Syrup producer making hand sanitizer in response to crisis

Peter Gregg | May 7, 2020

JEFFERSON, Ohio—Hand sanitizer could be the latest value-added crop from maple.

One Ohio producer is waiting for FDA approval to start distilling commercial grade syrup into ethanol as part of a recipe for a maple-based hand sanitizer.

“The demand for hand sanitizers is ridiculous,” said Nathan Bissell of Bissell Maple Farms in Jefferson, Ohio.

Meanwhile, Bissell has converted his idled syrup packing line into a hand sanitizer packing line, responding to the COVID-19 crisis and high demand for the virus killing product. MORE ]


Bascom's reopens for drum deliveries

Peter Gregg | May 4, 2020

ALSTEAD, N.H.—Bascom Maple Farms reopened their docks today, allowing sugarmakers to bring their crop for delivery, but by appointment only.

“Due to the unusually large amount of drum traffic yet to come in we are requesting producers call for a dock appointment,” said Bascom’s owner Bruce Bascom.

Field buyers for Bascom will also be deployed this week, and will be looking for syrup. MORE ]


Spring tick season expected to 'explode'

Peter Gregg | April 30, 2020

MIDDLEBURY, Vt.—Tick activity this spring is expected to explode, according to a Vermont sugarmaker and power lineman who trains personnel on tick safety.

“Springtime, April and May, we usually see a large tick explosion,” said Michael Christian, a sugarmaker from Orwell, Vt. and a crew manager for the state’s Green Mountain Power company, who has spent decades fighting ticks and establishing safety protocols for power line crews.

“By the end of June or July they go back in the ground,” Christian said. “Then they come back in September to feed again.”

Christian led a seminar at the Addison County Maple Conference in January where sugarmakers shared their defensive tactics and horror stories of other sugarmakers contracting Lyme disease and other chronic illnesses associated with tick bites.


Bascom's suspends bulk syrup buying for April

Peter Gregg | April 6, 2020

ALSTEAD, N.H.—The nation’s biggest out-of-field bulk syrup buyer is suspending operations for April due to COVID-19 concerns.

Bascom Maple Farms, the New Hampshire farm where sugarmakers flock from across the Northeast to get paid on the barrelhead, said it would immediately cease buying any syrup until early May at its facility.

The company, which also deploys buying agents across the Maple Belt from Ohio to Maine, had already suspended field buying until early May as well.

“Unfortunately, due to world events beyond our control, effective immediately Bascom’s will not be purchasing any maple syrup for the rest of April,” the company announced Monday.

“We anticipate reopening for purchasing syrup around May 4, 2020, but please call ahead to confirm,” the company said. “Recommendations from the CDC, WHO, and State Governments are changing constantly and could affect a reopen date.”


Season Update #8: Syrup flying off the shelves at grocery; season progresses

Peter Gregg | March 24, 2020

ALSTEAD, N.H.—Syrup is flying off the shelves at grocery stores as panicked shoppers stock up for shut-ins against the Coronavirus.

“Grocery syrup sales are very strong and we are struggling to keep up with orders,” said Bruce Bascom of Bascom Maple Farms, one of the biggest grocery suppliers in the U.S..

“Consumers are hoarding food at home," Bascom said. "Maple syrup is a comfort food so if they have to eat at home it is logical that more pancakes and waffles with maple syrup is just what the doctor ordered.”

At the Hannaford supermarket in Greenwich, N.Y. and other places around the U.S., store shelves where syrup usually is stocked were completely wiped out.

“Retail grocery is very strong,” said David Marvin of Butternut Maple Farms in Morrisville, Vt. another leading grocery supplier.


Season Update #7: Dealerships vow to stay open during COVID crisis

Peter Gregg | March 20, 2020

MASON, Mich.—Big equipment dealers are staying open during the Coronavirus crisis while trying to maintain a social distance.

“Open for business,” declared Sugar Bush Supplies in mid-Michigan in a blast email to customers on Thursday.

“During this critical time of production, we want to be available to meet your supplies and equipment needs,” the store said. “At the same tome we are implementing all the prudent cautions necessary to protect you and staff from the COVID-19 virus.”

The national crisis shutting down America came during the peak of maple season, where producers are still running to dealerships for sugaring supplies and repairs.

“We are encouraging our customers to place their order ahead of time instead of waiting in our showroom,” said Benoit Pepin, USA manager of Lapierre Equipment, which operates a typically thriving store in Swanton, Vt.

Most dealerships were following the same protocol.


Border shutdown with Canada will NOT include maple imports

Peter Gregg | March 18, 2020

MONTPELIER, Vt.—The Trump Administration has told agriculture officials in Vermont that the Canadian border shutdown announced today in response to the Coronavirus will not include agricultural products, including maple syrup.

“I just spoke to U.S. agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue and he made it very clear that this does not apply to trade and goods,” Vermont agriculture secretary Anson Tebbetts told The Maple News this morning.

“It will not impact trade and it will not impact goods.”

It was unclear whether employees and executives of the big Canadian maple equipment manufacturers will be able to cross into Vermont and staff their U.S. outlets. MORE ]


Season Update #6: New York, N.H. shut down maple weekends; sugarhouse restaurants close

Peter Gregg | March 16, 2020

SYRACUSE, N.Y.—New York’s two-week maple open house event has been canceled, the latest seasonal promotional event to shut down due to the Coronavirus crisis. New Hampshire's state open house event is also closed.

“…we have a responsibility to proactively do our part to promote social distancing and limit the spread of COVID-19,” the New York State Maple Producers Association said in a statement released this morning.

“Even though many of our farms do not see dense crowds for Maple Weekend, we know the risk of remaining open does not outweigh our responsibility to serve the public,” the association said.

The statewide event with 187 participating sugarhouses was scheduled to be open this weekend and March 28-29.