SAINTE-MARIE, Que.—It’s all about the flavor.
Joel Boutin, of Quebec, makes thousands of syrup taste samplings each year including many for a large private maple producers club, which he serves as an extension educator and advisor.
A keen observer in all aspects of maple production, he also teaches high school students at a technical school in his area.
But Boutin's greatest area of expertise is "Good Flavor Factors," which was the topic of his presentation during Vermont Maple Conference Week.
Depending on a variety of practices, producers can try to achieve a delicate sweet, vanilla-type taste or the more complex maple flavor that tends to become more caramel-like as the season progresses. [ MORE ]
HIGHGATE, Vt.—A loose coalition of farmers in Franklin County, Vt. are sitting on an estimated 5,000 barrels of new crop syrup until they get what they feel is a fair price to sell it.
“Every producer I talk to says they’re holding their syrup,” said Jason Gagne of Gagne Family Maple in Highgate, Vt. who boils off 32,000 taps. “Nobody wants to let it go because they don’t like the price yet.”
Gagne stopped short of calling it a syrup strike and said there is no organized effort to keep the syrup off the market.
But he said producers in his county, as well as in Addison and Lamoille counties in Northern Vermont are frustrated with prices offered by packers.
“They know we’re not happy,” Gagne said. “Nobody is shipping syrup because we’re not happy.” [ MORE ]
ANTIGO, Wisc.—Keep an eye on the cake.
That was the message from filtering expert Jim Adamski of Adamski’s Sugar Bush of Antigo, Wisc. during a webinar on filtering techniques hosted by the Wisconsin Maple Syrup Producers Association in January.
“If you are using too much DE the cake will be solid as a rock,” Adamski said. “You will barely be able to push it out of the plate. If it’s hard like a stone and crumbles and breaks apart, you can tell you are using too much DE powder.”
Diatomaceous earth is the common filter aid sugarmakers use to help pass the syrup through the filter sheets and take out the gunk and sand.
Too little or too much can be perplexing for the sugarmaker.
The best way to tell if you got it right is when you break down the press, a nice beige colored cake is formed between the plates.
“If we’re not seeing a nice solid cake then we didn’t use enough DE powder in the process,” Adamski said. [ MORE ]
WESTBY, Wisc.—It’s a sellers market.Don’t squander this opportunity!
Last season we produced the biggest global syrup crop in history. Now that crop is almost sold out.
It seems the pandemic has been very good for maple consumption.
This has created a need for a good to above average crop in 2021 to satisfy demand. If we have a poor crop, “Katy bar the door!”
Let’s talk about price. [ MORE ]
SABINSVILLE, Pa.—Big improvements at Pennsylvania's biggest sugarbush with new CDL sap silos.
Terri & Terry Patterson took over ownership as the 4th generation sugar makers of Patterson Farms in Sabinsville, Pa. after Terry’s father, Richard, passed away in 2017.
Richard would be proud to see them keeping his legacy alive by accomplishing plans he had for the farm before he passed, as well as bringing some of their own ideas to the business.
Patterson Farms is the largest producer in Pennsylvania with more than 80,000 taps.
As an effort to maximize efficiency they recently purchased three 12’x20’ CDL Stainless Steel Sap Silos.
[ MORE ]
WESTON, Vt.—There’s money to be made in selling sap and leaving the syrup making to someone else.
“There is opportunity in sap-only enterprises,” said Chris Lindgren of UVM Extension who led an online seminar last month on the pluses and minuses of collecting the sap and letting someone else boil it.
“Sap-only businesses are less risky and there are less barriers to entry,” he said. “Selling sap is the easiest and lowest cost way to get started in the maple business.”
Lindgren is a sap collector himself, with approximately 700 taps spread out across three bushes in Weston, Vt. in the center of the state.
He said producers looking to get into the sap selling game should budget an investment of approximately $30 per tap, which will cover costs of a collection system, vacuum pumps, a generator or two, monitoring systems, transportation, reverse osmosis and structures.
[ MORE ]
ISLAND POND, Vt.—Try beeswax.
Probably the biggest change a sugarmaker will have to make once they switch to organic is defoamer use.
Conventional defoamers do not qualify so the producer must find an all-natural replacement that both knocks down the foam and also does not affect taste.
Many sugarmakers use sunflower oil or other oils similar.
Sugarmaker Joe Russo who manages the massive 470,000-tap Sweet Tree Inc. operation in Island Pond, Vt. uses beeswax.
“It’s fantastic,” Russo told The Maple News.
[ MORE ]
LONDON, Ont.—The Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association is sponsoring a study on eliminating buddy syrup.
“There is a reason why this essential work has never been done before,” explains Bob Gray of OMSPA. “It is very difficult to do, requires state-of-the-art equipment and some very smart chemists to tease out the answers.”
Gray is owner and operator of Kemble Mountain Maple Products, a small family maple business in southern Ontario. He has served as Research Committee Chair for the OMSPA for nearly a decade.
Gray rallied interest among the OMSPA’s 500+ small maple business owners to support the three-part buddy study, all under the guidance of Dr. David Miller, a world-renowned chemist at Carleton University.
“The intent of this study was to see if it was possible to identify a chemical precursor to maple sap becoming buddy,” says Dr. Miller.
It’s all about microclimate. [ MORE ]
SWANTON, Vt.—Lapierre is promoting a new spout, designed with Vermont sugarmaker David Folino, that features a straight insert with minimal taper to have more contact surface to the tap hole.
The spouts are made of a polycarbonate see-through material and have depth lines in order to see how deep it is. This allows for tapping crews to more accurately set a tapping depth consistently.
The spouts also have a short joint for an easier “slide-in” of the drop line. [ MORE ]
Maple syrup has a unique flavor that sets it apart from other specialty foods.
Its characteristic for exhibiting different subtle flavors depending on when it was produced, where it was produced, and, at times, how it was produced make it a product that everyone, regardless of their taste preferences, can enjoy.
However, this characteristic also makes syrup flavor susceptible to flavors that are not considered typical.
These off-flavors can occur anywhere from the tree to the containers. Not only do production methods affect the flavor, but Mother Nature has a hand in it too. Following are some common off-flavors that have been encountered, their likely causes, and ways to avoid these problems. [ MORE ]
CONCORD, N.H.—One of the dreaded phenomenon in sugaring is ropy syrup and researchers have tips on how to beat it.
“It’s a problem that once you’ve known, you don’t want to know again,” said Martin Pelletier, a researcher with Centre Acer in St-Norbert d’Arthabaska, Que.
Pelletier gave a compelling presentation on the topic at the North American Maple Syrup Council’s annual meeting in Concord, N.H. in Oct.
Experts classify ropy syrup as a “texture defect” consisting of a string that extends 4 inches or more in the syrup.
It’s a nightmare in the sugarhouse, making syrup unsellable. It can create overflows in the pan and is impossible to filter.
[ MORE ]
LONGUEUIL, Que.—Quebec reserve warehouses are still full, despite a crop that was 30 percent off, with only the far eastern edges of the province suffering big losses.
“Our crop was not disastrous,” said Simon Trépanier, executive director of the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers (FPAQ).
The federation went into last season with approximately 96 million pounds of syrup in what is known as the strategic reserve, which is a group of warehouses filled with barrels.
This year, as of late fall the reserve still held 95 million pounds, Trepanier said. Eighty million pounds of those holdings are table grade syrup. Only 20 to 22 million pounds are estimated to be industrial syrup. [ MORE ]
ALSTEAD, N.H.—The bulk market is holding its own this fall, with little changed from the spring other than there is more syrup out there than predicted.
“I think the crop is at least as big as last year’s,” said Bruce Bascom of Bascom Maple Farms, one of the biggest on-site bulk buyers in the Northeast.
Bascom said syrup coming out of the field has continued to show up at his warehouse door throughout the summer and early fall.
“We’ve been getting five pick-up loads per day five days per week,” Bascom said last month.
The general bulk price has remained unchanged since the spring. [ MORE ]
PUTNEY, Vt.—Peter Cooper-Ellis spent more than three decades in the Silicon Valley, where he worked at four different successful software start-up companies.
But the Brattleboro, Vt. native never lost his love for Mother Nature's sweetest natural product. His family has been in the maple business for more than a half century.
So he combined his passion for the industry and technology to start Putney, Vt.-based Hidden Springs Maple. At first, he ran the company remotely, with help from family members, while still living in California, before coming home to the Green Mountain State two-and-a-half years ago.
Cooper-Ellis explained how his firm has grown and how sugar makers can expand their own sales, in the workshop, Strategies for Online Marketing of Maple Products at the 2018 Vermont Maple Conference & Tradeshow last winter.
"What we're selling here is an experience of Vermont," he said. "We have a huge value in the brand of Vermont. We try to leverage that. Many customers have been to Vermont and they want to stay in touch with it."
What better way than with an online purchase of maple product?
"Our mission is to use the power of the Internet to sell maple," he said. "That's what we've been doing." [ MORE ]
OTTAWA, Ont.—Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau imposed a retaliatory ten percent tariff on maple sugar and maple syrup this week, one of hundreds of items targeted in a mounting trade war.
“These countermeasures will take effect on July 1, 2018 and will remain in place until the U.S. eliminates trade-restrictive measures against Canadian steel and aluminum products,” Trudeau’s government said in a statement Sunday.
The U.S. exports approximately $12 million in maple products to the country, according to government statistics. Most of that syrup originates in Maine. [ MORE ]
MIDDLEBURY, Vt.—As sugarmakers go into another season, bulk prices are holding low. But demand for syrup is at an all time high.
“Demand is very good and we’re very bullish on the future,” said John Kingston, chief executive officer of Butternut Mountain Farms in Morrisville, Vt., one of the biggest bulk syrup buyers in the U.S.
[ MORE ]
The maple syrup industry has always had important links to Colleges and Universities. As an industry that continues to go through rapid changes in technology, we rely heavily on university research to drive innovation and change. [ MORE ]
Many sugarmakers buy sap as a means of augmenting their own syrup production and getting better utilization of the equipment in their sugarhouse.
There are many factors that can and should affect the prices a sugarmaker is willing to pay for sap. These include sap sugar concentration, bulk syrup prices, sap quality, and how syrup production or revenues will be divided. [ MORE ]
Sugarmakers in the U.S. had another monster year with more than 4.2 million gallons produced this spring, breaking yet another record, according to statistics complied by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, a branch of the USDA.
In all, the United States production was 4,271,000 gallons of syrup made, beating last year’s total of 4,207,000 and setting yet another modern day record. [ MORE ]
Sugarmakers were hoping for a reset this weekend, as temperatures are expected to drop well below zero and hopefully stalling swelling trees.
“The buds are fat in my warmer woods,” said Richard Brodmerkle, a sugarmaker in Oakham, Mass. who has been boiling since mid-January on his 1,250 taps. [ MORE ]
Nate Bissell is quickly becoming the industry’s number one syrup ruiner.
That’s the tongue in cheek way he describes his fledgling operation where he takes good syrup and pours it into old bourbon barrels and lets it sit for nine months.
The result? A smooth, extremely flavorful syrup that tastes almost exactly like bourbon and fetches an incredible price in urban markets. Two bucks an ounce, in some cases. [ MORE ]
A couple years ago, sugarmaker Rick Newman was sitting around a table with a group of other sugarmakers who serve on the Cornell Maple Advisory Committee, and he surmised that filtering was becoming more of a problem at his sugarhouse and that maybe it was an issue worth exploring.
He got an unanimous consent. [ MORE ]
Some people are calling it Frankenmaple.
The new plantation style sugaring system developed by the University of Vermont Proctor Maple Research Center has had the industry abuzz since it was first unveiled three years ago.
[ MORE ]
Bulk syrup prices are expected to be significantly lower when you go to sell your crop this spring, and it has absolutely nothing to do with how much syrup is made. With most agricultural products, prices are usually correlated with the size of the harvest. If there is a shortage, prices will rise and if there is a surplus, then prices will likely fall.
[ MORE ]
Some call it defying Mother Nature, others would call it taking advantage of her, but the fall tappers are at it again.
"I only planned on having enough sap to boil on the stove," said Cody Armstrong, one of the few brave souls who tapped trees this fall. "I thought it would be cool." [ MORE ]