oatmeal or jazz up a pecan pie.

It takes warm days and cold nights for maple sap to flow, but too much warmth — and the appearance of buds on maple trees — brings a quick end to the season.

This year, some maple syrup producers, typically larger operations with tens of thousands of taps, plastic tubing and vacuum systems, took advantage of a January warmup and tapped trees early.

Corse Maple Farm, which has about 12,500 taps in Whitingham, a town on the Massachusetts border, has had its biggest season ever due to a combination of the favorable weather and technological advancements in the industry, owner Roy Corse said.

Even smaller operations that use buckets on trees plus tubing to collect sap and started later, like in March, are reporting sweet yields.

"There've been some sap runs, I mean bigger than I've ever seen," said Craig Line, owner of Kent's Corner Sugarhouse in Calais, who's been sugaring for 38 years.

On some days, Line said, he couldn't keep up with the volume of sap that was flowing and was ready to be boiled into syrup.

The season, which ran about three weeks last year, is extending into two and half months for some sugarers.

"It's been almost a season with three acts in it," said Timothy Perkins, director of the University of Vermont's Proctor Maple Research Center in Underhill. "We collected (sap) the first week of February and boiled at that point and then waited a few weeks and had a bunch more and waited a few weeks and now we're sort of at the end of yet another waiting period and hopefully we'll be back in business here shortly."