HOPKINTON, R.I.—The word is out on Tom Buck. He was the first one to boil in Rhode Island this week.
“I got calls from a couple sugarmakers who heard I was boiling,” Buck said on Feb. 5 during a visit from The Maple News.
No one else was.
It was a late start for Buck and sugarmakers throughout southern New England who have been getting used to starting their seasons in January.
Not this year.
Across the U.S. not much January syrup was made, as a record breaking Polar Vortex and several big snowstorms kept the January boilers mostly idle except for a few hard-core sugarmakers.
But this first week of February got many sugarmakers scrambling with the first big sap run of the 2019 season, as the freeze finally broke and sugaring temperatures abounded in the Northeast and MidAtlantic. [ MORE ]
ALBANY, N.Y.—The U.S. maple crop was down slightly in 2018, coming in at 4.15 million gallons produced, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.
The crop was down less than one percent from last year’s 4.271 million gallons.
Vermont led the way in U.S. production once again, with 1,940,000 gallons produced this year, down just slightly from last year’s 1,980,000 gallons.
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LONGUEUIL, Que.—Quebec’s 13,700 maple producers produced 118 million pounds in 2018, a dramatic 34 million pound drop-off from last year’s record 152.2 million pounds, according to the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers.
The province had 46.8 million taps out for the season, for an average yield of 2.52 pounds per tap, which is low in comparison to previous years, the federation said.
Most of this production, approximately 89 percent, is for bulk sale. The rest will be sold on the retail market, the federation said.
The federation will tap into its 96.8 million pound strategic reserve of syrup to satisfy the market.
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MORRISVILLE, Vt.—Bulk syrup prices ticked upwards this week as the crop in the United States will likely come in less than last year, but near average overall, according to sugarmakers and bulk buyers.
“As far as this year’s pricing, the crop really matters,” said David Marvin of Butternut Mountain Farms in Morrisville, Vt. one of the nation’s biggest bulk buyers. “I don’t think it will be a good crop in northern areas and that will have an impact.”
Marvin set his prices last week at $2.10 per pound for the top three table grades and offered incentives for organic and volume deliveries.
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GEORGETOWN, N.Y.—The season is shut down or close to it in much of the Maple Belt, with the northern regions bracing for another cold snap that could hurt their season totals.
“We had tremendous sap volume but we didn’t have good sugar content all year,” said Pete Walrod of Georgetown, N.Y. who had 8,000 taps out this year and was buying from another 2,000.
Walrod said he was getting 1.1 or 1.2 percent sugar most of the season and the best was 1.5.
“The ratio just wasn’t there,” he said.
That was the story for many sugarmakers, who blame a “mast year” for the low sugar, with trees putting energy into making seeds instead of converting sugars. [ MORE ]
NORTH CHITTENDEN, Vt.—Vermont sugarmakers are on pace to make another big crop.
“We’re pretty much on track for last year and last year we had a good season,” said Jacob Powsner, of the 11,000-tap Baird Farm operation in North Chittenden, Vt.
“We are at the same gallon count right now as we were at this time last April,” he said on Tuesday.
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PALMYRA, Maine—Sugarmakers were reporting record crowds for maple open house weekends across the Maple Belt.
“We’ve had more people than we’ve had in years,” said Charles Levesque in Antrim, N.H. on Saturday, March 24.
New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine all had public tours this weekend.
In Maine, the crowds were literally massive.
At Eureka Farms in Palmyra, Maine, Seth and Hollis Edwards were expecting more than 5,000 visitors over the two day event last weekend.
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EL PASO, Wisc.—Sugarmakers in the Upper Midwest were firing up for the first time this week as temps notched upward, as a major bulk buyer proclaimed the region is out of bulk syrup from last year.
“I don’t have a barrel in the house,” said Peter Roth of Roth Sugar Bush in Cadott, Wisc. on Monday. Roth is one of the biggest syrup buyers in the state and was trying to dispel the notion that there is a glut of carryover syrup on the market from last season.
“The supply of syrup in the Midwest is non-existent,” Roth said. “I don’t see the surplus that everybody talks about.” [ MORE ]
Many maple producers in Western Pennsylvania were reporting a low sugar content to start the season off in late January and early February.
With an unusually cold winter and temporary warm streaks here and there, the weather has played a big part in maple production in the Keystone State. [ MORE ]
The second Nor’Easter in a week in the Northeast has slowed down the trees and given sugarmakers a much needed break.
“We boiled nine out of the last 10 days in a row through Wednesday,” said Joanne Birch of Readsboro, Vt. who has already made half a crop.
But on Thursday and Friday, Birch got 22.5 inches of snow, piled on top of the 9 inches from the Nor’Easter last week.
“It’s all fluffy stuff but I don’t want to have to go in the woods,” she said. [ MORE ]
A ten day stretch of perfect sugaring weather in February had sugarmakers scrambling to get taps in and tanks set.
And making a ton of syrup.
“We were tapped by Feb. 6 and boiling on Feb. 15,” said Paul Turner of Turner Maple Farms in Egremont, Mass. [ MORE ]
Quebec’s 2016 maple syrup production was 148.2 million pounds, an unprecedented 23% jump from the previous record of 120 million pounds set in 2013, the Federation of Quebec Maple Producers reported. [ MORE ]
Sugarmakers in the Granite State are worried about the forecast this week.
“It looks like it’s going to warm up real fast,” said Bruce Treat, a sugarmaker in Bow, N.H. with 700 taps on pipeline. Treat tapped on Feb. 17 and 18 and boiled for the first time on Feb. 21. “It makes you wonder if the the trees are going to recharge,” he said.
Treat was not alone in his concerns. [ MORE ]
Bay State sugarmakers were rejoicing over what was for many a record-setting February production. “I’ve never made that much in February,” said Robert Spencer of Mt. Massaemet Sugar House in Shelburne Falls, Mass. He was like many sugarmakers in the state and throughout lower New England who were scrambling to get all their taps out and keep up with the early season.
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